Suárez Brace Sinks England

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 19th 2014)

Heʼs Back

A wretched 1-3 defeat against Costa Rica showed that twice world champions Uruguay desperately needed their Liverpool star and Premier Leagueʼs Player of the Year Luís Suárez Díaz if they were to progress deep into the competition. It was Englandʼs misfortune that not quite fully fit or not Suárez was back to torment them with a brace. Not even Wayne Rooneyʼs first goal in the World Cup Finals could cancel the Suárez effect – Uruguay were and are a different team with Suárez.

With just over five minutes left in the first half Nicolás Lodeiro Benítez passed to Edinson Cavani Gómez on left edge of area. Cavaniʼs chipped cross was superbly headed in to Hartʼs right by Suárez. Uruguay led until 75 minutes. Daniel Sturridge released Glen Johnson on the right wing. Johnsonʼs cross led to a tap-in for Rooney to equal Michael Owen in 4th place for goals scored for England with 40. Only Jimmy Greaves, Gary Lineker and Sir Bobby Charlton are ahead of him.

Suárez broke English hearts with six minutes remaining. Galatasarayʼs Fernando Muslera Micolʼs long kick up-field flicked off Steven Gerrardʼs head into the path of prolific Liverpool team-mate. Suárez lashed it into the top centre of the goal past Joe Hart for the winner. There was no way back for England whose only hope of qualification now is Italy beating Costa Rica and Uruguay while they beat Costa Rica, relying on goal difference to oust both Uruguay and Costa Rica.

Turning Point

With Diego Lugano Moreno injured, Oscar Tábaraez Sclavo handed the captaincy to Atlético de Madridʼs Diego Godín Leal. Godín was rightly booked with less than ten minutes played for deliberate handball to Daniel Sturridgeʼs through ball. Rooneyʼs free-kick cleared the wall, but curled just wide.

Spanish referee Carlos Vellasco Carballo did not cover himself in glory when he failed to show a second yellow to Godín for a blatant arm in Sturridgeʼs throat .– yet another in a growing list of refereeing errors that could have been cleared up by replays, although itʼs hard to see how the referee could have seen enough to give the foul and not the second yellow card that would have ended Godínʼs night.

But that could have been evened up. Gerrardʼs petulant foul on Cristian Rodríguez Barotti got a deserved card, but colour should arguably have been different.

To and Fro

After 15 minutes Phil Jagielkaʼs slip released Rodríguez, but the Atlético de Madrid wingerʼs shot just cleared the bar. Fifteen minutes later Gerrardʼs floating free-kick was just too high for Rooney to get above. Rooneyʼs header hit the crossbar. Ten minutes later Rooneyʼs pass freed Sturridge, but Muslera saved at the expense of a corner.

Suárez nearly doubled Uruguayʼs lead with less than five minutes of the second half played, but Hart clawed it away at his near post. With an hour gone Álvaro Pereira Barragán was accidentally knocked unconscious by a knee in the head. He angrily rejected medical advice and insisted on playing on.

England looked likeliest to grab the win after Rooneyʼs first strike in the World Cup Finals. Leighton Baines gave Sturridge the opportunity to grab his second of the campaign, but Muslera saved well. Suárez capitalised to leave England needing favours and Uruguay in a better position, but possibly needing a favour too. If Costa Rica beat Italy tomorrow the Central Americans – supposed whipping boys of this group will definitely be through to the last sixteen and will face an eliminated England. A draw will also eliminate England and mean that Uruguay would have to beat Italy or rely on a favour from England in the final round of group matches.

 

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Fine-tuning

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 7th 2014)

Last Chance

England will take on Honduras this afternoon in the searing heat of Miami’s summer. The match kicks off at 4.45 local time. It will be hot and humid – hopefully similar to conditions in Manaus. “We have to make sure we can play 90 minutes in the heat”,England’s manager Roy Hodgson said.

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That still left the question of why Miami rather than in Brasil itself where conditions would be what England will experience in the World Cup, rather than similar? Hodgson had previously defended the choice of Miami rather than Brasil for the friendlies.

The best known of Honduras’ players are Wilson Palacios and Maynor Figueroa, although the youngest member of the squad Andy Najar plays for Anderlecht. Both teams will be looking to avoid injuries and go to the World Cup equipped to progress. Honduras has never progressed to the second round and nor has Ecuador – they meet in Curitiba on June 20th.

Defensive

Hodgson was defensive of Raheem Sterling, even though the Liverpool winger is banned for this match after his red card against Ecuador. Hodgson belatedly accepted that Sterling’s challenge on Ecuador’s captain Antonio Valencia was reckless and that the American referee was entitled to send Sterling off for it.

