SAO PAULO (TIP): As promised, the Luis Suarez threat proved real and potent for hapless England. Returning to full fitness, right in time for this fixture, the Liverpool striker – voted Player of the Year in England — came up the goal when it was needed the most.
It destroyed England who had just been rejuvenated by their late equalizer. This one by Suarez, after his superb first half opening goal to put the South Americans ahead. It was all so sickening familiar for the English – they are not even sure if they stay or leave, having to wait for the outcome of the other games in the group to learn of their fate. Staring at a World Cup ouster, plucky England had managed to turn the tide and extend their stay in Brazil. Wayne Rooney finally got his first World Cup goal, and Uruguay for all their swashbuckling ways in freezing conditions in Sao Paolo on Friday, suddenly looked to be the ones hanging by a thread in this Group of Death.
As things stood, with the possibility of England beating Costa Rica greater than Uruguay quelling the Italian challenge in the last fixture of the group, it looked like curtains for Oscar Tabarez’s side despite being on top of proceedings here. Then, as always, out of nowhere, Suarez arrived to take Uruguay to safety with him. It had promised an equal, physical game at the early exchanges all pointed towards that. Quarter of an hour gone and the burly Cristian Rodriguez forced a close save off Joe Hart.
It immediately showed intent of the Uruguayans, who, it was clear would not sit back and wait for things to happen in this make or break Group D tie. While England stayed on even keel during the game – not giving up the fight — Uruguay’s technical superiority, depth and the presence of Suarez and Cavani upfront looked to them in good stead. There was a clear Atletico Madrid accent on the Uruguayan lineup with three first-choice Atleti players – captain Diego Godin, striker Cristian Rodriguez and defender Jose Gimenez – making Oascar Tabarez’s team on Thursday.
On the other hand, England, probably after North Korea at the last World Cup, was a line-up comprising wholly homebased players. Make of that what you will. At the half-hour, Rooney’s header off a Steven Gerrard fee kick rocked Fernando Muslera’s bar. England were growing stronger with the two Danny’s – Wellbeck and Sturridge showing great movement. They forced the Uruguayan defenders to resort to their famous physical game. But whatever promise, they were gaining with their in-your-face performance, they had not accounted for the innate footballing intelligence and invention of the aptly-named Edinson Cavani.
A few before the minutes before Rooney came so agonizingly close to putting England ahead, Cavani had showed us glimpse of the danger he presented, alone and even more so, when combining with the nakedly-wily Suarez. A corner from the right taken by Suarez had Cavani unmarked, seemingly stranded at the far past. Then suddenly, unnoticed he cut inside, but instead of heading towards the melee at the goalmouth, he cut a wide arc along the edge of the box and met the low corner to turn it first-time towards Joe Hart’s goal. It was a close call, but gave a glimpse of what could unfold.