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Under captain Frank Lampard's leadership, England avoid loss, avoid win

Jeff Gross

This game was pretty boring and inconsequential even before Luis Suárez decided to complete his modern art masterpiece, Hand of God; Mouth of Dog.

Already eliminated England rang the changes, and only Gary Cahill got to keep his place in defense.  Quite rightly so, as he's been one of the few English players to emerge with any credit whatsoever from this World Cup.  Partnered this time with Chris Smalling, with the befuddling Phil Jones at right back and the speedy but raw Luke Shaw at left back, at least the defense avoided any truly major errors this time.  Shaw did misplay an offside trap once as I recall, but Costa Rica didn't quite manage to rise above the general level of low-quality on offer today either.  Though we did get one moment of brilliance from Bryan Ruiz.

Frank Lampard, wearing the captain's armband on the occasion of his 106th (and last?) cap, got the start in midfield, alongside the mostly frustrating Jack Wilshere.  Lampard did play the full 90, though he relinquished the armband to Steven Gerrard in the 73rd minute.  Yes, that's right, England finished out the day with a Lampard-Gerrard Reunion Tour midfield show.  Number of fondly reminiscing fans: about zero.

Frank, to his credit, did a very good job in the "Gerrard-role" of pseduo-defensive midfield -- certainly much better than the Liverpool man himself has done all summer -- combining accurate passing with a few well-times challenges while pinging several one-time looping balls over the top of the Costa Rican defense, all which were promptly wasted either by a shoot-first-and-at-all-cost Daniel Sturridge or the rather disappointing Ross Barkley and Adam Lallana.  Most of the promise England showed in attack in the first two games of the World Cup evaporated almost as quickly as their campaign.

The overall slow and lackadaisical pace of the game probably helped Lampard stand out, but the fact that he still managed to do so at 36 shows that perhaps he still has some life left in him.  If MLS is his final destination, New York will be lucky to have him.

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