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21 min: What a sweet, flowing move by England. England are three on three. Welbeck romps down the middle, then slides the ball out right to Rooney, who returns it immediately. On the edge of the area, Welbeck steps over the ball and lets it roll to Sturridge on his left. He’s free on the edge of the area, and fires a low shot inches wide of the right-hand post. He should probably have scored there, but it wasn’t a bad effort, and it was fine play by Welbeck and Rooney.
19 min: Sturridge wins a free kick down the right with a determined run. Gerrard swings a not-very-good set piece into the area. Cleared, but only to Lallana, who scores three points that Stuart Lancaster’s side could have done with this morning.
17 min: A loud clap of thunder above the stadium. Oo-er! Someone, somewhere applauding Adam Lallana’s jink down the right, perhaps. He enters the area and pulls one back for Rooney, who has space, but faffs around a bit and Honduras eventually clear. Nearly an opening. Actually it was an opening, Rooney should have hit that first time rather than trying to shift it to the left.
15 min: Costly turns down the Honduran inside-left channel and looks to curl a spectacular one into the top right from 25 yards, but only succeeds in blootering a shot off the top of Bengtson’s head and out of play. Goal kick. “Ye gods, when am I going to stop misspelling Sterling’s surname?” shrieks Phil Sawyer of kick-off fame. “I mean, I’m a Liverpool supporter, I should have learnt it by now. At least I don’t keep making the same mistake with Stephen Gerard.”
13 min: Free kick for England, 35 yards out, a step or two to the left of centre. Rooney and Baines stand over it, doing that Cristiano Ronaldo wide-stance thing. Rooney loops a ball up over the wall and back down, the ball heading towards the bottom left. Valladares parries it. He should gather. That was hapless goalkeeping. He nearly punched the ball up into his own phizog! Dear me. It balloons off to the left, and Sturridge is onto the loose ball, but he’s offside, the Hondurans benefitting from their own doziness, their static wall turning into the sort of offside trap that George Graham has warm, wobbly dreams about.
11 min: Gerrard whips a low ball into the area from the left, finding Welbeck on the spot. The pass is hit with such pace that it’s hard for the striker to control and get a shot away, and he does neither. You can’t really blame him for getting that one stuck under his feet. Gerrard’s had a mixed start; he was a little late on Chavez a couple of minutes ago, and now, as if to prove my point while I’m writing this, he has a shot from 25 yards that flies 25 yards over the bar.
8 min: More snoozing from Johnson, who is caught flat-footed by Espinoza. The resulting cross, from near the left-hand corner flag, is easily gathered by Hart. But on the touchline, Roy Hodgson looks pensive, as well he might. Nobody does pensive like Roy Hodgson. Except maybe Scarlett Johannson in Lost in Translation, but it’s a close-run thing.
6 min: A long ball’s raked down the left wing. Johnson, who as Liverpool fans will confirm has been in a state of utter confusion since November, lets the ball clank off him and out for a corner. The set piece is only half dealt with by Cahill, and his glancing header flies to Bernardez, level with the right-hand post, 12 yards out. He slashes an awful shot miles over the bar, and the effort’s not that accurate either.
4 min: Welbeck has a thrash from distance, down the inside-left channel. Valladares makes a meal of gathering the ball, which was flying straight towards his startled coupon at some pace. Welbeck has taken a whack to the foot, but he looks like he’ll run that one off.
3 min: Rooney earns himself a yard down the right, but his cross into the Honduran area doesn’t beat the first man. Figueroa slices the ball up into the air, which leads to more whistling from the stand, though this time it’s the more highly amused two-tone saucy trill.
2 min: England stroke it around the back awhile, Cahill and Jagielka finally living their dreams of being Franz Beckenbauer. Minus the striding forward and setting up attacks, that is. It’s a start. This is the game management Roy Hodgson was talking about, presumably. The paying punters in the stadium don’t like it much, and are whistling accordingly.
After what seems an interminable wait, the bore operating the PA system finally lifts the needle off his well-worn 7-inch of Seven Nation Army, and the players are allowed to kick off! Honduras get the ball rolling. “I don’t think Raheem Stirling has necessarily done himself a disservice by getting sent off last match and therefore being ineligible to play tonight,” opines Phil Sawyer. “It’s possibly scuppered his chances of making the starting lineup next weekend, but I’ve seen good arguments this week for keeping the youngsters fresh to come on as impact subs in the heat of Manaus and hit Italy when they’re knackered. I’ve also seen equally good arguments for England starting in the Liverpool fashion against Italy, loading the side with attacking youngsters to try to get early goals then shutting up shop later in the match by bringing yer more defensive, experienced heads on. In short, I don’t know what to think. I admit this is not much help. It’s still more analysis than Andy Townsend brings to the party, mind.”
The teams are out, England in 1966 red, Honduras in blue, which is their second strip as well. And it’s time for the national anthems! First up, the famous theme tune of the entertaining England Globetrotters …
Roy speaks! And say what you like, but the man speaks sense. Can we assume this is the starting line-up for next week’s game against Italy? “You can assume what you like. There’s a lot of thinking to be done. Raheem Sterling would have been a starter today, but we can’t use him.
In capitalist society, spare time is acquired for one class by converting the whole lifetime of the masses into labour time. We’re interested in game management in these hot conditions. Hopefully we can control the tempo.”
No action tonight for either Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain or Raheem Sterling. The former is injured, the latter suspended, having been a naughty lad against Ecuador the other night. A shame for England, who would be a real proposition with these two hot talents in the starting XI. Still, it gives both Danny Welbeck and Adam Lallana a real chance to make a bid for the Italy game this time next week. Roy Hodgson’s named the same XI that beat Peru at Wembley. That was as hit and miss as a 3-0 win can get, so tonight should be interesting enough.
England: Hart, Johnson, Cahill, Jagielka, Baines, Gerrard, Henderson, Lallana, Sturridge, Rooney, Welbeck.
Subs: Foster, Lampard, Smalling, Jones, Milner, Lambert, Sterling, Barkley, Shaw, Stones, Flanagan, Forster.
Honduras: Valladares, Beckeles, Figueroa, Bernardez, Izaguirre, Espinoza, Wilson Palacios, Garrido, Marvin Chavez, Costly, Bengtson.
Subs: Lopez, Osman Chavez, Montes, Juan Garcia, Jerry Palacios, Mario Martinez, Delgado, Oscar Garcia, Rony Martinez, Najar, Claros, Escober.
Honduras are, like England, on their way to Brazil next week. And here’s another way they’re like England: they’ll not be returning home with the World Cup. Not if their past record in the competition is anything to go by. They’ve only qualified for the finals twice before, in 1982 and 2010, and have yet to win a single match. Last time round, they even failed to score a goal, though admittedly they were drawn in a tough group alongside Chile, Switzerland and the eventual champions Spain. Their performance in 1982 was a whole lot better: draws against hosts Spain (who they led) and Northern Ireland, and a late, late, late one-goal defeat by Yugoslavia added up to a brave performance from a nation making its debut on the biggest stage of all. But that’s still a grand total of zero wins. Still, look at it the other way: it’s about time Honduras broke their duck and did for someone. Switzerland, Ecuador and France could be forgiven for starting to worry at least a little bit.
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