England’s entertaining night, as they draw 2-2 with Ecuador
As the Three Lions camp regroups following the encounter with Ecuador, Roy Hodgson and his men will not be feeling too merry, with plenty to chew over in the far from friendly game. At odds of 25/1 to lift the World Cup, there is still clear work to be done before England face-off against Italy in Manaus.
Most media attention is focused squarely on the reckless red card received by Raheem Sterling, for an over-exuberant challenge on Ecuador captain Antonia Valencia in the 79th minute.
Renowned for being somewhat mild mannered, the rattled Manchester United wideman escalated the situation, retaliating by lunging for the England starlet’s throat. Both were dealt with sternly by the referee, and headed for early baths, in an exhibition game that was often surprising in it’s intensity.
Porous in defence but electric in attack, the manager can take heart that his team were able to show spirit and create an abundance of opportunities, after going behind as early as the eighth minute to an opposition that were quick out of the blocks.
Hodgson’s England experiment brought mixed results, with the adventurous Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ross Barkley, and sharp shooting striker Rickie Lambert seizing their starts in the XI to show what they can bring to the table in Brazil.
The boisterous Barkley and exciting Oxlade-Chamberlain brought a real sense of urgency and determination to England’s forward play, combining fantastically with Wayne Rooney in a dynamic trio behind Ricky Lambert. This was particularly evident in the early stages of the game, after the rest of the team were stunned by the South American contingent’s smartly worked opening goal.
Lambert, now of Liverpool, also showed encouraging signs that he can make yet another step up from Southampton and the bread and butter of domestic football, to the dizzying heights of the World Cup and Champions League.
Alert and available, whilst always looking to combine with his fellow forwards, the sprightly 32-year-old was unlucky to see his back-heel rebound off the post, falling to Rooney in the resulting scramble that saw England finally equalise.
The quick-reaction goal clearly came as some relief to the Manchester United striker, his 39th in 90 outings in a first team England shirt, as he put in a much improved performance out on the left. He now finds himself at 40/1 to be top scorer in the tournament and 5/2 to be England’s leading man.
Not one to be outdone, Lambert latched onto a bright chance created by Barkley, who showed strength and skill to power past the Ecuadorian back-line. Lambert pounced, unleashing a sumptuous strike to put England on the front foot for the first time in the match.
Now with three goals in five international appearances, Lambert is 12/1 to start England’s World Cup game against Italy, and 18/1 to be the side’s leading goalscorer overall.
The Lambert inspired lead only lasted 19 minutes, though, as an inspired Michael Arroyo unleashed an impressive long-range equaliser past Ben Foster, who, with an unconvincing performance, will have done little to give Joe Hart sleepless nights.
Similarly off the pace was Chris Smalling, at fault for Enner Valencia’s opening goal after miss-timing his jump, and James Milner who struggled to get to grips with an unnatural right back position.
As both are unlikely to be starters in England’s group games, the worry for Hodgson and England fans is the outstanding Oxlade-Chamberlain’s fitness, after he was forced off in the 63rd minute, following a clumsy collision with Carlos Gruezo.
The Three Lions camp now waits with baited breath to find out whether the tricky wingman will be fit enough to stay in the squad and make the first game against Italy, where England are priced at 11/5 to beat Cesare Prandelli’s men.
Hodgson, meanwhile, will now face a selection headache, with Sterling, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Barkley’s attacking outputs seeming to outweigh their lack of experience and defensive naiveties. At 14/1 to win all three of their group games, England will need all the attacking impetus they can find.