England have arrived in Brazil steeled to resist similarly aggressive tactics to those employed by Honduras in Saturday’s tempestuous final friendly in Miami, with Roy Hodgson’s players conscious of the need to retain discipline and not rise to provocation.
The goalless draw with Luis Fernando Suárez’s side, which was interrupted for 43 minutes by a thunderstorm, was punctured by tackles that left England’s players incensed as the local referee, Ricardo Salazar, struggled to maintain control.
A quartet of Hondurans were cautioned before Brayan Beckeles was sent off for two bookable offences, the second shown for thrusting his arm into Leighton Baines in an aerial challenge, while the English contingent picked up three yellow cards of their own, two of which they vehemently contested.
While the Central Americans’ approach on the eve of the tournament left Hodgson and his players surprised, they emerged intent on using the experience as an education for what awaits in Brazil. Italy and Uruguay are experienced and streetwise opponents, while Costa Rica were accused of their own overly physical approach in their friendly against the Republic of Ireland on Saturday, when Kevin Doyle required five stitches in a head wound after an elbow by Giancarlo González, who was sent off.
“The whole idea of playing Peru, Ecuador and Honduras was to show us something very different,” said Hodgson. “Had we played Sweden or Norway we’d know exactly what we’re going into, how those teams play and how they behave. The culture in these countries is different and we’ve had a nice little taste of it and, certainly, I was very pleased with the way the players kept their discipline, kept their shape. Sometimes in these games that frustration can lead to people doing silly things and you end up losing one.
“They didn’t react at all. The level of the referee’s performance will be higher in the World Cup because a lot of times on Saturday he didn’t seem to know who had committed the foul and whether he should be blowing his whistle. The players kept their cool very well. We got three yellow cards but God knows how.”
Baines bore the brunt of Beckeles’ flailing arm, although it was Luis Garrido’s lunge on Steven Gerrard – who described the tackling as “horrific” – and Emilio Izaguirre’s foul and, once the whistle had gone, belting of the loose ball straight into the prone Daniel Sturridge’s midriff that had set the tone.
“The one on Stevie, I was just happy to see him get up,” said Baines. “In the most part we did well to keep our composure because some of the challenges were a bit harsh. But you didn’t see loads of us rushing over and making a meal of it. We got on with it.
“I was booked for not getting near Wilson Palacios and when I went over to ask him [why he was on the ground] all of a sudden there were three or four people pushing me around. You have to walk away from that because they are making a meal of it. It was not something we were expecting but, look, it is football. There are going to be tackles and there are going to be antics. We have shown that we don’t really engage in that kind of nonsense, whether it is picking ourselves up off the floor or just accepting it.”
England’s two friendlies in Miami yielded three red cards, with Raheem Sterling also dismissed for a foul on Antonio Valencia in the draw with Ecuador that Hodgson later conceded was “reckless”.
“Raheem was a little bit unfortunate,” said Phil Jagielka. “If the replay hadn’t been shown on a 400ft plasma 12 times he probably wouldn’t have got sent off. But it’s part of competitions like this. You can’t afford to get silly bookings or get sent off. The Honduras game was strangely spicy, considering the World Cup is around the corner, but that might one of those things you find with Latin Americans. It’s something we have to get used to but we constantly talk about it and remind ourselves you can’t do anything if you get sent off.”
“I think we proved they weren’t going to wind anyone up,” said Glen Johnson. “There was a point when Izaguirre kicked the ball at Studge [Daniel Sturridge] when he was lying on the floor five seconds after the whistle had gone. That is when you might react but he didn’t. We kept our composure and showed we weren’t going to react to things. We are going to get all that in Brazil, so this was a useful practice. We are ready now.”
The temperatures for the afternoon kick-off at the Sun Life Stadium on Saturday were in excess of those anticipated in Manaus on Saturday, when England kick-off their Group D campaign against Italy, with Hodgson’s squad now as prepared as they can be for the stifling humidity of Amazonia.
“The heat will be a big factor for England,” added Wigan’s Honduras midfielder Roger Espinoza. “We would come to the States in pre-season with Wigan and you can tell how tough it is for the English, Scottish and Irish guys. They’re not used to it. Manaus is very, very hot. They will need to keep the ball, like they did against us. That will keep them fresh and stop them getting tired. But, if they don’t, it will be dangerous for them.”