A draw with shock group winners Costa Rica salvaged a little pride, but that is scant consolation for the thousands of fans who saw them garner their lowest-ever points tally.
To his and the players’ credit, Hodgson and the entire England squad went over to where the majority of fans were sitting and showed their collective appreciation before being ferried to the airport for the long flight back. That was the least they could have done after falling woefully short in at least two of the three games, though bad luck was certainly a factor against Italy.
Hodgson may have fielded a totally experimental line-up with one eye on the 2016 Eupropean championship, making nine changes from the side defeated by Italy and Uruguay. But England’s continual lack of spark and inspiration in the final third – four goals in South Africa and only two here – says everything about the task facing Hodgson who insists he won’t copy Italy’s Cesare Prandelli and step down, which is probably the correct move since the problems run far deeper than the manager.
“We are truly grateful for the fans because we know what they are going through,” said a hoarse Hodgson at his final media briefing. “They gave us an ovation which our results didn’t merit, so we applauded them. We wanted so much to do well. For the last two or three days all we’ve talked about is how disappointed and sad we are. We came here today with nothing to play for, but I don’t think any fair-minded person would say the team did not show the right spirit or commitment.”