By Andrew Collins – 19th June 2014
FINAL SCORE: URUGUAY 2 – ENGLAND 1
Déjà vu. Same score line different team, and very different game play by England. Or rather lack of game play. It really had to be a win for England to give us a clear chance of qualifying from the group. Uruguay have already lost to Costa Rica, managing only one goal to their three, and aren’t as tough a team as Italy. England could and should have done it. The pundits thought so, and the fans certainly hoped so. But one man put paid to that and kept Uruguay in the tournament – their formidable Ace-in-the-sleeve, their silver striker – Luis Suárez. The damnably good Luis Suárez who netted a goal in each half, set his team ablaze each time. England, with their generally poor performance, just couldn’t put out that fire and got badly burnt.
It was a pretty good start for England, lively and confident, as the team had been prepped to be. We had a near chance in the first two minutes when the Uruguay goalkeeper fumbled, letting go of the ball. In jumped Wellbeck, practically on top of him, but couldn’t quite get it. But the initial England burst quickly petered out as Uruguay relentlessly piled the pressure on.
Uruguay were soon in our half, and won a corner. Hart punched it out – the first of many inexplicable lunges instead of catches – and luckily it was cleared. A good run by Henderson was stopped. Godin picked up a yellow card for Uruguay, and Rooney made a good effort of the free kick, but no goal.
England became quite un-coordinated, and the game became rather patchy. Too many fouls were occurring on both sides, and England failed to move forward well, whilst Uruguay gained in confidence. Rodrigu very nearly got a goal and was completely unmarked with loads of space, showing shocking gaps in our defence. They continued attacking. England tried fighting back, but were consistently intercepted by Uruguay.
Hart made a good save from a Suárez free kick in the 28th minute, but Uruguay got a corner from it. It was another near goal, and suddenly the opponents were looking very dangerous indeed. It was a miracle they hadn’t scored yet. England had a glimmer of a chance when Rooney picked up a great ball in from Henderson, but hit the post.
It all became ragged and chaotic in midfield. England didn’t have a good enough centre-half or the wherewithal to get the ball out and up-field. The dithering and lack of options became painfully obvious. With this lack of composure and piecemeal defending, Uruguay were bound to punish us. The torment came in the 39th minute. Lodeiro outpaced Gerrard and Henderson down the middle and passed to Cavani who picked through a woeful England defence to find Suárez. Bang. One nil.
England do fight back to their credit, winning no less than four corners, but fail to equalise. They play well but cannot crack Uruguay defence and finish the first half one goal down.
The Uruguay team, in their hearts, knew what the outcome of the match would be. It showed in their every move. They were totally switched on. England, unfortunately, were in some kind of blackout. We weren’t clearing properly and giving the ball away like candy at Christmas. An unbelievable miss from the opposition in the 51st minute. Another near miss from Cavani in the 52nd minute. Open season on the pitch.
Rooney had an excellent chance the minute after and blasts the ball straight at the keeper, who manages to save. Another great cross in from Baines soon after, Welbeck rushes in and collides with the keeper, crashing his heel against his knee. Henderson has a go on goal in the 58th minute, but it’s an easy save. Another bad collision soon after when Sterling practically knocks out Pereira with an awful crunch to his temple. The Uruguayan is splayed out on his back for some minutes. It doesn’t look pretty and serves as a dramatic visual reference for England’s game play.
Barkley is bought on in the 65th minute and England’s game does improve. He cracks a ball in but it hits a defender. Lallana comes on in the 71st minute. Will the changes produce a result? Incredibly, yes. Some good passing at the front, culminating in a lovely cross to Rooney who surely can’t miss it at just five yards. He doesn’t, and England manage to equalise. We’re back in the game.
Sturridge hopes to get one more in the 77th minute, but it’s a good save by Muslera. England actually play well for a while with Barkley and Rooney going at it down the left. One more and we could be through. Uruguay had other ideas. They soaked up the English surges, and once again exploited our woeful defence. A terrible attempt at clearance (a header from Gerrard) actually knocked the ball back to Suárez, his Liverpool team mate. Unconscious play, or act of God? Who can say.
Whichever, it marked the end for England. Tired but possessed, he steamed towards goal and belted it past the beleaguered Joe Hart. What a formidable player.
England scrabble around like enraged cats and try to make amends. Rooney, to his credit, makes concerted efforts to break through the Uruguay defence, but all on his own, and it is never going to work. You can’t run through brick walls, you have to go around them. Five minutes of extra time give us some measure of hope. Baines, Cahill, Lambert and Gerrard put in some good work and try their best, but it doesn’t amount to anything.
94th minute – a corner and the last chance for England to save themselves. Alas, despite frenetic last ditch efforts, the end is nigh. Our golden goal never comes.
There will be the usual match autopsies in the press, the usual histrionics, recriminations, plaintive and apologetic verbal splurts from the England players. We’ve seen and heard it all before. What matters is how you play, and how many you score. The who, why, what’s and wherefores are largely irrelevant and distracting. England just didn’t have the aggressive winning attitude they needed, it’s as simple as that. Let’s not even discuss Joe Hart’s nervy punchy goalkeeping.
The fact that the double-scorer Suárez was in a wheelchair only a month ago following surgery just added salt to the wound. He gave a stunning and commanding performance throughout. Most superb.
As ever, the individual England talent was there on the pitch and bench, but there was no proper team cohesion, no ‘do or die’ motivation, no relentless surging forward, no creative mid-field. England always tend to suffer psychologically in World and European Internationals, and certainly will after this result.
Bottom of the group with zero points and the first time ever England have lost their first two opening games. Truly dismal. Roy Hodgson and the team are going to need a very large bag of magic tricks indeed if they are going to get England through. That, and comprehensively beating Costa Rica in their final group match. Plus Italy winning both their next matches. Ye Gods. Don’t bury the TV in the garden just yet, but definitely have a spade ready. Odds are you’re going to need it.
NEXT ENGLAND MATCH:
ENGLAND v COSTA RICA – Tuesday 24th June 5.00pm