Being a Leeds United and England fan, Thursday 19th June doesn’t go down as one of my favourite days in football. First, I was notified that some bloke called Dave had been given the Head Coach’s job at Elland road, then I was later forced to endure an hour and a half of torture as the Three Lions lost 2-1 to Uruguay to put them on the brink of elimination from the World Cup; a feat that has tonight been confirmed following Costa Rica’s 1-0 win over Italy.
England boss Roy Hodgson said prior to the Uruguay match that it was essentially a knockout tie as both teams needed to win to keep their fate in their own hands. He also expressed confidence that with five Liverpool players in the England starting XI, the impact of Luis Suarez could be contained. The harsh reality was that a 75% fit Suarez simply blew England away. Love him or loathe, you have to admire him. It is hard to believe that it is only five weeks since Suarez underwent knee surgery and it was uncertain whether or not he would even play a part in these World Cup finals. After sitting through a dismal 3-1 defeat to Costa Rica, Suarez was determined to come back with a bang. Two English defensive errors gave Suarez two clear-cut chances; unfortunately, he took both of them.
Wayne Rooney scored his first ever World Cup goal in between the two strikes from Suarez which temporarily restored English hope. There were chances for both teams in the game and the result might have been different on another night. Rooney and Cristian Rodriguez both saw great chances go begging before a great cross from Edinson Cavani found Suarez who, after pulling away from Phil Jagielka, nodded home smartly. After the break, Cavani and Rooney were both guilty of poor close-range misses. Rooney finally got on the scoresheet however, prodding home a Glen Johnson cross following good work from Daniel Sturridge. Yet as England started to believe they could go on to win the game, a long ball ricocheted off the head of Steven Gerrard and into the path of Suarez who managed to lose Jagielka again and fire past Joe Hart to succumb England to defeat.
Following the final whistle, there was a great sense of disappointment that the Three Lions had failed to capitalise on the positive performance that they displayed in the first game against Italy. Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge were largely anonymous, while skipper Steven Gerrard and much of the defence were poor. However, the reaction of the players suggests that they really did give it everything they had; maybe they just simply aren’t good enough. For much of Friday, the majority of the English population became Italian fans, hoping that the Azzurri could secure wins in their final two games to keep England’s slim hopes of qualifying alive. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be. Roy Hodgson has vowed to continue as England manager in pursuit of qualification for the European Championships in 2016. Despite the poor results, it seems that this is still a squad in transition and the new breed of attacking football displayed in Brazil has excited fans for the first time in years. Let’s hope Roy’s boys can leave the tournament with dignity by producing a strong performance against Costa Rica on Tuesday and that they can safely qualify for Euro 2016.