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Poolside dream of glory proves to be just that

Six months after being backed to win the World Cup by their manager, England have been eliminated from the tournament before they have finished their malaria tablets.

Roy Hodgson would have put a tenner on England winning the World Cup. Picture: Getty Sport
Roy Hodgson would have put a tenner on England winning the World Cup. Picture: Getty Sport

It is embarrassing for the players, and for the thousands of fans who made the 5700-mile trip to Brazil, but the man with the reddest face in the England camp is Roy Hodgson.

On December 5 Hodgson held court at a poolside bar in the opulent holiday resort of Costa do Sauipe, where FIFA were about to stage the World Cup draw.

Hodgson was asked if he would put his hypothetical tenner on Brazil to win the World Cup at home. "No," he replied. "I'd put it on England."

He has lost that tenner. Despite his failure, Greg Dyke, the chairman of the Football Association, has given Hodgson his backing.

"We're supportive of Roy Hodgson, we've asked him to stay as manager," Dyke said. When asked if he felt Hodgson would remain in his job until the end of his contract at the 2016 European Championships, he added: "That is the view of myself, of everybody else here."

Hodgson has been given all the support he needed. He knew the vast army of administrative staff he had at his disposal would make sure England were given the best chance of succeeding in Brazil once the draw was made - and they did.

Nutritionists, psychiatrists, video analysts, sports scientists, cooks and fitness trainers were employed.

Heat chambers were installed at St George's Park to help the players become accustomed to the sweltering jungle heat of Manaus.

The FA sought the advice of FIFA on the anti-malarial medicine they should take in the Amazon. During two warm-weather training camps, England's anxieties were addressed by Dr Steve Peters; their diets were tailored. Even their sweat patterns were analysed.

The FA set up warm-up games against Peru, Honduras and Ecuador to give England a taste of the South and Central American opposition that awaited them in Brazil.

Now England are going home after their worst performance in World Cup history. Yesterday, Costa Rica knocked England out of the World Cup.

They did it indirectly, yes, but they still killed off England's World Cup hopes by defeating Italy 1-0, just five days after beating Uruguay, the side England could not defeat.

So what went wrong? Ashley Cole was like a giddy school kid tweeting about England on Thursday night, presumably from a sunny five-star resort. "Let's go England!!!!! Good luck #TeamEngland," he tweeted. "Yessss wazza!!!! C'mon England!!!!" followed after Wayne Rooney scored England's equaliser.

Cole should have been on the pitch. Yes, he did not play much last year, but after Leighton Baines had played poorly in the opener he had no reason for him to fear for his place. England only had 18-year-old Luke Shaw to replace him.

England also went from being a conservative team to one that went all-out attack. "We're not going to put any of our weapons down," Hodgson warned prior to the Uruguay game. "Any weapon we've got we are going to try and use."

But there were too many changes, too quickly. "We do not see any value in changing," Dyke said yesterday.

Hodgson did. Though he deserves credit for blooding attacking youngsters, in doing so he left Jordan Henderson, who had three England starts to his name before the World Cup, to protect a creaky back four alongside 34-year-old Gerrard.

Hodgson also has a tendency to talk himself into trouble and he did exactly that when he refused to put Suarez in the same bracket as Cristiano Ronaldo an Lionel Messi. Saying so in the build-up to a game against Uruguay is a recipe for disaster, and Suarez admitted that the words put fire in his belly.

But Hodgson cannot take all the blame. Chris Waddle, the former England winger, took aim at the nation's great corporate money-maker in the wake of elimination.

"I'm not angry, I'm just fed up of talking about the same old problems," he raged. "I'll tell you what the biggest problem is when you think about it all - the Premier League. They have a product which they sell around the world.

"It's entertaining but it's doing our players no good whatsoever. We go on banging the drum that we've got this and that . . . do you know what makes the Premier League exciting? Players like Luis Suarez - the foreign players. We hype our players up massively like we always do, say we've got this and that. The media is to blame as much as anyone else as when we drop someone or play someone out of position, we're on the case asking 'why, why, why?'. Other countries say 'I've got good players but so and so is going to sit on the bench'."

England's problems run deep. Greg Dyke was derided for sliding his index finger across his throat after the draw in Costa do Sauipe.

But maybe Hodgson was the fool for his poolside dream that his side could somehow go all the way.

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