by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 14th 2014)
After an impressive qualification – unbeaten – and preparation matches in Miami the serious business is about to begin. Ross Barkley has not made the starting line-up for Englandʼs first match against Italy, but Raheen Sterling, sent off against Ecuador has. The preparation was rather chaotic though. Miami was chosen for preparation matches against Ecuador and Honduras.
The aim was to encounter a South American style of football and a Central American one, but questions remain over the choice of Miami. How similar was Florida in the Hurricane season to three Brasilian cities. Manaus is deep in the Amazon. Miami experienced thunder, lightning and torrential rain, possibly similar, but the pitch? The state of the pitch in the Arena Amazonia is a complete disgrace, thoroughly unfit for any level of football, let alone a World Cup.
Itʼs hard to see how playing in Miami is comparable to São Paulo and Belo Horizonte, but some conditions will help.
Speaking in Miami England manager Roy Hodgson responded to my question. “Iʼm very happy to be here in Miami”, Hodgson said. “Weʼll have enough time in Brasil hopefully if all goes to plan – a long time in Brasil, certainly in terms of acclimatisation, the weather conditions, the heat and humidity that weʼre going to experience in Manaus, São Paulo and Belo Horizonte. You couldnʼt have come to a better place than Miami for that, so weʼre very happy to be here”.
But the preparation isnʼt limited to Miami. England spent a week in Brasil acclimatising before the opening match against Italy. It remains to be seen how helpful the choice of Ecuador and Honduras were in preparing for Uruguay and Costa Rica.
Hodgson left reporters in no doubt that England would be focused on the tasks ahead. “Well focus is a buzzword of course”, he said. “You hear a lot about focus. For me itʼs absolutely necessary and has always existed in football. Every football team that Iʼve ever worked with – for – has always been conscious of the fact that we need to have a very clear idea of what our goals are, what we are trying to do, how we are trying to play and to make certain that we donʼt stray too far from the aims we have set out for ourselves”.
He insisted that staying focused had never been a problem. “In particular we know what our responsibilities are”, he said. “Weʼve worked very hard to get to this World Cup. We are really hoping weʼre going to have a good one because itʼs a real possibility for us. Weʼll stay focused on that, because thatʼs the important thing for us”.
Hodgson assured journalists that this would be no holiday. “We are here because we want to be in the World Cup”, Hodgson said, “and we are here to play good football and thatʼs what we think about day in day out”.