England 0 Honduras 0: Daniel Sturridge misplaces shooting boots, Glen Johnson lacks impact, Phil Jagielka consistent
After a thunderstorm-enforced break in the first half in Miami, England finished their World Cup preparations by coming through a rough-and-tumble friendly with Honduras. What did you make of the stalemate?
By Peter Fraser and Matt Stanger
Last Updated: 08/06/14 1:39am
Hart’s distribution has always been a weakness, he ranked 26th among 2013/14’s Premier League goalkeepers for passing accuracy (47.9 per cent), and that was again the case against Honduras, when he averaged 62%. England will not want their goalkeeper to give the ball away cheaply in such hot and humid conditions. Otherwise, Hart had very little to do. There was, though, a scare in the 44th minute when he misjudged a corner.
There will always be questions about Johnson’s defensive positioning at right-back but he typically got forward whenever possible. However, he seemed to have an uncharacteristic lack of composure in advanced areas and it was surprising a player who completed 46 successful dribbles in the Premier League in 2013/14 made just one against Honduras. It took until the 73rd minute for the Liverpool man to make a telling attacking impact with a cross from which his club-mate, Daniel Sturridge, missed an excellent headed opportunity.
Compared to his centre-back partner, Phil Jagielka, Chelsea’s Cahill looked lacking in poise against the stuborn opposition of Honduras. It was essential for England to play the ball short out of defence but Cahill was guilty at times of trying to force the matter and he hit four more long balls than Jagielka. Cahill did make more clearances (five) than any other England player on the pitch but he also picked up a yellow card for an unnecessary aerial challenge over the top of Jerry Bengtson.
Jagielka may not have done anything spectacular but he was arguably England’s best player. Not only did the Everton man save Hart’s blushes from that cross but he looked calm and consistent throughout the game to answer some of his critics. Importantly for England in the humid conditions, Jagielka kept the ball with simple, short passes to Steven Gerrard, which ensured he had the best passing accuracy of any member of the starting XI (95%). Jagielka also read the game well with three interceptions.
Like Johnson, Baines provided far more advanced width than Luke Shaw or James Milner had managed from full-back in England’s previous game against Ecuador. But Baines’ greatest strength was perhaps wasted, with Gerrard debatably pulling rank in set-piece situations. The Everton man took a nasty elbow to the face in the second half, which earned Brayan Beckeles a second yellow card, and was later harshly booked himself.
England captain Gerrard played the first 45 minutes before being substituted in a pre-planned change to protect a tight groin he had suffered earlier in the week. Gerrard dovetailed nicely with Liverpool club-mate Jordan Henderson in the first half as the two deep-sitting midfielders and he dictated the play with more touches of the ball (52) in that time than any other player. His 86% accuracy from his seven long passes could also have been even more effective had England’s forwards offered a bit more movement.
Whether Henderson is being wasted as one of the two deeper midfielders is open to debate given the success he enjoyed with Liverpool during the Premier League season when in a more advanced position. But his fitness and endurance mean he is very useful in the withdrawn role, while he also completed more first-half passes (41) than any other player against Honduras. Henderson, though, still looked better when given more opportunity to advance up the field, after Beckeles’ red card, before his substitution with eight minutes remaining.
It was only Lallana's sixth cap but he already looks very much at home as an England international. He played some excellent one-touch football to create openings in a crowded final third, and showed plenty of enthusiasm to burst forward and provide an option for Gerrard and Henderson. On this evidence, it is easy to see why Liverpool are prepared to pay around £25million for his services. A certainty to start against Italy.
According to the stats, Rooney created more chances than anyone else on the pitch despite only playing for 45 minutes. He looked close to full fitness, readily switching positions with Danny Welbeck and Sturridge, but managed only one shot - a dipping free-kick. Despite the clamour in some quarters for Raheem Sterling to start ahead of Rooney, it is difficult to see how he does not belong in the first XI, and how Sterling would not best be used as an impact substitute in the closing stages against Italy. Rooney has steadily improved throughout the three warm-up matches and hopefully he will be ready to hit the ground running in Manaus.
Tested the shaky Noel Valladares with a powerful early drive and provided a cute dummy to tee up Sturridge just before the thunderstorm delay. Welbeck was occasionally guilty of being wasteful in possession, recording just a 76% pass completion rate, but his tireless work ethic will be invaluable against Italy in Manaus' sweltering conditions. His goalscoring record for Manchester United may be a concern but Welbeck is a reliable option for England. One wonders if Hodgson will utilise the forward's diligence to nullify the threat of Andrea Pirlo on 14th June, remembering that Welbeck was selected ahead of Rooney for a similar role against Real Madrid's Xabi Alonso in February 2013.
Along with Johnson's struggles, Sturridge's display was a cause for mild concern for Hodgson. The striker's movement was typically lively, but he dragged a great chance wide in the first half following good work from Rooney and Welbeck. A heated incident with Emilio Izaguirre added to Sturridge's frustration, and he failed to hit the target with two further opportunities, chipping well wide from the edge of the area and heading over from six yards out despite being unmarked.
Ross Barkley’s first minute of action underlined Roy Hodgson's criticism on Wednesday as the Everton man turned into trouble, lost the ball and put England on the back foot but he was then excellent. Elsewhere, Jack Wilshere now looks very much behind Jordan Henderson in the pecking order while Fraser Forster came on for Hart with 15 minutes remaining and Frank Lampard was given a late run out. Rickie Lambert was also given another chance.