It’s over too soon for England. A 2-1 loss to Uruguay in Sao Paolo coupled with a shock Costa Rica win against Italy means that England are out of the World Cup before they’ve even played their third and final game.
Against Uruguay, England battled – again – and were letdown – again – by a shaky defense, a soft midfield underbelly, and a certain lack of decisiveness that ruins major tournaments. There will be an inquest into what went wrong, but maybe the FA’s Greg Dyke had it right with his infamous throat-slash gesture at the World Cup draw last December.
The opposition was too good. England will try to put their finger on the problem with what went wrong against Italy, and mostly Uruguay, but the story in Sao Paolo begins and ends with that man named Suarez.
The Uruguay-England game was his game. His occasion. And he’s never one to miss a chance for a big show.
Suarez willed Uruguay to victory. He instilled his team with a manic kind of cardiac drive that flowed through a side that just days before had looked so stale and disinterested against Costa Rica that it would have been no shock if they exited the tournament without a point.
Against the Ticos, Uruguay were nothing short of dreadful. Like Spain against Holland and Chile, Uruguay looked like an old team past its prime – except their initial capitulation came against a team with far less talent than Spain’s opposition.
Suarez writhed uncomfortably on the bench that day, knowing he was tantalizingly close to fitness – tantalizingly close to changing the course of his team’s World Cup.
Against England, Uruguay was a completely different team. Belief and commitment flowed through their veins and guided their every action. Arevalo Rios became Daniele De Rossi. Teenager Jose Gimenez stepped into central defense for captain Diego Lugano and looked like he still thought he was at the under-20 World Cup.
It was remarkable. Uruguay were alive again. Diego Forlan inspired this very team in a similar fashion at the 2010 World Cup, but Forlan never had to contend an opening game like Uruguay had in this tournament.
As reviled as Suarez is in England, that’s how much he’s beloved in Uruguay. It showed in Sao Paolo.
It wasn’t just a sort of Willis Reed moment from Suarez that led Uruguay out of the fire of the Costa Rica loss with a shining new coat of armor either. Suarez – however fit he is – played what he said was “one of the best games of my life.”
So yes, undoubtedly, Suarez was superb. But without his presence inspiring his team, Suarez’s goals would have been for naught.
Had the Uruguay that petulantly and pitifully flamed out against Costa Rica played England, England would have won 4-0. Suarez was the difference.
Limited to just two meaningful touches of the ball, he punished the country he has long thought about punishing.
Suarez said, “Before the game too many people in England laughed about my attitude over the last few years. This is a very good time for me. I want to see what they think now.”