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Saints duo to stake England claim on historic night
Updated 7:58am Tuesday 24th June 2014 in Sport
Luke Shaw and Adam Lallana will tonight be given a chance to stake their claim for a major role in England’s future.
Roy Hodgson’s men will play their final match of the 2014 World Cup, against Costa Rica, with the Saints duo both confirmed to start.
The St Mary’s pair, who have both progressed through the club’s academy ranks, will make history as they become the first Saints teammates to start together for England at a World Cup.
England’s exit from the tournament has already been confirmed, following defeats to Italy and Uruguay.
Their failure to make it out of Group D marks the first time since 1958 that they have not made it to the knockout stages.
Roy Hodgson’s beleaguered men are hoping to avoid further embarrassment this evening, with England never having lost all of their group matches at a World Cup.
Their opponents in Belo Horizonte will be a confident Costa Rica, who have already ensured they will advance to the last 16, with six points from six.
With England’s fate sealed, Hodgson has confirmed he will ring the changes, making nine in total, and surprisingly named his team the evening before the game.
That means Shaw making his first ever World Cup appearance, starting at left-back in place of Leighton Baines, who has a groin problem.
The 18-year-old’s teammate, Saints captain Lallana, has been used as a late substitute in both of England’s matches so far in Brazil, and is now in line to play a far greater role tonight.
Shaw, 18, and Lallana, 26, have both made the breakthrough onto the international scene in recent months, and are seen as potentially important parts of England’s future.
Strong performances today would only serve to reinforce their status in that respect.
"It's a great opportunity for these players," said Hodgson.
"I'm handing them an opportunity to go out on a fantastic stage and show they're not only players of potential, but they are ready to play on this stage now and won't let the team down."
He added: “We're very conscious that our fans are as disappointed and devastated as we are, and still supporting us.
"We had kind words and sympathy (from some of them) in the hotel, and we want to make certain they see something tomorrow that they can take some encouragement from."
There may be nothing riding on the game, but Hodgson insists England will not be taking it lightly.
"It's a top-ranked international on the biggest stage, so anything else than taking the game very seriously and trying to win the game in its own right would be out of the question," the former Liverpool manager said.
"This is a game against the top team in the group, the team who have exceeded all expectations with their results and the quality of their football.
"We have to show we can compete with this team. And it's a chance to show our fans that we still have a lot of pride in our performance."
Even if England win, Hodgson concedes it will be hard for him to raise his spirits after the events of the last fortnight.
He said: "From this tournament, I've realised that, at this top level in a World Cup, it's unforgiving.
"A moment really of sheer misfortune can throw everyone into a realm of despair that you didn't know was possible.
"This game will tell me a lot about the players.
"It's been a very tough few days and it's hard to pick yourselves up for a game that, even if you do well in, serves no purpose."
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