MORULENG, South Africa - The only splash of green in this rural outpost, a stretch of dirt and bush almost three hours northwest of Johannesburg, was its soccer field.
The field appeared hydrated like a marathoner, a green so dark it seemed to have sucked the surroundings of its color.
Early Monday evening, inside the brand-new Moruleng Stadium, England played its final World Cup tune-up match against the Platinum Stars F.C., a local side from South Africa's Premier Soccer League.
The result was an English victory, 3-0, but there was some skepticism about the play of the English, which appeared sluggish and without precision.
England led, 1-0, at halftime, scored midway through the second half, and tallied a third goal late in the game off the foot of striker Wayne Rooney, who played only the second half.
"I think they're good enough," said Stars coach Steve Komphela, when asked of England's prospects for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. "They had a lot of chances, where, I thought, they took things for granted. If they were more ruthless, they'd get more goals."
England opens against the U.S. team on Saturday evening in Rustenburg.
Though he excluded Rooney, English coach Fabio Capello started what appeared to be a competitive side, a group that could conceivably see the field against the United States.
But, as with all things surrounding the English, they're giving nothing away. Leaving Rooney benched until the second half made it unclear which 11 players Capello is favoring.
Even the placement of Monday's event, a stadium seemingly closer to roaming animals than humans, and the choice of an opponent, a local team, appeared to be part of England's "lockdown" plan.
"There's so much hype behind the England team that they're probably trying to keep everything low-key and not give too much away," said British native and former South African resident Paul Johnstone, attending the match with friends. "Playing a local side, not too much is going to get out before the tournament starts."
On Monday, Moruleng Stadium was filled almost entirely with South Africans. A few wore England attire, but most were supporting Platinum's bid for an epic upset.
The Stars cobbled together a handful of chances, even missing a first-half penalty kick that would have tied the match, 1-1. With each of these opportunities, the swelling from the crowd revealed its local allegiance, even if the people were clearly enamored with watching England from only a few meters away.
England defender John Terry called Monday's match "very important."
"We've had a few days training to get used to the ball, the conditions, the altitude," Terry said. "I think we've done that; I think we've realized today it's another step up actually in game mode.
"Coming here, it wasn't the case of us wanting to beat them 5-nil, we're coming here to get a lot of preparations and take a lot from the game."
Now, the English will return to their training compound, the Royal Bafokeng Sports Campus, which is located just outside of Rustenburg and only a short bus ride from Moruleng.
Said Terry: "The manager chose the right game, the right stadium, the right place, because we got a really good workout."
Read Kate Fagan's World Cup blog, Kickin' It, every day
from South Africa, at www.philly.com/worldcup.