Roy Hodgson’s England players have vowed that they will not fall for any World Cup dirty tricks.
England arrived in Rio on Sunday after completing their warm-up games with a goalless draw against Honduras. The Honduras players made a series of reckless challenges and Brayan Beckeles was sent off after being shown two yellow cards.
England had Raheem Sterling sent off in the draw with Ecuador last week, but the players did not react to the rough treatment they received against Honduras.
Gus Poyet has already warned England that Uruguay will try anything to beat them, but Hodgson’s team are ready to keep their cool in the heat of Brazil.
England have been have been the victim of dirty tricks in past World Cups, including Maradona’s Hand of God and David Beckham’s red card for kicking out at Diego Simeone.
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“I think in the most part we did well to keep our composure against Honduras,” said Leighton Baines, who was particularly targeted by the South Americans.
“I thought some of the challenges were a bit harsh. The one on Stevie [Gerrard], when I saw it I was thinking I would be just happy to see him get up. But you didn’t see loads of us rushing over and making a meal of it, we kind of got on with it.
“I got booked for not getting near someone and then have gone over to ask him why he is on the ground, and all of a sudden there are three or four people pushing you around. You have to walk away from that because they are making a meal of it.
“We have shown that even in these moments we don’t really engage in that kind of nonsense. Whether it is picking ourselves up off the floor or just accepting it, a couple of strange decisions from the referee. It is what it is. We are happy to get down to Brazil with everyone in good shape, apart from Ox [the injured midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain].”
Jordan Henderson was one of England’s best performers in the draw with Honduras and the Liverpool midfielder should have booked his place in Hodgson’s team to start the World Cup. The 23-year-old thought that the antics of Honduras was a good preparation for what England would face in Brazil.
Asked about Daniel Sturridge having the ball kicked at him in a sensitive area by Emilio Izaguirre, Henderson said: “I didn’t like that. I thought Daniel handled that really well because the whistle had gone. But you’re going to get that, especially in the tournament.
“You need to be focussed as referees, especially in the World Cup, can send people off for stuff like that. I think we learned a lot of things from the Honduras game.”
Central defender Phil Jagielka revealed that Hodgson and his staff were constantly reminding the players not to be caught out by cynical opponents. “Different people react in different ways,” Jagielka said. “We constantly talk about that. You can’t do anything if you get sent off. Raheem was a little bit unfortunate. If the replay hadn’t been shown on a 400ft plasma 12 times, he probably wouldn’t have got sent off.
“It’s part of competitions like this. You can’t afford to get silly bookings or get sent off.”
Glen Johnson, the Liverpool right-back, said: “Dirty tricks and the conditions – we’re going to get that in Brazil so it was a useful practice on Saturday. We are used to getting kicked and stuff anyway. We are ready now. We came through the three games with only one injury, so it is relatively positive.
“I think we proved that they weren’t going to wind anyone up. There was a point when Izaguirre kicked the ball at Studge when he was lying on the floor five seconds after the whistle. That is when you can react, but he didn’t. We kept our composure and showed we weren’t going to react to things.”
Hodgson has been delighted by the response of his players to warnings of being wound up and he believes the Honduras game was proof the message has sunk in. “I think that’s something which we probably have learned,” Hodgson said.
“The whole idea of playing Peru, Ecuador and Honduras was to show us something very, very different. Had we played Sweden or Norway we know exactly what we’re going into, how those teams play and how they behave. This is something different, the culture in those countries is a different culture and I think we’ve had a nice little taste of it and certainly I was very pleased with the way the players kept their discipline, kept their shape.
“We didn’t even give them a sniff of a goal chance and sometimes in these games that frustration can lead to people doing silly things and you end up losing one. They didn’t react at all.
“The level of the referee’s performance will be higher in the World Cup. A lot of times against Honduras he didn’t seem to know who had committed the foul and which way he should be blowing his whistle and of course he allowed them to sometimes take a long time to take a free-kick to take the sting out of the game.
“These are things we can’t really control, so it is quite good to practise it. They kept their cool very well. I think we got three yellow cards, but God knows how.”