Staying injury-free is key in pre-World Cup friendlies

To measure the success of a friendly played less than two weeks before a World Cup start, such as Wednesday’s 3 p.m. England-Ecuador game at Sun Life Stadium, don’t start by counting the goals. Start by counting the walking at the end.

Though not occurring on dirty plays, the carnage runs counter to the term “friendlies.” Ask Ghana, which plays South Korea at Sun Life on Monday and in the World Cup without defender Jerry Akaminko, injured Saturday. Or, you don’t have to wait that long. You can ask Ecuador, which confirmed midfielder Segundo Castillo will be out three weeks with a torn knee ligament after a collision that broke Mexico midfielder Luis Montes’ leg.

Italy midfielder Riccardo Montolivo also went down Saturday with what looked like a broken leg.

England national team coach Roy Hodgson knows he and his team didn’t get sent to the Western Hemisphere and pampered at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel to win a couple of games in Miami against World Cup underdogs Ecuador and Honduras.

“It’s a preparation day,” Hodgson said. “It’s a game in the greater realm of things leading up to this important game on June 14 [England’s World Cup opener against Italy]. It’s one step along the way. Most importantly, I want to see the team play well. I want to see some good performances. And I hope I get no injuries. Those are my three major hopes.”

England’s Frank Lampard, until recently of Chelsea and soon after the World Cup to be of the new MLS team in New York, said, “Come the match, I think it’s very difficult to think about injuries. We just try to concentrate on playing well individually and as a team and when we get on the plane to Brazil, we have 23 fit players.”

Ecuador coach Reinaldo Reuda said Castillo would still come to Brazil because “we’re hoping he’ll be ready in time.”

If Castillo comes back three weeks from the injury, he would make Ecuador’s last two group games.

He would miss the June 15 game against Switzerland but play June 20 against Honduras and June 25 against France.

A young England team labors under the eyes of a nation that longs to reestablish its’ preeminence in world football. Which made Hodgson’s reply to “What would be a successful World Cup?” interesting.

“We’re trying very, very hard to concentrate on what is possible, first of all — what we can do well, how we can improve and not get hung up on the outcome,” Hodgson said. “We’re taking the simple approach that if we play well, if we do all the things we want to do and we do them really well, our players — who we believe to be good players — play to the very, very best of their ability. Then, when you leave the green, if we get the ball bouncing our way, we believe we can have a very good World Cup.

“Concentration is on the process, the things we can do, the things we can ourselves control.’’