An unorthodox way to get sent off to the World Cup, with the first England international match to be stopped due to the lightning put a 45-minute delay into Roy Hodgson’s final preparations ahead of Italy on Saturday.
Just like Ecuador earlier on in the week, the game started very slowly. From the off England looked comfortable on the ball, with Henderson keeping everything ticking over in the middle of the park. It shows good signs heading into the World Cup that we’re capable of keeping the ball for large parts of the game, rather than chasing the ball for large parts of the game, in the scorching heat over in Brazil. The only criticism of the pre-break was the lack of penetration in the England side. Daniel Sturridge looked off the mark, missing a few sitters, as did Adam Lallana, who found his usual pockets of space very hard to find against the 33rd best team in the world. Clearly once Brayan Beckeles was sent off during the second half, it looked like it was only going to be a matter of time before England found the back of the net, but as the game opened up, Sturridge and aforementioned Lallana were on the end of two or three chances, before fluffing them, keeping the scoreline at 0-0.
Despite the lack of attacking talent on display, luckily for Hodgson the defence looked assured, albeit against a weak opposition. Keeping Jerry Bengtson and Carlo Costly quiet is something almost no one managed in qualifying, so after the defensive shake-up against Ecuador, it was good to see the bad five together heading into the tournament. Jagielka and Cahill again looked comfortable against the weaker strikers, but will they be able to handle Balotelli and Cavani? We’ll have to wait and see. The only weak link in the back four, for me, is Glen Johnson, and he stands out like a sore thumb. Seemingly unable to sit back and defend, Johnson spends 80% of games in the attacking third, offering almost no end product in a decent area of the pitch. In this match, there was no change, and his constant forward running saw him run into Adam Lallana on a number of occasions, causing Lallana more problems himself that the Honduran’s did all night.
Another positive to come out of the evening in Miami was no more injuries in the squad. After potentially seeing Oxlade-Chamberlain’s tournament hopes shattered against Ecuador, and many other top names across the World falling to injury just a week before the tournament gets under way, it was vital that we came through this game with no more casualties. Did Honduras want to help us out with that? Hell no. As the second half got underway, Honduras seemed determined to cause some injuries, leaving feet in almost every challenge, and with no surprise Stoke City’s Wilson Palacios headed the way with some crunching challenges on both Ross Barkley and Steven Gerrard, who later described the tackles as ‘horrific’ , criticising the referee’s involvement in allowing the tackles to fly in.
Ross Barkley came on at half time for Wayne Rooney, and I think I speak for everyone in expressing my excitement at this 20 year old. Clearly he impressed for Everton, but in the two friendlies out in Miami, he’s stepped up another level, and has shown real passion and desire in the England shirt, a refreshing change. With debate over whether or not Rooney should start doing the rounds, Barkley is doing everything possible to put himself in with a shout, at his first major tournament. In what was a disrupted game against Honduras, Barkley showed all of his qualities, playing the short passes with the two behind him, turning out and pinging 30 yard passes to the wings and running at the heart of the defence, it showed exactly what we’d gain if Rooney did lose his place this summer.
But how could I review this game without mentioning the main talking point from the game. The storm. The 30-minute delay the tropical Miami storm provided us with had almost everyone a little bit giddy, and then dipping into a slow state of depression when an extra half an hour of Adrian Chiles was upon us. The first England game in international history to be stopped due to lightning will over shadow what was a very bog standard match for us English fans.