This final group encounter in Belo Horizonte for both England and Costa Rica should and could have assumed a different significance; the expected scenario was England needing a win in this match to progress with the group’s minnows Costa Rica hoping for one last hurrah to take back with them on the flight home.
However, the extremely unpredictable nature of Brazil 2014 has turned such formalities on their head. This match is, rather surprisingly, an irrelevance for both sides, with Costa Rica proving to be the neutrals favourites by providing the shocks of the tournament with plucky victories over both Uruguay and Italy.
Costa Rica have coasted (no pun intended) to the last-16 with 6 points in the bag, needing only one more to top the group, meanwhile Hodgson’s hapless England side are currently propping up the group with nul points and hopes of tournament progression in tatters.
Moving past the drowning of sorrows and soul-searching for now, the question is can the Three Lions salvage something from this World Cup wreckage?
Press speculation leading up to Tuesday’s encounter suggests that Roy may look to ring the changes; it is definitely realistic and pragmatic to look to shuffle the pack to inject some hunger in what seems to be a stagnant and demoralised side. Hodgson told the BBC on Monday that he would be looking give minutes to those who have not yet had the opportunity:
“I will be changing the team to give other players a chance to show what they can do. It’s not purely planning for the future and not purely sentiment”.
However, planning for the 2016 European Championships will surely be on Hodgson’s mind. After a poor display in the 2-1 defeat to Uruguay, it must be said that veteran Gerrard’s international career in most definitely in the balance.
Therefore, this match could well be the opportunity to present his heirs at central midfield – Ross Barkley and Jack Wilshere – invaluable major tournament experience. It appears that the Liverpool skipper will start the match on the bench.
Another prospect for the future and the youngest member of the 2014 party, the 18 year old Luke Shaw, is set to start after Leighton Baines has been ruled out with a groin injury.
Arsenal’s Alex Oxlade- Chamberlain will definitely not feature after a recurrence of the knee injury that he has been struggling with since England’s final warm-up match against Ecuador.
It also seems Hodgson will opt to swap Joe Hart in goal for either deputies Foster or Forster, whilst Phil Jones will be filling in the right back berth. Chris Smalling will come in for Everton’s Phil Jagielka in central defence in a complete reshuffle. Southampton’s Adam Lallana may also come in for Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling.
Despite this being the opportunity for youth it seems, there is still some room for sentiment; with the news that 36 year-old veteran Frank Lampard will captain the Three Lions against Costa Rica, for what will surely be his last ever international appearance.
It will not be an easy encounter for the reinforcements Hodgson is bringing in, with Costa Rica having a full strength line-up that boasts an exciting prospect in Arsenal’s Joel Campbell; the young star has blitzed the Italian and Uruguayan sides that have slayed England this tournament.
The nation will be hoping that the changed England can reward the loyal fans who will travel to Belo Horizonte with a win and to regain some dignity from what has been a humbling tournament.