This is one of the toughest posts I’ve had to sit and write. Having been filled with genuine optimism after the hearty performance and narrow defeat against Italy, England came into a game against an aging Uruguay side who had just been comfortably beaten by a Costa Rica side who many considered prior to the World Cup to be the weakest team in the group. Fast-forward to the end of the match and all that is left is the despair of a nation and genuine devastation at the thought of what might have been as England are on the brink of being knocked out of the World Cup. In this post, I will assess some of the things that worked against England that were unavoidable. Finally, I will defend Roy Hodgson’s position as manager and argue that he should at least be allowed to continue until Euro 2016.
The points I will highlight are factors that were wholly out of England’s control and that are testament to the cruel nature of luck within football. England were dealt three major blows either before or during this match that, in my opinion, really shaped the outcome. Please note I am not arguing that these are the only reasons that England are in grave danger of being knocked out of the competition, rather, that there were factors beyond our control.
The first, and most obvious, was the untimely return of Luis Suarez. Just a month after surgery on his knee, one of the World’s best players returned to score two goals of genuine quality as well as almost scoring directly from two corners. A player of his class is hard to come by and, ultimately, he was the difference on the night.
Furthermore, an arguably more important factor was the removal of Diego Lugano. Lugano, who is Uruguay’s captain, picked up an injury prior to the match and was not fit enough to play. This was severely to England’s detriment. The 38 year old is probably the slowest player at the World Cup and there is no doubt that the likes of Sturridge, Sterling and Rooney could have exploited the space in behind him and caused countless headaches for their backline. Instead, 19-year-old Jose Maria Giminez came in, who is infinitely faster than Lugano, and the space was gone.
Finally, Diego Godin should have been sent off after 30 minutes. He received his first booking for deliberately handling the ball on the edge of the penalty area. Minutes later, he chopped at Daniel Sturridge’s throat after Sturridge had knocked it past him to move into a dangerous position on the right side of Uruguay’s penalty area and inexplicably the referee failed to book him again and brandish a red card. Had Uruguay been down to ten men there could have been a wholly different outcome to the match.
This may read rather bitter and sound as though I’m just making excuses but I’m keen to stress that these were not the only reasons England are (most probably) knocked out of the World Cup. However, I am merely highlighting the fine margins in football and demonstrating how cruel it can often be. England were the victim of misfortune on this occasion. Had Suarez needed but one more day to recover he would not have inflicted such damage upon our goal, had Lugano been fit we may have had more clear-cut opportunities and had the referee, frankly, done his job then would have been playing against 10 men for the majority of the match and surely at least managed a draw.
As I alluded to earlier, these are not the only reasons England lost the match. If truth be told, whilst England did not deserve to lose the match, we would be hard pushed to find an unbiased fan who could say that England truly deserved to win the match comfortably. They didn’t play badly but were sloppy at times in possession, defensively naïve and lacking the cutting edge required to really make the difference at international level. Conversely, Uruguay had all the cutting edge a side could desire in the form of Luis Suarez. Having said that, I feel it is very difficult to lay blame at the manager’s door. This was not a World Cup campaign like in 2010 where we underperformed against really poor sides before being humbled by a side simply far superior to ourselves. Instead, it was a campaign where England have given a good account of themselves against two relatively strong and experienced sides and fallen just short of what is required.
There are few that would argue that Roy Hodgson has done a bad job, despite not winning a game at the finals. I think his selections have generally been positive and England have gone out to try and win games rather than just hope for a draw. It may not have paid off on this occasion but the attitude was right and I think Hodgson has merited another chance to take England to a big tournament at the Euro’s in 2016. In the mean time, dust off your replica Italy shirts and prepare to support the Azzurri for back-to-back wins to give England a chance to secure the unlikeliest of comebacks and keep the World Cup dream alive!
Do you agree that Hodgson should stay on as England manager? Tweet @0riginalfooty and have your say.