England return to Belo Horizonte today, the scene of the country’s greatest sporting humiliation, where they will attempt to restore pride against Costa Rica after another chastening World Cup experience.
Belo Horizonte’s Estadio Independencia provided the setting for England’s sensational 1-0 loss to part-timers the US at the 1950 World Cup — a game latterly dubbed “The Miracle Match.”
Sixty-four years on, England are braced for another day to forget in the city, although with today’s game taking place at the Estadio Mineirao, they will at least be spared a reunion with the ghosts of 1950.
Roy Hodgson’s side had hoped to be heading into their final Group D fixture vying for a round-of-16 place, but their tournament is already over after consecutive 2-1 defeats by Italy and Uruguay.
Instead, it is Costa Rica who have secured a berth in the knockout phase, thanks to stunning wins over the two teams who accounted for England, and the Central Americans now require a point to claim top spot.
England striker Wayne Rooney has called on his side to “restore some pride,” but Hodgson says that his chief priority will be to give playing time to those players who have watched from the sidelines until now.
“I’m going to be picking [the team] with a view that all the players who are with us get some minutes on the field,” Hodgson told a press conference in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday. “I will be changing the team to give others a chance to show what they can do. It’s not purely planning for the future and not purely sentiment. It’s to give players a chance to go home from this World Cup — too early, bitterly disappointed — but to be able to say they weren’t here to make up the numbers, they actually took part.”
Hodgson has revealed that Leighton Baines and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will both miss the match through injury, while Frank Lampard is expected to come into the team for captain Steven Gerrard.
Both Gerrard and Lampard could be making their final international appearances, but the former declared on Sunday that he would not be making any announcements about his England future for the time being.
Baines’ hamstring injury means 18-year-old Southampton leftback Luke Shaw can expect to get his first taste of a World Cup, while Everton’s Ross Barkley is hoping to be given another chance to impress after promising substitute cameos against Italy and Uruguay.
Although Costa Rica still require a point to claim first place in the group, and with it a likely round-of-16 clash against Ivory Coast, coach Jorge Luis Pinto is also planning to shuffle his pack.
“It’s important to give some football to those who don’t normally get any and also to see how they fit into the system,” said assistant coach Paolo Wanchope, the former national team striker.
Costa Rica have become one of the stories of the tournament after stunning Uruguay 3-1 in their opening game and then edging Italy 1-0 in Recife on Friday last week — a result that confirmed England’s elimination.
They are already assured of equaling their best World Cup finish, 24 years after reaching the round-of-16 in Italy in 1990, but centerback Johnny Acosta says that they cannot afford to ease off against England.
“England will come to show why they’re a powerhouse,” Acosta said. “Here, no player will want to lose three matches and go home empty-handed.”