Uruguay vs. England: 6 Things We Learned
England's World Cup involvement hangs by a thread after two Luis Suarez goals on Thursday condemned them to their second defeat of the tournament. Wayne Rooney had equalised with 15 minutes remaining after Suarez's first-half opener, but the Liverpool forward's second left England pointless and close to heading home. If Italy fail to beat Costa Rica tomorrow, their exit will be confirmed.
If England do go out at the earliest juncture, it will be their first group-stage exit at a World Cup since 1958.
Roy Hodgson was left devastated by the result, and he and his technical staff must now try and make sense of two disappointing results. Here are six talking points to emerge from another pulsating World Cup match.
Suarez the Difference
There was little between the two sides for the most part, but the brilliance of Suarez, a player whose ability to finish is almost unrivalled in world football, was the difference.
His first came courtesy of a superb ball from his strike partner, Edinson Cavani, as he lost Phil Jagielka to get himself a yard before dispatching an excellent header past Joe Hart.
His second, although poorly defended by England in the buildup, was an emphatic right-footed finish from inside the area. He's an unlikable character given his past behaviour, but there's little doubt he is one of the finest footballers in the modern game.
Uruguay's manager, Oscar Tabarez, deserves huge credit for leaving him on despite fears about his fitness. Suarez had just returned from a four-week layoff and appeared to be flagging, and many managers would have replaced him and saved him for the Italy game, happy to settle for a draw. Tabarez, however, had other ideas, and his foresight paid off handsomely.
England's Defensive Frailties on Show Once More
England's history of producing fine defenders was maybe taken for granted in the past, but it's become ever clearer that the current cast are not on the same level as their predecessors.
Gary Cahill aside, England's back four have all struggled at various times during the tournament. Glen Johnson, despite one excellent moment to set up Rooney for England's equaliser against Uruguay, has been poor in both games, often looking lost positionally and bereft of ideas when attacking.
Leighton Baines has had similar problems on the left, rarely getting forward with the same excellence he does at club level and too often beaten easily in one-on-one situations.
And Cahill's partner, Jagielka, was caught out for both Uruguay goals, allowing Suarez too much space for the first before being drawn toward the ball and leaving space in behind for the second.
It's an area England must improve soon.
Suarez's Second an Awful Goal to Concede
It will go down as one of the poorest goals conceded at this World Cup. A long punt from Fernando Muslera came off Steven Gerrard's head, and Suarez was in to score the winner. It was remarkably straightforward—a dreadful goal for an international side to concede.
It's a goal that looks likely to end England's World Cup involvement—a bitter pill to swallow given its feeble simplicity.
Uruguay Were Fortunate Not to Go Down to 10 Men
No one in the England camp will be looking to make excuses after this defeat, but Carlos Velasco Carballo's decision not to send Uruguay captain Diego Godin off for what was a clear second bookable offence was harsh and potentially match-turning.
Godin had already been booked for a clear and deliberate handball before cutting across Daniel Sturridge and landing a forearm in the England forward's throat to bring him down. You'd have to go back a long way to see a clearer sending-off, but Carballo somehow missed it.
Ross Barkley Should Have Started
Hindsight can be torturous for football managers, and Hodgson may well be having a sleepless night after the decision to leave Ross Barkley on the bench backfired.
The Everton midfielder looks capable of reaching the very top of the game, fearless in possession, with the ability to produce a trick or flick to beat a defender seemingly natural to him. He's a rare type of player who can produce moments of magic in an instant.
Whether he should have been in place of Danny Welbeck or, more controversially, Rooney is up for debate, but the young Everton man could well have given England an edge they lacked.
England's Young Players Will Learn from This Experience
So many times after tournaments past, England have been criticised for their short-termism, often relying on the same faces who have failed to deliver in the past. This time, Hodgson went for something different, a bolder, more forward-thinking squad selection that has been widely praised.
Two defeats and a likely early exit will disappoint, but England fans should feel positive. For the first time in a long time, their attacking play was quick and inventive with an array of young stars who look to have big futures.
Barkley, Sturridge, Raheem Sterling and the injured Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain give England great options, and this experience will have taught them much.
England's future looks brighter than it has for some time.