The starting line-up will be far closer to the team likely to play in Brasil. A back four of Leighton Baines, Gary Cahill, Phil Jagielka and Glen Johnson will aim to ensure that Joe Hart has little to do. Steven Gerrard and club colleague Jordan Henderson will anchor the midfield. In attack Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge didn’t feature against Ecuador and Adam Lallana may be due a run out too. Wayne Rooney is expected to start as well.

The Promise of Youth

Hodgson faces a difficult decision or two. He clearly rates both Sterling and Everton’s Ross Barkley, but Hodgson has to decide whether this tournament has come too soon for them. He believes that they will be part of England’s future for the next decade. The question is are they part of England’s present?

Sterling has shown the impetuousness of youth, but Hodgson refused to say that Sterling showed a lack of discipline. Instead, Hodgson chose to stress that Sterling was trying to help out the defence with his pace and that he was not worried about discipline.

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After the match against Ecuador Hodgson seemed irritable when Barkley’s performance was singled out for praise, stressing that Barkley had made mistakes giving the ball away – mistakes repeated in training yesterday, along with the skills that had singled him out for praise.

Hodgson was keen to set the record straight. He was determined to protect Barkley as an investment in England’s future. “If I try and protect Ross Barkley I make no apologies about that,’’ Hodgson told journalists at yesterday’s press conference. “I have seen people praised to the skies after a good performance and then brought back down to earth with a massive bump and I don’t want that to happen with Ross or Raheem or Luke [Shaw] because I think they have a lot of England games ahead of them. We are talking 10 to 12 years”.

While Sterling definitely won’t play against Honduras, Barkley may get some playing time – not a bad option as Hodgson will have to make a decision on how he fits into his World Cup plans, or even if he does at all. Captain Steven Gerrard is excited about the young players too.

But while England have a talented group of youngsters coming through they hardly compare to Belgium’s current crop. Thibaut Courtois excelled again for Spanish champions Atlético de Madrid. Eden Hazard has turned the heads of a few top clubs in Europe with his displays for Chelsea and Romelu Lukaku isn’t short of top clubs chasing his signature either and all three are fixtures in Belgium’s first team.

Style

While Hodgson’s focus is rightly on his squad, Ecuador and Honduras were chosen as opponents because Hodgson believed that there is a South American style of football and a Central American one too. Recent opponents in friendlies at Wembley have included Chile and Perú. They have also played Brasil home and away recently too. Interestingly, Honduras are the only Central American opponents England will face within a year of the World Cup.

Perhaps they rue a missed opportunity. The first match Wales played after the tragic death of Gary Speed was against Costa Rica. What price now to have had a friendly against them then? But at least there are videos of Wales’ match against them available for Hodgson and his team to study.

Rueda 2

The coaches of both opponents of England’s pre-World Cup tour of Miami, Ecuador and Honduras are Colombians. Luís Fernando Suárez and Reinaldo Rueda know each other well. Both say there is no specific style of South American football or Central American football, even though England chose these opponents with Uruguay and Costa Rica in mind.

In the end it [comparison] doesn’t really exist”, Rueda said at his pre-match press conference. “These are preparation games and teams are not really the same”. Suárez agrees. “There is no central American style”, he said yesterday. “I respect all the type of football the Hondurans play. It is fast and strong, but there is not a specific style of football in Central America. The Colombian coaches have not changed the way they play – only implemented our tactics. That’s the way we Colombian coaches work – with tactics”.

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In short, Honduras will play a Honduran style based on its culture and philosophy with Colombian tactical acumen. Just how similar that is to Costa Rica remains to be seen.

 

ENGLAND WORLD CUP WEMBLEY WARM UP: HT 32′ STURRIDGE ENGLAND 1-0 PERU KO 20.00

by RICHARD IV

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@lmenin at the Wembley Stadium

WEMBLEY. The best stadium in the world Nil – nil so far. Good fresh football by Peru, heavy legs in the England side so far.

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Up to the 16′ plenty of chances for the South Americans on the break. On the last one Joe Hart had to quickly and promptly come off his penalty box to intercept a dangerous ball through.
18′ On the up side for the Three Lions had their wonder chance with Sturridge who just shot  wide from wide inside the box.

32′ GOOAAAL for ENGLAND. After the missed chance England kept the pressure on the Peruvian so on a thrown by Glen Johnson almost on the corner kick, Daniel Sturridge let the ball come inside eluding the marker, continued along the 18 yds line and then when at the beginning of the D shape lashed out a bended-dropping ball into the top corner. The passionate England crowds that filled up the best stadium in the world (Beckenbauer’s words) exploded in awe.

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34′. Rooney’s header just above the bar from a Gerrard free kick

44 Luis Ramirez of Corinthians has great chance. Joe Hart sticks out a leg and concedes a corner. Great chance.

England lead 1-0 at half time. Peru have silenced a few critics!