In the 85th minute of play yesterday night, Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera sent a huge optimistic kick too far down the halfway mark. England’s captain Steven Gerrard had the Uruguayan forward Cavani close to him and the two of them rose together to head the highball. Lurking behind them was the goal-hungry Suarez, Gerrard’s Liverpool team-mate. But the Uruguayan was very clearly in an off-side position. As fate would have it, Gerrard got the first touch on the ball, a move which transformed Surarez’s location legal from football’s rules. The loose ball came to Suarez as a gift from Gerrard and the Uruguayan striker rushed in to go past Gary Cahill, keeping the ball under control before sending a great right-footer into the goal. England’s goalkeeper Joe Hart didn’t have much time to reflect. With minutes left in the match, all attempts from England to wipe off the deficit went in vain. At the end, Uruguay almost shattered England’s world cup dreams with the 2-1 victory. Someone like Gerrard was in the perfect position to play the ball to safety rather than try a headed clearance at a crucial juncture. But he became a toy in Suarez’s hand. Earlier in scoring his first goal for Uruguay, Suarez was similarly helped by England, when Edinson Cavani sent a superb floater of a cross in England’s penalty box. England’s defender Phil Jagielka had seen the dangerous Suarez behind him. But rather than moving back a bit, Jagielka jumped high and missed. Suarez surged in with low header just as the ball was looping down and his effort easily went past Joe Hart. England had equalized earlier with 15 minutes remaining for the match, when Wayne Rooney scored his first world cup goal from a lovely cross sent down by Glen Johnson on the run. Rooney was lustily cheered by nearly 10000 English fans, which included his wife and his two little sons. The Arena de Sao Paulo came alive with English supporters rooting for their national side with chants like the “Barmy army; God save the Queen and Football is coming home.” In the end, all they got was the demoralizing despair.
The result left England with no points from two matches, having also lost to Italy in Manaus in the first game. Their world cup dreams are in shatters as they face first-round elimination for the first time since 1958. In retrospect, even Roy Hodgson thought that at least the second goal that England conceded was avoidable. Gerrard’s amateurish header probably doomed England. Unfortunately for England, it was the opportunist Suarez, who had the last laugh in both goals for Uruguay. With several Liverpool playing in the England’s team, allowing Suarez the leeway looked strange.
Now only an unlikely miracle can save England as they would spend more time praying for an Italian victory in their matches against Costa Rica tomorrow, and Uruguay next week. As for England they have a game left with Costa Rica on June 24. They have to win that match with as wide a margin as possible to make a back-door entry on goal difference. England’s arithmetic may not be of much interest to Italian coach Prandelli because if they beat Costa Rica, they will qualify and then their last match against Uruguay will become meaninglessly insignificant for them.
England’s coach Roy Hodgson was probably weighed down by the debatable necessity of including Wayne Rooney that moved the brilliant Rahim Sterling away from the central position. Though Rooney scored the equalizer, he hasn’t displayed the killer touch required in crunch games. In contrast, Sterling certainly played a good match against Italy and curtailing his role in the match against Uruguay has proven costly to Hodgson.
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