This appears on philstar.com
Almost but not quite
Just when it seemed England was getting it, Uruguay dealt them a painful lesson in physicality and finishing up front.
by rick olivares
While everyone is falling over themselves pointing to England’s calamitous defense, Roy Hodgson’s decisions, the inability for Wayne Rooney to rise to the occasion, the lack of a real playmaker in the middle, and concerns ad infinitum, one forgets to look at some positives.
It’s hard for a nation that invented the game to be given a hiding by other countries where they imported the game and for the Three Lions to be constantly ousted in one agonizing defeat after another. But as the younger squad takes over from the Golden Generation there are indeed positives.
The forward line of Raheem Sterling, Danny Welbeck, and Daniel Sturridge can be frightening. The attacking side has shown plenty of promise. They had better opportunities than the Italians and even the Uruguayans. The quality of the finishing though is altogether another matter.
The trio will be older and wiser during the next Euros and World Cup. Painful it may be, their Brazilian experience will serve them in good stead for club and country.
Defensive-wise, this is the first World Cup for Phil Jagielka and Gary Cahill and while they looked shaky that is die to the lack of experience in the big game. With their wingbacks going up to the attack, if they don’t back pedal in a hurry, they are susceptible to counter attacks considering the space in the midfield for opponents to exploit and operate.
And there is the matter of the physicality of the Uruguayans. Sure, they tend to dive at the merest contact but they are willing to send messages by knocking down foes. It seems that they are not awed at all by the Three Lions.
It’s like that when you aren’t winning. At the height of Spain’s football powers, opposing squads opted to sit back and wait to counter. Teams only got a hint of how to play them when Real Madrid unveiled a tough defensive scheme to counter tiki taka. The Brazilians ran away with it in the 2013 Confederations Cup and the Dutch hammered the nail home.
Confidence. It is so often mentioned but it is a necessity.
England’s midfield line will change. It’s tough to consider that the captain, Steve Gerrard, himself served up howler when he intended to head Edinson Cavani’s long ball away but instead sent back to the waiting feet of Luis Suarez. Am not in agreement with how Hodgson uses Jordan Henderson and Gerrard who spray passes to teammates in Liverpool in a dynamic attack.
People also forget to point out what the Three Lions needs is an inspirational figure. Steven Gerrard is a captain all right respected as he is for his feats on the pitch but he is getting in on the years. What I mean is someone who could give the team a lift on the field like Luis Suarez.
Suarez is a world-class talent and you all saw what a different team Uruguay was with him atop their line. And he wasn’t even 100%. Imagine that.
Brazil has one in Neymar who can change the complexion of a game by his lonesome.
Italy has Mario Balotelli but he isn’t the active sort like Suarez or Neymar who can carve up defensive backs for breakfast.
That inspirational figure was supposed to be Rooney for England in this and the last two World Cups but alas he cannot seem to manufacture a goal without an assist. In fact, he scored his first and only one against Uruguay after Glen Johnson found the space to play him.
In recent football clinics given by Manchester United and Liverpool here in Manila, one of the teachings they harped on is being dominant in the 1v1. Sadly, the English have not.
Now here’s a painful lesson served up by the controversial Luis Suarez. In the sequence where Suarez latches on to a botched header by Gerrard (he didn’t mean to send it backwards), you can see him take a brief moment or two to assess the situation – where Jagielka is, where the other defenders are, and how Joe Hart is positioned. His sure-footed strike is a thing of technical beauty that even a person who roots for England must surely recognize.
One of the things that separates the top football predators from the pedestrian ones is their speed of thought. And Suarez, the man who broke Ghanaian hearts in South Africa four years ago has broken England’s as well. This despite being Liverpool’s top striker in the past few years.
Heading into Brazil, it was said that there was less pressure on England’s side to advance deep into the tournament. Hogwash. That is the Three Lions shirt they have on. England winning and beating England is still a big thing.
Two losses and a match to play. Their fate isn’t even in their hands and feet. It belongs to the Italians.
Tearing up this team will not help when it returns to the Sceptered Isle. Tweaking it and accepting things that it can do and cannot do is a start.