World Cup blog: England’s dreadful defence toils again as Suarez strikes
22:30 19 June 2014
England’s defensive frailties were exposed again as Luis Suarez scored a devastating double to leave the Three Lions’ World Cup hopes hanging by a thread.
Suarez (it had to be him, didn’t it?) capitalised on woeful marking to open the scoring with a looping header in the first half, and although Wayne Rooney pulled England level with his first World Cup goal in the 75th minute, the brilliant Liverpool striker pounced on a Steven Gerrard error to break England’s hearts in the closing stages.
Roy Hodgson’s men failed to match the attacking verve they showed in the unfortunate 2-1 defeat to Italy, but more costly was their inability to improve at the back.
Captain Steven Gerrard will be blamed for his missed header in the build-up to Suarez’s winning goal, but England’s real problems in Brazil are to be found in their shaky defence.
Prior to the World Cup, Hodgson’s side were unbeaten in the 12 games centre-backs Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka had played together, but the pair have struggled badly on the big stage.
After Chelsea’s Cahill was caught so badly out of position for Mario Balotelli’s winner in Manaus, it was Everton man Jagielka who failed to track Suarez before his headed opener. For Suarez’s second, meanwhile, England’s defenders were nowhere to be seen after Gerrard failed to cut out the danger in midfield. With Suarez in lethal form, such basic errors cannot be forgiven.
In Leighton Baines, Cahill, Jagielka and Glen Johnson, England posses four able defenders, but their relative international inexperience has proved costly, and the exclusion of Ashley Cole looks all the more baffling now. Hodgson could surely have used a cool head amidst the mayhem.
England’s attacking display against Italy provided real hope that this time it could be different, but expectation was drained during a disjointed, nervy performance in Sao Paulo.
England did create chances, with Rooney and Daniel Sturridge both guilty of misses, but Uruguay looked dangerous whenever they crossed the halfway line, and Suarez made no mistake when the chances presented themselves.
Hodgson will try to rally his troops for the final game against Costa Rica, but their fate is now out of their hands. While Hodgson’s new-look side has showed promise in some areas, they still look a long way from competing against top opposition.
Youth is on their side, but in the short-term, this World Cup is already looking disastrous.