World Class. Two words frequently used to describe Luis Suarez and more importantly, the two words that separated England and Uruguay in Sao Paulo last night. The Liverpool striker’s double helped his side to a 2-1 victory, leaving England staring into the abyss of elimination in the group stage of the World Cup for the first time since 1958.
Following a defeat by the same scoreline against Italy on Saturday night in Manaus, England went into this yesterday evenings’ skirmish with Uruguay knowing another loss would all but extinguish their chances of escaping the group stages. They also knew they were up against a Uruguayan side bolstered by the return of their talisman Luis Suarez, back to full fitness following key hole surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his left knee. Rather than immediately rise to the occasion, Roy Hodgson’s men began tentatively. England lacked the verve and attacking flair they displayed early on against the Italians. Nerves? Perhaps. 19 year old starlet Raheem Sterling, whose darting runs and raw pace impressed in England’s group opener was stifled by the Uruguay back four who gave him scarcely any room to breathe. Let alone dash into space and supply the likes of Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge. You could sense the games cagey first half hour better suited the grizzled, experienced Uruguayan’s, and it was the South American’s who struck first. Mere moments after Wayne Rooney’s headed effort met the woodwork, the nation’s worst fears were realised. That man, Luis Suarez found the back of the net. The first of two costly English defensive errors saw Suarez nod home from close range directing Edison Cavani’s inch perfect cross beyond Joe Hart with 39 minutes played. Everton centre back Phil Jagielka was caught cold, allowing Suarez to ghost into the open space and put his side ahead.
Buoyed by opening the scoring, Uruguay began the second half on the front foot. Cavani came close, clean through on goal he dragged his shot wide of Hart. Where was the English fight back, the desire and spirit of 1966? It came in the 75th minute, a surging run by Glen Johnson culminated in an inviting cross into the box which was met by Rooney, who steered the ball home to level the match at 1-1. Rooney, a man much maligned for his recent performances in an England shirt and lacklustre record at major tournaments (he had never scored a world cup goal before tonight) reignited English hopes. For the first time in the game, England began to pressurise their opponents, sending hopeful crosses towards the opposition penalty area time and time again. However, they lacked the end product to match their efforts. With 85 minutes on the clock and the game delicately poised, Suarez a man who seems to play the role of pantomime villain with a real relish, was on hand to strike again. England Captain Steven Gerrard’s failure to deal with a long ball over the top enabled his Liverpool team mate to rush through the heart of the English defence, firing an accurate right footed effort into the top corner to snatch victory for Uruguay.
Suarez’s heroics combined with another frustrating showing by our beloved Three Lions help to underline a fact that was painfully obvious before the tournament even began. This young cohort of players for all their talent, lacks the killer instinct and experience that clinches tight games like this last nights affair. They aren’t well and truly World Class yet. As the final whistle sounded, Suarez was hoisted into the air by his team mates and rightfully so. After all he stood head and shoulders above an England side that despite their best efforts; are not quite ready to topple the powerhouses of international football. Call it is a class divide.