Belo Horizonte (Brazil) (AFP) - England manager Roy Hodgson admitted his side were fortunate to be applauded off after completing their sorry World Cup campaign with a 0-0 draw against Costa Rica on Tuesday.
The result at the Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte, the city that hosted England's shock 1-0 loss to the United States in 1950, saw the 1966 champions register their lowest points total in World Cup history.
Hodgson had called for an improved showing after the 2-1 defeats by Italy and Uruguay, but despite making nine changes to his starting XI, England again looked short of inspiration against the surprise Group D winners.
Nevertheless, the white-clad hordes of travelling England fans stood and clapped the players when they came over to salute them after the game, and Hodgson was quick to express his gratitude.
"We are very grateful for the emotional moment at the end where they showed their support," said the 66-year-old, who has been publicly backed by the Football Association despite his team's early exit.
"We are so sad and disappointed for them, because we know what they're going through.
"We had nothing to play for, and our fans appreciated that by giving us an ovation that, obviously, our results didn't merit."
Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge squandered England's best chances of victory, heading over the bar in the first half and being let down by a poor first touch and a wayward finish in the second.
While much of England's play was characterised by sloppy passing and technical errors, Hodgson was enthused by the performances of his less experienced players.
"We are disappointed that it was our final game in the competition because we wanted so much more," Hodgson said.
"But I thought there were a lot of positives to take out of the game, with young players getting their first taste of World Cup football, which will serve them in good stead going forward."
Many of the squad's younger members will hope to feature when England begin their 2016 European Championship qualifying campaign in September, but Hodgson warned that they still have a long way to go.
"The midfielders, the young ones, showed they want to do the right thing, want to get on the front foot and be positive, and want to make things happen," Hodgson said.
"You can only give them the opportunity to play, and hopefully they'll get there."
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