SIX MONTHS after being backed to win the World Cup by their manager, England have been eliminated from the tournament before they have finished their malaria tablets.
It is embarrassing for the players, the thousands of fans who made the 5,700-mile trip to Brazil, but the man with the reddest face in the England camp is Roy Hodgson.
On December 5 Hodgson held court at a poolside bar in the opulent Brazilian holiday resort of Costa do Sauipe, where FIFA were about to stage the World Cup draw.
Hodgson was asked if he would put his hypothetical tenner on Brazil to win their sixth World Cup title. “No,” he replied. “I’d put it on England.”
Hodgson is not renowned for snappy, uber-positive soundbites in the press.
Earlier this week he admitted his captain Steven Gerrard can “say in two or three sentences what takes me 10 minutes to talk through.”
So there must have been a reason behind Hodgson’s optimism.
Hodgson knew the vast army of administrative staff he had at his disposal would make sure England were given the best chance of succeeding in Brazil once the draw was made - and they did.
Nutritionists, psychiatrists, video analysts, sports scientists, cooks and fitness trainers were employed.
Heat chambers were installed at St George’s Park to help the players become accustomed to the sweltering jungle heat of Manaus.
The FA sought the advice of FIFA on the anti-malarial medicine they should take in the Amazon. Malarone (one per day for two days before they arrived, and for seven days after leaving the jungle) were prescribed.
During two warm-weather training camps, England’s anxieties were addressed by Dr Steve Peters, their diets were tailored. Even their sweat patterns were analysed.
The Football Association (FA) set up warm-up games against Peru, Honduras and Ecuador to give England a taste of the South and Central American opposition that awaited them in Brazil.
Now England are going home after their worst performance in World Cup history.
A scene in the film Mike Bassett: England Manager, sums England’s embarrassing exit up perfectly.
The bumbling Bassett and his squad land in Rio de Janeiro, where they bump into the Scotland squad, who have also qualified for the World Cup in Brazil.
One England player ridicules their old rivals about their chances. “Iran are looking a bit tasty,” he says to the Scotland squad.
“And Costa Rica have got a handy side this year.”
For the England player in question, Costa Rica, an island nation with a population of four million, are a shambles of an opponent, a punch bag of world football.
On Friday Costa Rica knocked England out of the World Cup.
They did it indirectly, yes, but they still killed off England’s World Cup hopes by defeating Italy 1-0, just five days after beating Uruguay, who England lost to on Thursday.
So what went wrong?
Ashley Cole was like a giddy school kid tweeting about England on Thursday night, presumably from a sunny five-star resort.
“Let’s go England!!!!! Good luck #TeamEngland,” he tweeted. “Yessss wazza!!!! C’mon England!!!!” followed after Wayne Rooney scored England’s equaliser.
Cole should not have been on holiday. He should have been on the pitch.
Yes, Cole did not play much last year, but once Leighton Baines had a stinker in the opening match, there was no reason for him to fear for his place. England only had 18-year-old Luke Shaw to replace him.
Shaw’s selection ahead of Cole sums up where Hodgson went wrong - too many changes too fast.
There were too many changes in personnel, and the change in attitude was over the top too.
England went from being a conservative team to one that went all-out attack.
“We’re not going to put any of our weapons down,” Hodgson warned prior to the Uruguay game.
“Any weapon we’ve got we are going to try and use.”
Hodgson deserves credit for blooding attacking youngsters like Raheem Sterling, Ross Barkley, Danny Welbeck, Daniel Sturridge and Adam Lallana.
But in doing so he left Jordan Henderson, who had three England starts to his name before the World Cup, to protect a creaky back four alongside 34-year-old Gerrard.
Hodgson has a tendency to talk himself into trouble and he did exactly that when he refused to put Suarez in the same bracket as Cristiano Ronaldo an Lionel Messi. He is not, but, saying so in the build-up to a game against Uruguay is a recipe for disaster.
Playing Rooney down the left against Italy was also a mistake.
Refusing one reporter’s invitation to describe Rooney as an “exceptional” player in Miami was another.
Greg Dyke was derided for sliding his index finger across his throat after the draw in Costa do Sauipe.
But maybe Hodgson was the fool for his poolside dream that England could go all the way in Brazil.