Hard luck stories are scant hope for England and Hodgson
It is simply not constructive to dwell on the contention England lost their second Group D game to Uruguay because a Spanish referee failed to send off Diego Godin, or Wayne Rooney’s lousy luck with a back post header hitting the woodwork.
Facts form the backbone of stories, not conjecture, and history will show the clear difference between the Three Lions and La Celeste was Luis Suarez. Two goals on his return a mere month after knee surgery are among the bitterest pills England fans have ever had to swallow.
World class players will punish the smallest errors. Ask Phil Jagielka and Steven Gerrard. Suarez has made a habit of embarrassing the former in Merseyside derbies, but his Liverpool teammate’s misjudged backwards header was the cruellest way to effectively eliminate the Three Lions from the Brazil finals, which are just a week old.
There is still a minimal chance, and to suggest that it is any more is clutching at straws, England could still qualify from this ‘group of death’. Three Lions supporters must cheer on Italy, both against Costa Rica on June 20th and in their final game against Uruguay.
Hodgson’s end of the bargain to somehow sneak through this pool would then require him to mastermind victory over the Central Americans. That would bring things down to goal difference. England need theirs to be superior to both Uruguay and Costa Rica.
As it stands, this is worse and they have scored fewer than both. Odds of 7/1 say the Three Lions will extend their stay in Brazil by qualifying for the knockout phase, but frankly there are nothing like long enough.
Allowances will be made for youngsters like Raheem Sterling, Jordan Henderson and Ross Barkley, because they clearly have international futures. What of skipper Gerrard and fellow 30-somethings Jagielka and Rickie Lambert – a bit-part player at the World Cup?
Rooney finally got that monkey off his back by scoring on the grandest stage, but it is a mere footnote. He takes a backseat in this tale of talismans because of Suarez’s decisive brace. It was another night of missed opportunities, poor choices and crossing in the final third and defensive inadequacy.
To the casual observer, this next point will seem bizarre, but Uruguay losing captain Diego Lugano to a knee injury may actually have been the best thing that could’ve happened. The ageing centre back saw his spot taken by raw teenager Jose Maria Gimenez – a fact seldom exploited by the England attack.
Had paceless wonder Lugano started, La Celeste would not have dared to press anything like as often. Credit Oscar Tabarez with bringing more dynamism into midfield too. Walter Gargano was cast aside in favour of Alvaro Gonzalez and Nicolas Lodeiro included with Christian Stuani making way, which made the Copa America holders more compact.
Suarez’s comeback, yes we keep coming back to it don’t we, also greatly galvanised Uruguay. This World Cup was last chance saloon territory for Gerrard and the as yet unused Frank Lampard, midfielders tinged by failure at international level despite riches in elite club competitions.
A clean break from these names is best for England. Whether that extends to Hodgson too remains to be seen. Viable alternatives are hardly standing out, in stark contrast to the speculation that surrounded who would succeed Sven-Goran Eriksson in 2006.
There’s always Euro 2016, a tournament England are odds-on at 1/2 to qualify for, and 12/1 to win across the Channel in France.