Liam Hoden’s World Cup Watch: Familiarity breeds contempt

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What’s that feeling you’ve got right now? Oh yeah, familiarity.

Once again the same old feelings that crop up every other summer are back. Even when you think your expectations are low, it still hurts when they are smashed.

Yes, England are on the brink of a return home. It may be the early return plenty were predicting but it’s hard not to be disappointed by it.

Why did Roy Hodgson’s men have to provide that glimmer of hope against Italy? Why did Uruguay have to tease us all by playing so poorly against Costa Rica?

All we got were the familiar feelings of disappointment and frustration. And the realisation that ultimately, England are not that good in the grand scheme of things.

The hope will probably not die tonight. Italy should beat Costa Rica giving England and mathematicians the chance to dig themselves out of the mire on Tuesday.

But it is getting to the stage when it feels like hope is all we ever will have.

Undone by the brilliance of a man no more than 75 per cent fit in Luis Suarez, England were humbled once again.

They lacked ideas against a surprisingly resolute defence and there was a distinct absence of threat in the final third.

Shots from the edge of the box were frustratingly poor for the standard of the players.

It’s hard not to feel a little bit bad for Steven Gerrard. Has anyone had so much misfortune on such big stages in such a short space of time?

A man with such a stellar career is now likely to be remembered for one phrase: “Don’t let it slip.”

Slipping against Chelsea handed Manchester City. The ball slipping off the top of his head played Suarez onside to break England hearts.

Wayne Rooney’s goal lifted him off the scape-goating hook, leaving Gerrard to dangle like those effigies of David Beckham in 1998.

Look, it’s not Steven Gerrard’s fault that England are likely to be coming home, nor is it Rooney, nor Glenn Johnson. It’s the whole system.

Spain’s collapse has been as calamitous as it has surprising. But those giving the last rights to tiki-taka are premature.

The manager of the Spanish national team will probably change and certainly some of the much-lauded players have reached the end of their international careers, but the philosophy will live on.

The style of play is in the blood of Spain’s players because as a country they consistently produce players of technical brilliance. Tiki-taka will evolve but the essence of it will remain.

The philosophy and style overrides everything. Players have to fit within it or, no matter how good they are, face isolation.

England have nothing of the sort. Players are generally powerful, plenty have pace and they can play at one of the most brisk tempos in world football. It is a physical thing rather than a technical one.

But they consistently get found out on the international stage when they come up against technically better players and in difficult climates as well.

For all the talk of too many foreign players in the English game and the need to get younger players playing competitive football regularly, the one thing that is missing is an overriding philosophy players can buy into.

That is what the FA should be concentrating on from the top down. Getting coaches working with young players on a central idea that will transfer all the way through as they move towards senior level.

Players will develop and gel together better. That is when we will see a better national team, all the while preserving the Premier League as a place to play for top international players and not harming the Football League.

But I suppose if Italy do the business against Costa Rica tonight and against Uruguay on Tuesday, then England sweep past Costa Rica, all this debate will be forgotten.

Until they actually crash out at least.

TONIGHT’S GAMES

Group D: Italy v Costa Rica, Recife, 5pm kick off, BBC One

Team news

Gianluigi Buffon and Mattia De Sciglio are back in training for Italy but boss Cesare Prandelli will make a late decision on whether they will play. Andrea Barzagli and Daniele De Rossi will also be assessed after suffering minor knocks earlier in the week. Costa Rica have no issues.

Verdict

You would back Italy to have the quality to deal with surprise package Costa Rica. They will certainly have a more resolute defence than Uruguay did to deal with the wing back system. Costa Rica showed how threatening they can be on the break with Arsenal youngster Joel Campbell shining.

Betting

Italy 4/7 Draw 3/1 Costa Rica 6/1

Group E: Switzerland v France, Salvador, 8pm kick off, ITV

Team news

Ottmar Hitzfeld has a selection dilemma after substitutes dug Switzerland out of trouble in their opening game with Ecuador. Admir Mehmedi and Hariz Seferovic both netted after coming off the bench and could replace Valentin Stocker and Josip Drmic if Hitzfeld chooses to reward the match winning pair. France are confident Yohan Cabaye will be fit after a groin problem.

Verdict

France were among a number of teams proving they should be not be underestimated in this competition as they strolled past Honduras. But they should have a far less easy ride against a Switzerland side who are plenty of people’s far outside tip for the competition. The Swiss will certainly provide better resistance and after their fright in the first half against Ecuador, they may have woken up. It should be a tight one.

Betting

Switzerland 7/2 Draw 5/2 France 10/11

Group E: Honduras v Ecuador, Curitiba, 11pm kick off, ITV

Team news

Wilson Palacios is suspended after his red card against France with Jorge Claros or Oscar Boniek Garcia in line to replace the midfielder. Victor Bernardez is a fitness doubt with an ankle problem. Ecuador are likely to name an unchanged side from that which lost to Switzerland.

Verdict

The bully boys of the World Cup are back in action so Ecuador should beware. Honduras’ only intent seems to be to maim their way through this World Cup so as long as Ecuador maintain their composure, they should win comfortably. They caused Switzerland plenty of problems in the first half of their opening game.

Betting

Honduras 9/2 Draw 3/1 Ecuador 4/6