RIO DE JANEIRO, June 21- England manager Roy Hodgson believes that there are exciting times ahead for his youthful squad despite overseeing his country’s first group-phase elimination at a World Cup for 56 years.
Costa Rica’s shock 1-0 win over Italy in Recife on Friday condemned England to a first-round exit for the first time since Just Fontaine and a teenage Pele were plundering goals at the 1958 tournament in Sweden.
After an unbeaten qualifying campaign and pre-competition training camps that Hodgson described as “perfect”, England’s World Cup lasted just six days, following consecutive 2-1 losses to Italy and Uruguay.
Bottom of Group D, England now face the ignominy of playing their final game against a Costa Rica team who could elect to rest players in preparation for the last 16, and Hodgson made no attempt to disguise his disappointment.
“I’m very low, yes. So are the players,” he said.
“We had high hopes, we thought we could make an impact. But unfortunately we haven’t won the games. To make an impact, you’ve got to win games, and we’ve lost both our games.”
There was a sliver of good news for Hodgson on Friday when Football Association chairman Greg Dyke announced that the 66-year-old would be allowed to see out his contract, which runs until 2016.
Hodgson has blooded promising young players such as Raheem Sterling and Ross Barkley in Brazil and he backed them to continue improving in the years leading up to the 2016 European Championship in France.
“I believe the team going forward will be a very good team,” he said.
“I think there are good young players. Even against Uruguay we saw some good individual performances and the young ones that came on, even they did quite well.
“But results colour everything. We played against a very tough-tackling and strong, defensive Uruguayan team.
“I don’t think there’s any need to have any doubts this England group of players will go on to do good things in the time ahead.”
He added: “I think the team is evolving. I think it will evolve, of course.
“I’m proud of the way they’ve approached this tournament and everything they put into it. At the moment I’m just devastated they got nothing out of it.”
– ‘We’ve failed’ –
Dyke recently published proposals aimed at increasing the dwindling number of England-eligible players playing in the Premier League, with caps on non-European Union players one of his initiatives.
It was a member of the Premier League’s foreign legion, Liverpool’s Luis Suarez, who did the damage for Uruguay in Thursday’s game in Sao Paulo, but Hodgson thinks that the presence of talented overseas players could actually inspire English footballers to greater heights.
“The Premier League is always going to attract the best players in the world because it’s got the most money,” Hodgson told journalists after the defeat by Uruguay at the Corinthians Arena.
“The best players play where the money is. That’s going to increase the quality of the Premier League.
“That might make my job harder, but maybe with the emergence of so many good young players, maybe they’re learning from the talent these people bring, so who knows?
“Maybe, in a perverse sort of way, they will get better as a result of it.”
For all the promise Hodgson believes there is in his squad, his tone was resolutely downbeat.
“We think we came here well prepared but we’ve failed,” he said.
“We obviously had really big hopes we were going to make the nation proud by going far in the tournament and we haven’t done that.”
Four minutes later, though, Costly did net his country’s first World Cup goal in five games stretching back to their inaugural appearance at the finals in 1982 as he beat Jorge Guagua to a high ball before slamming home left footed.
The Hondurans’ lead was short-lived as within three minutes Juan Paredes’ deflected effort fell perfectly for Valencia to bundle home his second goal of the tournament.
Honduras ended the half the stronger side as Bernardez’s powerful free-kick was turned behind by Alexander Dominguez and Jerry Bengston rightly had a goal ruled out for handball after Costly’s initial header had come back off the post.
After the break it was Ecuador’s turn to feel aggrieved with referee Williams as he again was unmoved when Felipe Caicedo tumbled under a challenge from Maynor Figueroa.
However, that decision mattered little in the end as Valencia netted the winner when he rose highest to meet Ayovi’s sweet delivery.