England try to avoid bottom spot

 England return to Belo Horizonte on Tuesday, scene of the country’s greatest sporting humiliation, where they will attempt to restore pride against Costa Rica after another chastening World Cup experience.

Belo Horizonte’s Estadio Independencia provided the setting for England’s sensational 1-0 loss to the part-timers of the United States at the 1950 World Cup — a game latterly dubbed ‘The Miracle Match’.

Sixty-four years on, England are braced for another day to forget in the city, although with Tuesday’s game taking place at the Estadio Mineirao, they will at least be spared a reunion with the ghosts of 1950.

Roy Hodgson’s side had hoped to be heading into their final Group D fixture vying for a last-16 place, but their tournament is already over after consecutive 2-1 defeats by Italy and Uruguay. Instead, it is Costa Rica who have secured a berth in the knockout phase, thanks to stunning wins over the two teams who accounted for England, and the Central Americans now require a point to claim top spot.

England striker Wayne Rooney has called on his side to “restore some pride” on Tuesday, but Hodgson says that his chief priority will be to give playing time to those players who have watched from the sidelines until now. “I’m going to be picking (the team) with a view that all the players who are with us get some minutes on the field,” Hodgson told a press conference in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday.

“I will be changing the team to give others a chance to show what they can do. It’s not purely planning for the future and not purely sentiment.”

Costa Rica have become one of the stories of the tournament after stunning Uruguay 3-1 in their opening game and then edging Italy 1-0 in Recife on Friday — a result that confirmed England’s elimination.

They are already assured of equalling their best finish, 24 years after reaching the last 16 in Italy in 1990, but centre-back Johnny Acosta says that they cannot afford to ease off. “England will come to show why they’re a powerhouse,” he said. “No player will want to lose three matches and go empty-handed.”

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