Uruguay vs. England: Three Lions Players Who Must Improve on Opening Performance

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Uruguay vs. England: Three Lions Players Who Must Improve on Opening Performance
Matt Dunham/Associated Press

After a crushing loss to Italy in their first game of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, England looks to gain three points against an Uruguay squad coming off a similar defeat at the hands of Costa Rica. While the Three Lions actually played fairly well against the Azzurri, they must play even better if they are to win against Uruguayespecially with the return of Luis Suarez.

Both teams will play with desperation on Thursday, but if England is to pull out the victory, here are three players that must improve on their first performance.

Adam Pretty/Getty Images

Wayne Rooney

The man that has been deemed "a very important player" by English assistant coach Gary Neville following the team's defeat has received plenty of criticism since then.

According to Rooney's former teammate and former Three Lions midfielder, Paul Scholes, Rooney was not put in his natural position. Instead of lining up in the middle, as he usually does, Rooney was lined up on the left wing, as well as the right, and did not produce for his squad.

Outside of a cross to Daniel Sturridge for the equalizer in the first half, Rooney was unable to capitalize on any of his chances. 

This is Rooney's third World Cup and he has yet to score a single goal for his national side. The Manchester United legend must finish his opportunities against Uruguay if he wants his squad to advance past the group stage.

Adam Pretty/Getty Images

Leighton Baines

Baines received some flak for his performance against Italy. The Italians overloaded Baines' left side of the field and overwhelmed the defender with successful runs.

The presence, or lack thereof, of Rooney on the left side also didn't help matters for Baines. Rooney's striker mentality left Baines alone to deal with the Italian attack, but according to Jamie Carragher, Baines should have been more vocal with Rooney.

"Yes, they were caused problems down that side and that’s where they got the winning goal, but I think more of that was to do with Baines not having the personality or character to tell Rooney where he needed to be," Carragher said.

If England is to defeat Uruguay, Baines must be a key stalwart in their defense. Edinson Cavani will now have Suarez to help him attack; Baines must make sure his defense is prepared for the challenge.

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Christopher Lee/Getty Images

Steven Gerrard 

The captain did not have a poor performance, but he must take control of his midfield and influence the game even more. Gerrard is confident that his bunch competed, but that they must do a better job finishing

“Maybe we have got to look at finishing a few chances off but we can’t point any fingers because everyone’s given everything they’ve got tonight: the effort, the desire and commitment was there," Gerrard said. "Maybe a bit of quality in the final third [was missing]."

In a squad filled with youth, England's captain must play better if his side is to defeat Uruguay.The midfielder must also do a better job of creating for his team, similar to how Italy's Andrea Pirlo did against England.

Also, it is up to Gerrard to balance the team's attack and defense against a powerful Uruguay attack.

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