Conditions played their part
England spent weeks preparing for warm weather in Brazil and so the cold, overcast conditions at the Arena de Sao Paulo will have come as a welcome surprise. The heat and humidity tampered with the tempo in Manaus as England opted not to press Italy high up the pitch – occasionally allowing Andrea Pirlo to dictate terms – but here the pressing was frenetic from both teams. Uruguay forced multiple errors from Roy Hodgson’s side in possession by chasing them down at every opportunity, notably when Steven Gerrard lost the ball to Luis Suarez for Uruguay’s opener. Similarly, Wayne Rooney was closely shadowed by Egidio Arevalo at every turn.
England’s defending continues to be their Achilles’ heel
It would have been a miracle had Roy Hodgson been able to eradicate in four days the errors that have been prevalent in England’s defending for two years. Glen Johnson, Phil Jagielka and Gary Cahill were all guilty of agricultural, panicked clearances in the first half revealing a troubling lack of composure. Edinson Cavani’s cross was absolutely sublime but England were positionally suspect for Uruguay’s first-half goal with Suarez drifting off Jagielka in a similar way to how Mario Balotelli evaded Cahill for Italy’s winner in Manaus. The second was simple route one football that a top international side should defend with ease.
Uruguay are a completely different team with Suarez
The South Americans may have made five changes after losing captain Diego Lugano to injury and Maxi Pereira to suspension but Suarez’s talismanic effect on his team-mates was palpable here. There was a greater energy to Uruguay after insipidly losing to Costa Rica in their opening match and from the outset Suarez buzzed with his typical industry despite playing his first game since undergoing meniscus surgery on May 22 in Montevideo. Suarez scored with a fine first half header before converting the best chance he had in the second half by smashing the ball past Joe Hart. He may not have been 100 per cent, but he was still too much for England.
Wayne Rooney can score at a World Cup after all
Rooney was switched back to his preferred number ten role and his persistence was eventually rewarded with his first goal in his third World Cup. It may have been a tap-in but the 28-year-old deserved his reward for plugging away when, in the past, he may have become too frustrated to be effective. Rooney’s tenth-minute free-kick was a fine effort, inches away from handing England the lead. He later contrived to head a Gerrard free-kick against the crossbar from two yards out and missed a clear-cut second-half chance from 10 yards out before finally getting on the scoresheet. Let’s hope it is just the start.
Raheem Sterling is still learning – but his potential is huge
Sterling was unable to repeat the impact made against Italy but any judgement should be tempered by the knowledge he is just 19 years old and has taken everything in his stride at this World Cup. There was no lack of intent – a wonderful first half moment in which he skipped around Nicolas Lodeiro from a standing start highlighted his threat – but his influence faded as the match wore on. Hodgson was right to replace him with Ross Barkley after 64 minutes but Sterling has already shown he belongs at this level – the necessary improvements in using the ball more effectively will surely come with age.
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