Lallana reflects on meteoric rise
Adam Lallana, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Rickie Lambert spent Monday morning training at the foot of Sugar Loaf mountain - quite the change in scenery for the England trio, who just three years ago were playing at Dagenham and Redbridge, Plymouth and Hartlepool.
Back then, they were part of a Southampton side that secured automatic promotion from League One, setting them on a path which saw the club return to the Premier League.
The three now play for different clubs but all have highlighted the 2010/11 season with Saints as a catalyst for their rise to the England squad.
Lambert, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lallana are part of Roy Hodgson's 23-man World Cup squad and trained in Brazil for the first time on Monday, with the grand backdrop at their Urca training base hammering home to Lallana how far they have come.
"I was saying to one of the lads when we went out there that I can't think of many better places to train and prepare for a World Cup," he said.
"It's exciting and it's hot, but it's something we've been getting used to. Training in these conditions and the scenery there, the backdrop, it's lovely."
Rio de Janeiro is remarkably different to the places Lallana visited during his League One days, including a trip to Hartlepool on a cold Tuesday night in February 2011 - a match that ended goalless despite his presence along with Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lambert.
"That was probably one of the [worst places I've played]," he said.
"It is and it is great to kind of meet up again with Chambo and be here with Rickie.
"It is great when you talk of the journey we've been on and what a remarkable achievement it is.
"We're just enjoying it - well, I certainly am and I know Rickie is as well. I'm just going to keep enjoying it and take it in our stride."
Oxlade-Chamberlain, understandably, is not having such a great time so far, given a medial ligament damage sustained last week is threatening his World Cup place.
Lambert, now 32, appears more than content to be involved in the squad, while Lallana is pushing for a starting role in the Group D opener against Italy - two years after watching England get knocked out by them at Euro 2012 from his sofa.
"I want to be here and play, keep working hard in training and doing all I can to force myself in to the first 11," he said.
"I know what my job is. The better I play the more chance I have to stay in the team or if not then to make a contribution from the bench.
"Everyone is entitled to their opinions. I am just going to keep focusing on training hard and doing as much as I can to impress the manager.
"Three years ago I was playing in League One so just to be here at a World Cup is a massive achievement and anything else is a bonus."
The surprise rise forced Lallana to bring his wedding forward six months to avoid missing a first major tournament - one which he has come to with a personalised wash bag made by his wife, Emily, with pictures of their young son, Arthur.
Family is important to the 26-year-old who will be joined in Brazil by some of those closest to him less than a decade after a heart defect threatened his career - an issue he looks at philosophically.
"It was a challenging time, but people have worse problems out there than I did and come through them," Lallana said.
"It wasn't nice at the time, no, but I was lucky enough to have a good family around me and the club were good with me at the time."
As if any more perspective was needed on his fortunate position, Lallana got it on Monday when he visited the Rocinha favela in Rio de Janeiro.
The playmaker joined Jack Wilshere and several Football Association executives there, meeting locals at the Rocinha Sports Complex - a centre boosted by a significant donation from the England Footballers Foundation.
"The entire squad is keen to gain an appreciation of our surroundings and experience the culture of Brazil during our time here," Lallana said.
"The visit to the Rocinha Sports Complex provided an incredible insight into the unique and powerful role sport plays in this country.
"With one of the poorest areas of the city situated just metres away, the complex provides an opportunity, through sport, for residents of the favela to transform and enrich their lives."
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