June 20, 2014

Horse 1697 - La Celeste Takes Out Three Lions' Teeth

Uruguay 2 - England 1
Suarez 39', 85'
Rooney 75'

It has taken three appearances at World Cup tournaments but Wayne Rooney has finally scored. His 75th minute equaliser though, still wasn't enough to stop Uruguay's Luis Suarez from dishing out a lesson; nor was it enough to keep England's hopes of escaping Group D alive. They must now not only beat Costa Rica but hope for results from both of Italy's matches against Costa Rica and Uruguay to fall the right way.

Both sides started the match playing a fairly standard sort of 4-4-2 formation but Uruguay's central defence was far more compact than England's and whilst they were content to let England keep possession most of the time (Eng 62% - Uru 38%), their central midfield would collapse back to defend quite easily and thus plug any routes that England might find towards goal.

Suarez' opening goal came from a chip from Cavani which cleared the England back four and he found himself only having to beat England keeper Joe Hart. England would consistenly make this mistake and that largely explains how Suarez would get his second goal to seal the victory in the 85th minute; though it was Steven Gerrard who had to cover his entire back for and which he failed to adequately do, who accidentally headed the final ball to Suarez who duly put it away.

After being 1-0 down at half time, England should have probably thought about switching on an extra forward because they looked without much attacking flair. Rooney did his best but was consistently checked and because Uruguay were so good at shutting down balls and even sending two players to attack the ball, Rooney was starved of supply.
In fact Rooney missed a chance at goal when his header of a corner hit the crossbar and it was only a piece of luck which saw Glen Johnson break free to supply the ball to the far post which gave Rooney his first goal at a World Cup proper and his 40th for England.

England can largely blame this loss, both on the fact that their defence didn't really know how to deal with sneaks from behind and that the pressure to win was so much that Roy Hodgson who could have changed 11 players from the side which lost against Italy chose not to. What is the point of taking 23 players overseas if you're not going to use them?
If Costa Rica and Italy draw, England are gone. If Italy beats both Costa Rica and then beats Uruguay, then it is imperative that England absolutely thump Costa Rica because that would leave Costa Rica, Uruguay and England all on 3 points and it would come down to goal difference. It is worth pointing out that no team in World Cup history thus far, has ever escaped the group stage after losing both of their opening matches.

- Some things like friendship are bigger than even the World Cup itself.

One really special moment of this tournament came after the match after Luis Suarez was being held upon his team mates' shoulders. He ran over to his usual Liverpool club team mate Steven Gerrard and tried to console him.
It is scenes like this which some times make a World Cup memorable. As armchair experts on the other side of the world, it's all to easy to forget that on the pitch there are 22 players, green grass and a football. It is easier for us to make comments than it is to play the game and unlike our jobs, when these people fail at theirs, the whole world is watching.

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