Same old same old for England. New venue, new opponents, new players, new manager but the same old script. To be fair to the Three lions, not much was expected of them in a group that featured the South American champions as well as the European runner ups, in Uruguay and Italy respectively. With two 2-1 defeats at the hands of the above mentioned opposition, England are on the brink, while Uruguay live to fight another day and with their eyes fixated on the clash between Costa Rica-Italy.
The game showed a clear difference in approach to the football game at hand and this is probably where the game was won and lost eventually. Uruguayan manager Oscar Tabarez made 5 changes(2 of them forced) and almost took a leaf out of Prandelli’s book by stuffing the midfield playing a diamond formation. Roy Hodgson fielded the same side that got beat by Italy 4 days back with the only change being Sterling being shifted out wide and Rooney being reverted to the hole. As a direct result, Sterling’s impact was much lesser as he failed to get involved in the game. Rooney meanwhile, though England’s best player on the night, was closed down almost from every direction whenever he got on the ball. Tabarez had clearly instructed Rios and Gonzalez to track the United forward in the centre of the park. England’s central midfield seemed too static with Henderson and Gerrard, whose impact was restricted to playing short passes to the fullbacks and making no runs of note. Add to that the constant closing down by the Uruguayan front 3 of Suarez Cavani and Lodeiro meant there was basically no central or deeper origin of the Uruguayan attacks, relying heavily on the wide players to make an impact. The patience to absorb and neutralize England’s attacks for the entire first half meant set pieces were the most realistic goal scoring option on the night. Uruguay however didn’t try anything fancy in attack, by just winning the loose balls in the centre of the park and developing 3v2 or 4v3 situations and this is where the first goal came from. England managed to dominate around the 70 minute mark once the fullbacks started to get more involved. Baines attempted 7 crosses in the second half alone compared to the solo effort in the first. Eventually it was Glen Johnson who was a mere passenger all game that made a terrorizing run down the right and then eventually feeding Rooney, who made a lung buursting run from the left, for an easy tap in.
The English probably have the worst sense of timing and can’t happen to do themselves any favours. From Scholes calling Suarez “lucky” to Hodgson labelling him “not world class”, the Liverpool striker shut every critic up with a match winning performance. Suarez looked a little off colour to start off with, but that was to be expected after a tough 4 weeks for him leading to the world cup but once he found his rhythm there was no stopping him. The English centre backs knew not what him them in the opening exchanges of the second half, when Uruguay should definitely have gone 2-0 up with Suarez pulling all the strings in the final third. There was this one moment in the first half where Suarez tried to pull off a ridiculous goal from a corner that was parried by Hart. That skill alone highlighted his desire and hunger to beat the country where he plies his trade and has been criticized to shreds in the past. When Gerrard, ironically tipped off a long ball from the back straight into Suarez’s path there was no stopping him, as he thumped home the winner and wheeled away in celebration. Suarez had the last laugh and what he had to say after the win, would have hit a lot of people real hard below the belt.“I dreamt this. I’m enjoying this moment, because of all I suffered, the criticism I received. So, there you go.”
Gerrard, Rooney & Hodgson
No matter who plays how, Gerrard and Rooney primary contenders to receive the flak. One had a miserable night to forget while the other had his first ever world cup goal in 10 attempts. Yet the agony wouldn’t end anytime soon for either unless England somehow manage to qualify from the group. The last group game against Costa Rica could well be Gerrard’s last and he will probably look at it as a shot at redemption for the horror 2 months he has had to endure, first at title chasing Liverpool and now providing an infamous assist in a game of such magnitude. A captain leads, unfortunately for Gerrard he has let his troops down twice in a matter of 40 odd days. Rooney too would look back at his national team performances and wonder what could have been, and how much he delivered on his golden boy tag. The rest of the team was never good or experienced enough to receive individual slack which is why Roy Hodgson has been mentioned. Is sacking the manager an option and if it is, will there be any end to this cycle? What could Hodgson have done differently? Is there a lack of world class talent in the country, is the Premier League to blame? Could Walcott and Jay Rodriguez have saved the day? Questions and more questions, that will continuously be tossed up in the media as another generation of English players walk into the shadows.
All eyes on Italy – Costa Rica.