England is a week away from its World Cup opener against Italy in Brazil’s Amazonian town of Manaus, and coach Roy Hodgson will get a final chance to prepare his players for the steamy conditions with a match against Honduras on Saturday at 4:45 p.m. at Sun Life Stadium.
Former England captain David Beckham, in town for meetings about his stadium plan, is expected to be among the crowd of 45,000. England is coming off a 2-2 tie against Ecuador on Wednesday, a match that cost The Three Lions a red card for Liverpool’s Raheed Sterling and a more-troubling knee ligament injury for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Both players will miss Saturday’s match.
Oxlade-Chamberlain, the Arsenal winger, will be out for up to two to three weeks, and it is possible he could miss the group stage of the World Cup.
Hodgson said he won’t make a decision about the injured player until “24 hours before” they play their first game.
“He’s working very hard; let’s see and hope it’s not that serious,” Hodgson said Friday. “We’ll keep our fingers crossed that the injury is not too serious, and he will be able to recover in time to take part in the World Cup. We have spent so much time discussing this squad over the past two months it will not be difficult to come up with the solution if we need to replace him, but there is no need for us to consider that yet.”
Honduras, also heading to the World Cup, is hoping to rebound from a pair of tuneup losses to Turkey and Israel. The Honduran team is making its third trip to the World Cup and seeking its first win after three ties and three losses in 1982 and 2010.
The Honduran team, affectionately known as “Los Catrachos,” features Luis Garrido, Andy Najar, tall forwards Carlos Costly and Jerry Bengston, Oscar Boniek Garcia and Emilio Izaguirre. Three Honduran players make a living in England and will be familiar with the English players — Roger Espinoza (Wigan), Maynor Figueroa (Wigan) and Wilson Palacios (Stoke City).
England faces two Latin teams at the World Cup — Costa Rica and Uruguay — and Hodgson figures Honduras will be very similar to Costa Rica and a perfect test.
The other story line this week has been Wayne Rooney, who was getting grief after going scoreless in four matches. He was moved from the middle to the left side and responded with a goal against Ecuador. He told British reporters that he is not concerned with public opinion, including that of former Manchester United teammate Paul Scholes, who suggested that Rooney was past his prime.
“To be honest, I’m not really interested in what anyone else has got to say,” Rooney said after the Ecuador match. “I’m interested in what Roy Hodgson and the coaching staff here and the people around me say. People have their opinions, but I don’t agree with them.
“[Scholes] has been a teammate, but he’s been away from the first team for a long time. I’ve seen a lot of you [reporters] saying he’s coached me and been around the team, but he hasn’t. I’m not really going to react. I’m not interested. He’s got his opinions, so let’s leave it at that.”
Rooney, who played golf at Doral on Thursday with a few teammates, said he doesn’t mind playing wide on the left if that is where Hodgson wants him.
“I can play in different positions,” Rooney said. “I’ve proved I can play on the left over the years. The manager didn’t have to tell me what to do. I know how to play that role. I’ve played it many times, and I have no problem doing that. He didn’t have to explain it to me.
“It is down to the manager. It’s not about me, it’s about the team. If the manager wants to play me up top, in behind, left, right, I’m happy to do that. I’m ready to play. I hope to play against Honduras. I’ve trained hard, I have no injuries or any recurrence of the groin strain I had at the end of the season.
“I always needed game time. I felt really good, especially in the heat. I’m sure the manager will have a tough decision, but I’m ready.”