England coach Roy Hodgson and his team were relieved to get out of Miami relatively unscathed and board a plane to Rio de Janeiro on Saturday night after a 0-0 tie with Honduras that was more eventful than they would have liked.
Their final World Cup warmup included a 45-minute lightning delay — believed to be the first in English national team history — nine yellow cards and the 66th-minute ejection of Honduran defender Brayan Beckeles, who was slapped with two yellows in a 14-minute span. Beckeles’ first caution was for a dangerous lunge at Danny Welbeck. He then hit Leighton Baines in the face with his forearm as they went airborne for a ball.
A spirited crowd of 45,379, which included former England captain David Beckham and Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, rocked Sun Life Stadium on a sweltering Saturday afternoon for a match that hardly looked like a friendly.
“We’re quite frustrated in the dressing room,” England captain Steven Gerrard said. “We thought the referee was poor. They were doing some stupid fouls. Maybe we could have moved the ball a bit quicker, but there were some horrific challenges for a friendly. I certainly got caught by one.”
Studs were up, elbows were flying, and Hodgson said he was happy to get out of town without another injury. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain injured his knee in the Ecuador game Wednesday but is traveling to Brazil with the team and is expected to play.
“It’s time for the real thing now,” Hodgson told ITV after the match. “Everyone is fit, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is making progress, and I think he will make the tournament. Honduras was quite physical, and it was a real stop-start game, one of the most frustrating games I have been involved in for a long time.
“I thought the tempo of our play and effort to score in the second half was commendable. I will take the draw and take the fact we got away without any injuries and that we had experience against Central American opposition. We go to Brazil in the right frame of mind.”
Honduras hung on with 10 men for the final 25 minutes, and coach Luis Fernando Suarez was pleased with his team’s feisty play.
“The most interesting thing about this match was the atmosphere,” Suarez said. “It had the intensity of a World Cup match. It was animated and tense, and it felt like the World Cup had already begun. This is the kind of preparation we were looking for. We improved with each of our three warmup matches, and we feel ready for Brazil.”
Honduras kicks off its World Cup next Sunday against France, a day after England opens against Italy.
England chose to play a South and Central American team in Miami to mimic what it will face in Brazil, an opener against Italy in the Amazonian rain-forest city of Manaus, and matches against two Latin opponents, Costa Rica and Uruguay. What they didn’t count on was that Miami’s heat and humidity were the perfect recipe for a lightning storm.
A dark cloud fell over the stadium, and in the 23rd minute play was halted when lightning struck in the area. British reporters, already pushing their evening deadlines, were fascinated with the idea of a lightning delay, as that doesn’t happen in England.
“It’s not something we come across very often,” Hodgson said during the delay. “We can only accept and appreciate the referee’s decision as he is concerned about the safety.”
Large groups of British and Honduran fans stayed out in the rain, singing. They were determined to have a good time despite the inclement weather. Before the game, Honduran fans in blue and white banged on drums and barbecued in the parking lot with music blaring. English fans were decked in every incarnation of St. George’s cross and chanted their familiar ditties.
Dan Burke and his friends showed up in a London taxi decorated with English flags. Burke, who lives in Wilmington, North Carolina, owns a fleet of 10 London taxis and his company, The British Taxi, rents them out for special occasions. Earlier Saturday, they stopped at the English team hotel, the Mandarin Oriental, and players posed for photos in front of the car.
Fans from both sides kept the party going in the stadium, but neither side got to celebrate a goal. England’s Daniel Sturridge had a few chances, but he made errant shots.
Wayne Rooney and Gerrard were replaced in the second half by Ross Barkley and Jack Wilshere. They played well, but England was unable to capitalize on its man advantage in the final 25 minutes.
“They got their men behind the ball, and we didn’t take our chances,” Hodgson said. “We attempted to make them, but this is a game I will soon forget. I will take the draw and that we got away without injuries.”