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Monday June 9, 2014 MYT 12:07:02 AM
Monday June 9, 2014 MYT 12:08:14 AM
by ken ferris
MIAMI (Reuters) - Roy Hodgson was left frustrated after England failed to win either of their World Cup warm-up matches in Miami, though he claimed he did not read much into the results and was relieved there were no more injuries.
Lacklustre England were held to a 0-0 stalemate by Honduras on Saturday before jetting off to Rio de Janeiro having played out an entertaining 2-2 draw with Ecuador on Wednesday.
But Hodgson insisted he had not learned a lot from the games at the Miami Dolphins' Sun Life Stadium, which followed a 3-0 win over Peru at Wembley, and was relieved to get through them.
England were subjected to some rough treatment by Honduras, who finished with 10 men, and Hodgson was just pleased to escape from the sunshine state without any more injuries.
"It was the sort of game really that was extremely frustrating as a football coach, especially a coach of many years standing. You realise those games can happen in your life from time to time but you immediately dismiss them," he said.
The main talking point had been the knee injury picked up by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain against Ecuador that put his World Cup hopes in doubt, but Hodgson believes the Arsenal midfielder should be able to play at the finals in Brazil.
"He is making big strides forward, I'd be very surprised if the doctors tell us he wouldn't be capable of playing a part in the tournament," said Hodgson. "That's what we are hoping for.
"But there are still a few assessments to be made on him. I wouldn't want to suggest that is a stonewall certainty."
Overall, though, Hodgson felt the warm-up matches had not really changed his mind about his first-choice England side to face Italy in their opening Group D match on Saturday.
"I've got to say these warm-up games, they don't necessarily answer a lot of questions. You ask and answer your own questions over a long period of time," he told Sky Sports News.
"(They) are... just a way of getting yourself to Rio and the real tournament (where) the real football begins. I'm happy we're going there in good spirits and the players have done all that we have asked them."
While Hodgson may have decided his starting lineup against Italy in the heat and humidity of Manaus, the Miami warm-ups did give him a chance to see players in unfamiliar positions.
One major issue is where does he play Wayne Rooney? The forward was the only England player to start both games as he regains match fitness after a groin injury towards the end of last season, but he failed to stamp his authority on the team.
He was deployed on the left against Ecuador and scored but kept drifting towards his more favoured central position where he played versus Honduras without having a major impact.
Despite telling reporters in Miami he was happy to play in any position for England, Rooney has made it clear when put there by Manchester United that he feels less effective.
Another problem for Hodgson is the form of Liverpool right back Glen Johnson who has been caught out of position several times in recent matches for club and country.
With his usual rival for the role, Kyle Walker, not in the squad through injury, Johnson has little competition so Hodgson must emphasise his defensive responsibilities.
The England manager tried James Milner at right back against Ecuador and the wide midfielder did a decent job but he looked uncomfortable at times and would only be used in emergency.
The major plus point from the Miami games was the form of exciting youngster Ross Barkley who sparkled off the bench with his direct running at defences, especially in the second game when he replaced Rooney at halftime.
Hodgson was at pains to play down the midfielder's sparkling contribution but the 20-year-old is certain to play a key role as what the England boss calls an "impact" player at the finals.
(Writing by Ken Ferris; Editing by Ossian Shine)
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