England’s Journey (2)

Uruguay-Oh-Why…


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Yet again a rather pleasing performance has ended in a spirit crushing 2-1 defeat. It seems whatever England do in this tournament we are not destined to do it well enough. Welbeck once again managed to be on the pitch for more than 5 minutes whilst the Rooney question was well and truly answered, emphatically so I must say. The chances of qualifying are slim but with Uruguay’s bulldog-like approach to last night’s game (Thanks to FIFA, ‘Tevez-like’ would also have worked), how much they have left in the tank is a very legitimate cause for optimism, especially when their next game is against Italy, a team which if their performance against England is anything to go by will enjoy stretching Uruguay and exploiting the lack of width they seem to have, making them work doubly as hard as they did against England.

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However, the focus here is on England and like I said, despite a defeat, it is the result rather than the performance that is the disappointing thing. Gary Cahill proved his class and in my opinion was man on the match, demonstrating his impeccable aerial ability as well as his steely resolve that prevented Uruguay from making the most of what chances they did manage to create. Wayne Rooney was another stand out performer in my opinion, silencing his critics by playing superbly well and capping his performance with an equaliser that sent the whole country into manic euphoria. 

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Although we couldn’t hold on I believe rather than an inherently bad performance or the making of costly errors, it was simply the class of the opposition once again that put England to the sword, and in two brief moments undid all our good work. The first goal was the result of a sumptuous pass by Cavani (any of you who follow me on Twitter will be aware of who I think is responsible for this goal) and an incredibly intelligent header by the now scourge of England, Luis Suarez. The winner was not as carefully crafted however the same world class ability was on show with Suarez being first to react to a poorly timed leap by Steven Gerrard, running onto the resulting loose ball and applying a deadly finish to break the hearts of a whole entire nation. 

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The game itself was on a knife edge for the majority, and even when Uruguay took the lead, I think even the neutral would agree that it wasn’t entirely deserved. The trend seems to be that although not doing enough to deserve all three points, England this World Cup have been genuinely unlucky to have so far come away with nothing. It goes without saying that the Costa Rica game is a must win, and although a surge of optimism failed to carry through from the Italy game to last night’s fixture, I will not wilt in my support for this new approach by England, an approach that I was even more pleased with last night.  I will admit that despite having a better, more attacking shape against Uruguay, the relentless tempo that I fell in love with during the Italy game was sadly missing. It seems that although we are doing good things this summer, the final stumbling block for this promising group of players is doing all of these things at once. 

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The underlying problem in my opinion however remains Welbeck playing out of position, whilst although Rooney’s performance was perhaps detrimental to Sterling’s capacity to marvel us once again, I believe we are one change short of uncovering a new recipe for success. Even if England’s World Cup journey was to end so soon, our premature and somewhat unexpected exit from Brazil will not come with the same bitterness and disappointment I have felt before. 

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Spain, the previously undisputed champions of the world were knocked out before us and although we have not had a golden era like theirs to speak of, I feel like the stages of both teams are not dissimilar. I truly do believe that England with the right mentality and the right squad selection can make waves on the international scene and just as Spain are entering a transitional phase in which they need to rebuild and reformulate their strategies, I feel England are on the verge of completing this transition themselves. Should our World Cup end so cruelly three games in, I am surprisingly already excited for what the future holds, and come 2016 in France, I feel, and I even expect, this England team to finally exorcise it’s demons and perform to a standard that is on par with this continent’s best. 

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All is not over yet, and I am hoping England scrape though as much as the next person, however the extent to which I will be angry at the team, or even disappointed will vary. I, for the last time, will emphasise my optimism and praise for the team’s last two performances as well as my belief that changing one or two things, whether this be the squad (mainly Welbeck) or adopting a more attacking mentality, or even both, could well have been the only obstacle preventing this team from acquiring 6 points, rather than a truly undeserved none. 

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