England face Uruguay with World Cup dreams on the line, while one of Colombia and Ivory Coast could book their place in the next round from Group C.
With Colombia facing Ivory Coast and Greece taking on Japan, one of the qualifying place might be grabbed from Group C by the end of the day. But the biggest clash tonight is that of England and Uruguay. A loss for either of these two sides will prove to be decisive, with both having lost their opening matches. We take a look at these three games and point out five things one should look out for tonight.
How England will plug the left wing
England’s World Cup campaign started with a loss against Italy as Mario Balotelli’s winner in the second half proved to be the difference between the two sides. One of the biggest concerns for the Three Lions on that night was containing the Italian duo of Antonio Candreva and Matteo Darmian down the right wing.
Most of Italy’s attack came down that side of the pitch as Leighton Baines was left exposed. Wayne Rooney failed to track back and help out the Everton left back and it was one of those moves down Italy’s right wing which provided them with winner.
Roy Hodgson needs to find a way to plug the game down their left wing. The absence of Maxi Pereira might ease a bit of pressure as his replacement Martin Caceres isn’t as proficient in attack, as the Benfica full back. But in Christian Stuani, Uruguay have someone who can cause problems to Baines, especially if Suarez chooses to drift out wide and double up on him.
If Hodgson persists with Rooney down the left wing, he needs to make sure that the Manchester United striker tracks back. Rooney has the tendency to drift to a more central role from his wide position and this leaves a lot of space for opponents to attack when England lose possession. Central midfielders, Jordan Henderson and Steven Gerrard, should also look to move out wide and cover for Baines.
Defensive problems for Oscar Tabarez
The Uruguayan defence were left exposed by Costa Rica in the last game and the especially failed to deal with the pace and trickery of Arsenal forward Joel Campbell. They will now face a much better attack on paper and Oscar Tabarez will need to shore up the backline.
Uruguay will need to reshuffle their defence in this game following the red card to their right back Maxi Pereira. With the 30-year-old full back suspended for this game, Tabarez is expected to shift Martin Caceres to right side of his defence. The Juventus defender was used as a left back in the last match and Alvaro Pereira will make his way into the side in his role.
Caceres is more adept at playing as a center back, rather than a right back and he could be exposed in this game. If England starts with Rooney in a more central role in this game and shift Raheem Sterling out wide, the Liverpool winger’s pace will cause him trouble.
Luis Suarez up against his Liverpool team mates
The Liverpool striker will come up against five of his club mates as Uruguay take on England tonight. Suarez was in sensational form for the Merseyside club last season as he scored 31 goals in 33 league matches and carried Liverpool’s title charge on his shoulders till the last day.
Liverpool’s good performances in the league has resulted in Roy Hodgson awarding five players of the club a place in his starting line-up in Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling, Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson and Glenn Johnson. Adam Lallana, who has signed for Liverpool in this transfer window is also present in the squad and could make an appearance from the bench against Uruguay.
Despite all their camaraderie at club, Suarez will line-up as an opponent against his club mates and it will be interesting to see how he reacts against any of them, if there is a heated clash – as it can be in such a high pressure game. We already have the example of what happened between Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo back in the 2006 World Cup.
Suarez might not wink at Steven Gerrard, like Ronaldo did to Rooney, if he gets sent off, but there is no doubt that he will do what is necessary to see his country win this game.
Winner-takes-all match between Ivory Coast and Colombia
While a defeat in this game won’t end the chances of progression for Ivory Coast or Colombia, having won their opening match against Japan and Greece respectively, but a win in this clash will see them book a place in the next round.
Colombia provided a wonderful display against Greece in the opening game as goals from Pablo Armero, Teofilo Gutierrez and Rodriguez provided them with an easy 3-0 win over their European opposition. Rodriguez produced a dazzling performance in attack, while Serge Aurier, who has been linked with a move to Arsenal, produced two stunning crosses down the right wing. Ivory Coast will have to keep a close eye on the duo.
Les Elephants on the other hand struggled a lot against Japan and despite their 2-1 win, they failed to impress. They went behind to an early goal and were lucky to have not conceded more after that as the side looked lifeless and static on the pitch. The arrival of Didier Drogba changed the scenario and provided them with the much needed inspiration.
The former Chelsea striker’s presence lifted everyone’s performance and goals from Wilfried Bony and Gervinho won the game in the end. Drogba is unlikely to start in this match as well, but he is a key option for Sabri Lamouchi to call on from the bench.
Both Shinji Kagawa and Georgios Samaras need to step up
Japan are dependent on Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa to provide to creative spark in attack, and while the AC Milan midfielder delivered a wonderful goal, Kagawa failed to step up to the plate. The Japanese midfielder came into this tournament on the back of a frustrating season at Old Trafford and lack of regular first team action has put questions on his future at Manchester United.
But this lack of game time has seemingly dented his confidence and Kagawa, who has normally been a consistent performer for his national team, looked off the pace. Alberto Zaccheroni needs to reignite his confidence as his form could be decisive factor for the Asian side.
Japan’s opponent tonight, Greece, is facing similar problems with one of their key players, Georgios Samaras. The question that arises is whether Fernando Santos is using him to his fullest of potential. The Celtic forward has started on the wings for both club and country, but the lack of goals upfront provides the opportunity to use Samaras’ aerial threat.
Samaras is dynamic in air and will cause trouble to any defence, but he is usually the person delivering the cross, rather than the one heading it. Moreover, Kostas Mitroglou’s last goal came in league match between Olympiakos and PAOK, back in November. He failed to make a mark at Fulham and Fernando Santos would do well to use Samaras as the target man in his place.