COMMENT: Roy Hodgson's side failed to shine as the Three Lions ended the World Cup without a win - and the usual suspects together again at the heart of the sideBy Ben Hayward at the Estadio Mineirao
It was supposed to be a glimpse into the future. Roy Hodgson had hoped England's final group game would see his young players perform and prove they have what it takes for top-class tournament football.
Instead, they floundered and for the umpteenth tme, England ended up with Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard playing in central midfield.
Guess what? It still doesn't work. It never did, not really, even when both were younger and at their peak, with superior players around them. But Hodgson's fresh-faced stand-ins hardly offered hope for a brigher future either. Quite the opposite, in fact.
"England have a young team, a side for the future," Costa Rica coach Jorge Luis Pinto had said on Monday. "I have seen all of the players and they play well."
They didn't on Tuesday. Back in Belo Horizonte, scene of their shock 1950 World Cup loss to USA, England fared little better this time against another CONCACAF rival. Daniel Sturridge twice came close to scoring, while Ross Barkley and Jack Wilshere produced some quality touches in midfield. The rest, however, looked ordinary at best.
England were booed by Brazilian fans for slicing the ball into touch and losing possession constantly in a spell towards the end of the match, this was surely not what Hodgson had hoped for.
"This is a great opportunity for the team to go out there on this fantastic stage and show that they have a lot of potential and are already good enough to wear the England shirt. And I believe they will not let us down," he had said on Monday.
In intense heat at the Estadio Mineirao, however, they were unable to make anyone believe that England will be better than this in two, four or six years - the time frames Hodgson had referenced in his pre-match press conference.
In the end, Gerrard was thrown on alongside Lampard in what seems likely to be the last time the two play together for their country - even though Hodgson said on Monday that he would like Lampard, who is 36, to play on.
The pair remain fine footballers, yet hanging on to the dying embers of a "golden generation" that never delivered even at its peak is clearly not the solution. And having taken just a point from three games, it is surely now time to build for the future in earnest - even if that future didn't look quite as bright as Hodgson had hoped.
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