Thursday, June 19th, 3pm Eastern – Arena Corinthians, Sao Paulo.
It is game 2 in Group D for England in what represents a ‘life or death’ scenario, eloquently described as such by Uruguay captain Diego Lugano. With both teams losing their first fixture in the group, this game takes on extra significance, as both teams will be going into this game with little room for error, while trying to ensure they go home with the all important 3 points.
After England went down to a 2-1 defeat to Italy in their first game, many feel that England came out as gallant losers. England were not afraid to attack and Roy Hodgson’s new look, youthful England side gave a strong account of themselves against Italy. Questions do remain on the strength of the defending, after they were exposed for both if Italy’s goals, they will need to ensure they tighten up at the back if they are to have any success against two time World Cup champions Uruguay.
Focus on dealing with Luis Suarez – 100% fitness?
Uruguay are fixated right now on the fitness of star forward, Liverpool’s Luis Suarez, and rightly so – Suarez, when on form and on fire can be a handful for any team in the world. It is promising for England then, that he has been struggling with both fitness and form of late. Suarez has declared himself fit for this game and it looks like he will start the game, although whether he is 100% is another matter. Regardless of this, England MUST have a plan in place to deal with his trickery and dynamism. My vote would be to use a Jordan Henderson or possibly a James Milner, not man-marking Suarez per se, but given the task of at least to track Suarez when he drops off of the front line as he tends to do when at his effective.
Attack, attack, attack – (defend a little too…)
England impressed a lot of people in the way they attacked the Azzuri in their opening group game, and whilst the odd defensive lapse occurred it was the speed and directness of the attacking play that was most effective. A front four of Welbeck, Rooney, Sterling and Sturridge really troubled the Italian defence in places and their ability to fluidly switch places will keep the Uruguayan defenders thinking. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been back training with the squad this week, which along with Ross Barkley, Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert, he adds another option to Hodgson in his growing arsenal of exciting forward players.
Uruguay captain Diego Lugano (ankle) has been ruled out of the game which from an English perspective is actually a negative. Lugano is known for being a slow defender and he would have been a point of focus for our pacy, dynamic attackers. England have scored in their last eight World Cup encounters with South American sides and the England fans will be hoping for an energised, forceful attacking display from the Three Lions.
The back four of England will probably remain unchanged for this game and it is a tighter ran ship that Hodgson will be hoping for. Full backs will have to be closer to their men to allay the pressure from crosses, and Cahill & Jagielka will have to ensure that they are switched on for both set pieces and dealing with the front two of Suarez and Edison Cavani.
Solve the Rooney Conundrum
Much has been said of Wayne Rooney’s role in the England squad this time out, for once he is not the talismanic ‘must play’ player of past tournaments. There has been genuine talk of Rooney being dropped to accommodate others. After a so-so performance against Italy, where he played mainly out left, other than the inch-perfect cross for Sturridge’s goal there were concerns of his defensive positioning while helping out Leighton Baines. Italy had a lot of success down this flank and it is possible that to get the best out of Rooney and also to be stronger defensively, it will be best to play Rooney in the number 10 role behind Sturridge OR play Rooney in the out-and-out striker role.
Whatever Hodgson does decide to start with, I am in the ‘Rooney must play’ camp. Raheem Sterling, who seemed to flourish in the free role behind Sturridge, has recently said that he is “happy to play anywhere the manager puts me”. This suggests that Hodgson may be thinking of playing Sterling out wide right and Rooney in the number 10 role. He was seen taking up this play-maker position in training at the England camp on Tuesday. England have a wealth of attacking options in this current squad and if they play as confidently going forward as they did against Italy, a comfortable win for England could be on the cards.