England departed for Brazil with a whimper as they were held to a disappointing 1-1 draw against the Republic of Ireland at Wembley last night.
Having slipped further behind Montenegro in their World Cup qualifying campaign two months ago, this friendly was a perfect chance for Roy Hodgson’s men to end their home calendar with a victory.
But they could not deliver. Shane Long had two men marking him in Glen Johnson and Phil Jagielka, but neither of them could prevent the West Brom man glancing a header past Joe Hart with 13 minutes gone.
Only a defensive mix-up at the other end allowed Frank Lampard to level 10 minutes later.
The game that promised to be a thrilling end to end Premier League-style scrap ended up being a tepid affair thereafter. England failed to create any real chances until the 83rd minute, when Forde saved superbly from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Although Ireland’s organisation made it hard for England, if they are serious about reaching the World Cup, let alone progress to the latter stages of the competition, they should be winning games like this.
The Three Lions cannot afford to drop any more points in their qualifying campaign and of late they have failed to beat Poland (ranked 63rd in the world), Ukraine (37th), Montenegro (27th) and now Ireland, who sit 39th in the ladder.
England looked tired at times and their hopes of a surprise victory in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday look slim, especially after Daniel Sturridge limped off with an ankle injury.The only plus point for England was that both national anthems were well observed.