ROY HODGSON felt his England side enjoyed a perfect World Cup send off as their only warm-up game on home soil ended in a comfortable 3-0 win over Peru.
The England squad fly to the United States tomorrow ahead of friendlies with Ecuador and Honduras buoyed by a routine victory in front of a near-capacity Wembley crowd.
Daniel Sturridge’s first-half strike ended some stiff resistance from Peru’s packed defence, before second-half goals from Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka added some welcome gloss to the final scoreline.
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England will have to improve if they are to progress from a World Cup group that features Italy and Uruguay as well as Costa Rica, but the victory nevertheless provided a decent base to build from as the squad head to Miami before travelling to their training base in Rio de Janeiro.
“The most important thing was to come through the game unscathed in terms of injuries, and then to get a victory, the more comfortable the better,” said Hodgson. “It didn’t look like it was going to be that comfortable for a period in the first half, but as soon as Daniel came up with that fantastic goal, the game was not in great doubt.
“One of the finest parts of the evening was the crowd and the atmosphere. What a great send off and vote of confidence in the players from the English footballing public.
“We’ve had two good weeks of training and got to end it in this way before heading off for the next part of our preparations.”
Those preparations continue with games against Ecuador and Honduras that Hodgson will use to help determine his starting XI for the opening Group D game against Italy in a fortnight’s time.
Jordan Henderson was reasonably effective alongside Steven Gerrard in central midfield last night, although Jack Wilshere is likely to replace him in at least one of the remaining warm-up games.
Similarly, while Adam Lallana and Danny Welbeck were selected in the wide positions yesterday, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Raheem Sterling remain in contention for a starting spot against Italy.
Oxlade-Chamberlain and defender Phil Jones were not on the bench yesterday, and Hodgson has revealed the pair will definitely start Wednesday’s game against Ecuador.
“They are going to play in the next game,” he said. “They could have been on the bench tonight, but we decided that because they were starting the game in the week, it would be better for them to do an extra two days of training.
“With all of the travelling, we didn’t want them not training or playing for three days. I was only planning to use four subs (against Peru) – the last two were really only put on because the game was effectively over.”
While the make-up of England’s first-choice back four is pretty much set in stone, there is still some uncertainty about who will fill the attacking positions in Manaus.
Hodgson appears to have settled on a 4-2-3-1 formation, although the personnel within the squad means he can easily switch to more of a 4-3-3 if the situation demands it during a game.
While the rest of the country is playing guessing games about the make-up of the side to face Italy, Hodgson insists he is still to decide who will play in England’s opening World Cup match.
Indeed, with a number of midfield players in particular appearing closely matched, the England boss claims he might not even settle on his starting XI until the night before the Italy fixture.
“We’ve got two weeks of training and matches still to come,” he said. “I will not be deciding on the line-up to play Italy until the last week before the game, and possibly not even until the night before the game.
“All I would say at this stage is that I’m very happy with the options that I’ve got. I’m excited about all of the players.”