Luis Suárez made a spectacular contribution in his first game of the World Cup. The Uruguayans have three crucial points on the board and England will need a lot of things going in their favor if they are even to have a sniff of qualifying.
1- Cagey, Cagey Opening:
With both sides losing their opening games perhaps it isn’t surprising that England and Uruguay took their time to settle. They clearly fearing the implications of a potential defeat and played within themselves in the first 45 minutes.
With the choppy flow and rhythm of the game the best chances came from set pieces and mistakes. Christian Rodriguez should have done better in the 15th minute after a poor clearance from Phil Jagielka whilst Wayne Rooney came close with a free kick and could (perhaps should) have put England ahead heading against the corner of the post and bar from a Steven Gerrard set piece.
The quality of opening goal was in stark contrast to the general standard of play in the first half with a familiar face causing the damage.
2- Super Suárez:
It was the scenario that England feared. Luis Suárez returning to cause damage. Suárez’s willingness to trust his instincts and gamble ensures that he’ll always trouble the opposition goal. He twice tried to catch Joe Hart out from corners showing the Uruguayan at his impish best.
The header for his first goal from an exquisite Edinson Cavani cross was extremely impressive heading across goal and placing the ball precisely past Joe Hart. His second owed to his gambling instincts moving into dangerous areas in anticipation of any potential mistake. The finish for the winner was unerring, though Joe Hart arguably could have done better, and Suárez delivered La Celeste three vital points.
One man in particular who’ll be thanking Suarez is his strike partner Edinson Cavani. The PSG striker had a golden opportunity to put Uruguay two goals up at the beginning of the second half but placed his shot wide. Had it not been for Suárez Uruguay would have rued their profligacy.
Wayne Rooney finally broke his World Cup duck but could have had a hat trick. By such fine margins are games decided and if his header was just a fraction lower and to the left, his free kick a yard to the right or had Rooney placed his effort wider of Uruguayan keeper Fernando Muslera in the 54th minute the game would have had a completely different complexion. It’s easy to blame Rooney and he must bear responsibility for not converting but he was probably England’s best player followed by Daniel Sturridge and was let down by too many passengers in his team. Danny Welbeck, Raheem Stirling, Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson were disappointing and the defense did not cover themselves in glory either. Phil Jagielka and Gary Cahill looked especially nervy in the first half and weren’t terribly convincing in the second either.
Roy Hodgson will have to work at both ends of the pitch if England is to retain any hope of qualifying. Thus far the Three Lions have been too leaky at the back and not clinical upfront.
For England to retain a hope of qualification to the knock out stages they’ll need Italy to beat Costa Rica. Then in the final round of matches Hodgson’s men will need a big victory against the Costa Ricans and hope that Italy does them a favour against Uruguay.
4-Defense an issue for England:
England has attacking talent but it’s their defense that is desperately lacking at the moment. At fullback Leighton Baines and Glen Johnson let too much get past them without creating enough chances the other end to make up for their deficiencies (and that’s including Johnson’s assist for Rooney). The centre backs haven’t performed either with Jagielka and Cahill experiencing a number of uncomfortable moments. The backline’s vulnerability to set pieces remains a cause for concern as is their collective sluggishness.
But who is there to step up for England? There’s no really outstanding right full back though Southampton’s Nathaniel Clyne is one for the future, Luke Shaw will probably be given his chance on the left hand side. John Stones has the potential to become England’s first choice center back for the next 10 years should his development continue. Phil Jones and Chris Smalling have disappointed and must improve if they’re to give depth to England’s central defender department.
Right now the focus for England is to at the very least record a victory at the World Cup.
5-Uruguay not out of the woods yet:
This was no doubt a huge win for Uruguay but they are far from secure. A defeat against Cesare Prandelli’s Italy will leave La Celeste with their fate out of their hands. At the very least Óscar Tabárez needs to ensure that his side do not lose this game. No doubt having Luis Suárez back is a huge boost but one suspects that the Italian defenders will be in no mood to give him or Edinson Cavani any gifts.
On another note let’s hope that Alvaro Pereira recovers fully after suffering a nasty collision with Raheem Stirling. One may argue it was brave for Pereira to continue but, in my opinion at least and apologies if I sound preachy, the threat of concussion is not something to take lightly and the Uruguayan bench should have listened to their medical staff regardless of the player’s feelings.