...what happened to the fourth Champions League place the last time an English team won the thing. Plus, who would want to pay £60 to watch the current England team?
A Sunderland fan in the mailbox is surprised by Jack Colback's call up to the England squad. Plus, thoughts on Welbeck and Liverpool's Champions League draw...
Hart's distribution has always been a weakness - he ranked 26th among 2013/14's Premier League goalkeepers for passing accuracy (47.9 per cent) - and that was again the case against Honduras, when he averaged 62%. England will not want their goalkeeper to give the ball away cheaply in such hot and humid conditions. Otherwise, Hart had very little to do. There was, though, a scare in the 44th minute when he misjudged a corner, charging under the flight of the ball, and had to be bailed out by Phil Jagielka.
There will always be questions about Johnson's defensive positioning at right-back but he typically got forward whenever possible. However, he seemed to have an uncharacteristic lack of composure in advanced areas and it was surprising that a player who completed 46 successful dribbles in the Premier League in 2013/14 made just one against Honduras. It took until the 73rd minute for the Liverpool man to make a telling attacking impact with a cross from which Daniel Sturridge, missed an excellent headed opportunity.
Compared to his centre-back partner, Jagielka, Chelsea's Cahil was lacking in poise against the hard-working opposition of Honduras. It was essential for England to play the ball short out of defence but Cahill was guilty at times of trying to force the matter and he hit four more long balls than Jagielka. Cahill did make more clearances (five) than any other England player on the pitch but he also picked up a yellow card for an unnecessary aerial challenge over the top of Jerry Bengtson.
Jagielka may not have done anything spectacular but he was arguably England's best player. Not only did the Everton man save Hart's blushes from that cross but he looked calm and consistent throughout the game. Importantly for England in the humid conditions, Jagielka kept the ball with simple, short passes to Steven Gerrard, which ensured he had the best passing accuracy of any member of the starting XI (95%). He also read the game well with three interceptions in an assured performance.
Like Johnson, Baines provided far more advanced width than Luke Shaw or James Milner had managed from full-back in England's previous game against Ecuador. But Baines' greatest strength was perhaps wasted, with Gerrard debatably pulling rank in set-piece situations. The Everton man took a nasty elbow to the face in the second half, which earned Brayan Beckeles a second yellow card, and was later harshly booked himself.
The England captain played the first 45 minutes before being substituted in a pre-planned change to protect a tight groin he had suffered earlier in the week. Gerrard dove-tailed nicely with Liverpool club-mate Jordan Henderson in the first half as one of two deep-sitting midfielders and he dictated the play with more touches of the ball (52) in that time than any other player. His 86% accuracy from his seven long passes could also have been even more effective had England's forwards offered a bit more movement.
Whether Henderson is being wasted as one of the two deeper midfielders is open to debate given the success he enjoyed with Liverpool during the Premier League season when in a more advanced position. But his fitness and endurance mean he is very useful in the withdrawn role, while he also completed more first-half passes (41) than any other player against Honduras. Henderson, though, still looked better when given more opportunity to advance up the field, after Beckeles' red card, before his substitution with eight minutes remaining.
It was only Lallana's sixth cap but he already looks very much at home as an England international. He played some excellent one-touch football to create openings in a crowded final third, and showed plenty of enthusiasm to burst forward and provide an option for Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson. On this evidence, it's easy to see why Liverpool are prepared to pay around £25million for his services. A certainty to start against Italy.
Tested the shaky Noel Valladares with a powerful early drive and provided a cute dummy to tee up Daniel Sturridge shortly before the rain delay. Welbeck was occasionally guilty of being wasteful in possession, recording just a 76% pass completion rate, but his tireless work ethic will be invaluable against Italy in Manaus' sweltering conditions. His goalscoring record for Manchester United may be a concern, but Welbeck is usually reliable for England. One wonders if Hodgson will utilise the forward's diligence to nullify the threat of Andrea Pirlo on June 14, remembering that Welbeck was selected ahead of Wayne Rooney for a similar role against Real Madrid's Xabi Alonso in February 2013.
According to the stats, Rooney created more chances than anyone else on the pitch despite only playing for 45 minutes. He looked close to full fitness, readily switching positions with Welbeck and Sturridge, but managed only one shot - a dipping free-kick spilled by Valladares. Despite the clamour in some quarters for Raheem Sterling to start ahead of Rooney, it is difficult to see how he doesn't belong in the first XI, and how Sterling wouldn't best be used as an impact sub in the closing stages against Italy. Rooney has steadily improved throughout the three warm-up matches and hopefully he'll be ready to hit the ground running in Manaus.
Along with Johnson's struggles, Sturridge's display was a cause for mild concern for Hodgson. The striker's movement was typically lively, but he dragged a great chance wide in the first half following good work from Rooney and Welbeck. A heated incident with Emilio Izaguirre added to Sturridge's frustration, and he failed to hit the target with two further opportunities, chipping well wide from the edge of the area and heading over from six yards out despite being unmarked.
Jack Wilshere (for Gerrard, 46)
Now very much behind Jordan Henderson in the pecking order for a starting role, but Wilshere demonstrated what he can offer with a composed performance. The 22-year-old completed all 45 of his passes, and a familiar forward burst brought a decent chance for Ross Barkley. Wilshere is likely to find himself on the bench in Manaus, but provides Hodgson with a good option to change England's set-up if required.
Ross Barkley (for Rooney, 46)
His first minute of action underlined Hodgson's criticism on Wednesday as Barkley turned into trouble, lost the ball and put England on the back foot. The youngster was excellent after that, however, showing several neat touches to evade Honduras' stubborn defence and inject purpose into England's play. As many have opined this week, Barkley is a genuine game-changer - meaning he's likely to start on the bench and come on when England need extra spark.
Fraser Forster (for Hart, 75)
One shot, one save. He'll have enjoyed his only 15 minutes of action this summer.
Rickie Lambert (for Welbeck, 79)
We remember so little about those 11 minutes that we initially forgot Lambert played.
Frank Lampard (for Henderson, 83)
Unlike Barkley, Lampard no longer has the legs to change a game.
Matt Stanger and Peter Fraser.
Given all the players you've described as "game changers" I do worry that we'll be starting with less than eleven on the pitch.- paulonbooks