2014 World Cup Group D

Hodgson to make nine changes when England faces Costa Rica

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England’s performance against Costa Rica will help decide who finishes first in Group D, but for the Three Lions, Tuesday’s match in Belo Horizonte will be the last 90 minutes of their 2014 World Cup.

As a result, manager Roy Hodgson is ready to overhaul his lineup. According the FA’s web site, nine new players will called into the lineup for tomorrow’s match against Costa Rica, while left back Luke Shaw and midfielder Ross Barkley will get their first senior-level starts.

“When you’re at a World Cup and don’t realize your expectations and hopes and have to leave the tournament, that final game is inevitably the one that leads you into the future,” Hodgson said, explaining his change in approach. “We have a lot of time to think about the future. We have a long qualification campaign ahead. Euro 2016 is a long time away.”

Form reporting by The Guardian:

The manager has named a radically changed selection for the game at Estádio Mineirão, with Luke Shaw and Ross Barkley to gain their first competitive starts and Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Ben Foster drafted into the defence.

Frank Lampard will captain the side on his 106th and potentially final appearance, with the veteran midfielder echoing his manager’s calls for the team to show their character, as well as potential, against the group leaders.

Adam Lallana, James Milner, and Jack Wilshere are also expected to be in tomorrow’s XI.

There are a number of other good quotes from Hodgson in the links, above. According to The Guardian’s post, the England boss was “emotional” as he reflected on his team’s premature demise, describing “how painful it is to build up your hopes and to see a lot of good preparation proved to be to no avail …”

From that pain comes a brand new team, with only Gary Cahill and Daniel Sturridge retaining from the XI that started against Italy.

According to Hodgson, the lineup will be:

G – Ben Foster
RB – Phil Jones
CB – Gary Cahill
CB – Chris Smalling
LB – Luke Shaw
M – Jack Wilshere
M – Frank Lampard
M – Adam Lallana
M – Ross Barkley
M – James Milner
F – Daniel Sturridge

Talent-wise, there’s no reason this team can’t beat Costa Rica, but as the Ticos showed over their first 180 minutes, talent is only one part of a successful equation. Regardless of what happens on Tuesday, the Costa Ricans are moving on, while England’s going home.

Roy Hodgson’s asked about resigning, but England should keep calm and carry on

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During what’s sure to be a difficult period of soul-searching, I’d like to offer this open letter to my friends in England:

Dear Friends:

You’re already doing it. Just calm down. It’s just not that bad.

Sincerely,

-rf

What’s this all about? Consider these headlines, all based on England head coach Roy Hodgson’s reaction after today’s match against Italy.

  • The Telegraph: Roy Hodgson vows not to quit despite England World Cup defeats by Uruguay and Italy
  • The Daily Mail: Roy Hodgson won’t quit after England lose to Uruguay to stand on verge of World Cup elimination
  • The Independent: ‘I will not resign,’ says Roy Hodgson after 2-1 loss left England on the brink of exit
  • The Guardian: Roy Hodgson insists he will not resign as England manager after defeat

You get the picture. At some point today, after Luis Suárez’s late goal sent England to a second straight 2-1 loss, Hodgson was asked if he would step down. He said “no,” and with good reason.

England is not one of the most talented nations in the world, yet as implied by the question (and reaction after today’s result), expectations are unreasonably high. Regardless of their group’s depth or the performances of transcendent talents like Andrea Pirlo and Luis Suárez, England fans expect their team to get out of the group. Never mind England only gave up six shots on target over 180 minutes, and forget about the transitional state of a team that will be stronger at Euro 2016 than it was in Brazil. England hadn’t been eliminated in a group stage since 1958, until now.

All of which is a very narrow view of the Three Lions. Having only lost two competitive matches since Cesare Prandelli took over four years ago, Italy is a proven commodity, one that again showed their quality on Saturday in Manaus. And while Uruguay struggled in World Cup qualifying, the team is a 2010 World Cup semifinalist and the reigning South American champions, achievements that speak to La Celeste’s quality in major tournaments.

source: AP
After 75 minutes against Uruguay, England was even, 1-1. A second goal from Luis Suárez left the Three Lions without a point after two matches at the 2014 World Cup. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

What about Hodgson’s team suggests England should necessarily overcome these foes? They’re certainly capable of beating either team, but closes losses shouldn’t be surprising, either. How are Hodgson’s results so unreasonable?

That’s not to say Hodgson is beyond scrutiny, because there are a series of small decisions which may have made the difference. Why is this Steven Gerrard guaranteed a spot? Or, seemingly, Danny Welbeck, for that matter? Why was Adam Lallana dropped when it was unclear whether Wayne Rooney or Raheem Sterling was the player to use wide? And ultimately, why is England probably going home after the opening round?

Ultimately, it all comes down to that last question, one that’s as frustratingly presumptuous as it straight-forward. England can play with Italy, but over a given 90 minutes, a 2-1 loss is a reasonable outcome. Same with Uruguay, especially on a day when Luis Suárez scores on both of his team’s shots on target. If Andrea Barzagli mistimes his lunge, or Joe Hart stays big on Suárez’s late shot, things turn out different. That’s not to say England deserved those results (they don’t), but it highlights the thin margins in Group D.

Ultimately, Hodgson needs to figure out ways for his team to create and prevent chances. His selection influences how those plans play out, but even in that regard, Hodgson has limited options.

So when people see England had five shots on target to Italy’s four, and six shots on target to Uruguay’s two, how can people justify implying he should resign? Hodgson didn’t head the ball off the post in today’s first half, but be did draw up the play that gave Wayne Rooney the opportunity to do so. And while he didn’t create those first half counterattacking chances against Italy, he did select the attackers that put those plays into motion.

Granted, Hodgson could have recognized the limits of his players and put in a different plan. He could have recognized that a player like Rooney was not going to be as efficient as Suárez. Still, in both of his team’s games, Hodgson put his players in a position to win. They just didn’t take advantage of their opportunities.

Hodgson played a part in England’s exit, no doubt, but so did Italy. So did Suárez. So did a tough draw, and so did his attacker’s missed chances.

But should Hodgson fall on the sword because of things beyond his control? In England, that becomes the demand, but it’s one that’s built from unreasonable expectations. If England can keep calm and carry on, this team should be fine going forward.

Suárez scores twice in return, leads Uruguay to 2-1 win over England

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Two shots are all you need, provided they fall to Luis Suárez. Scoring twice in his 2014 World Cup debut, Uruguay’s all-time leading scorer has put England on the brink of elimination, with his 84th minute game-winner giving the South American champions a 2-1 win over the Three Lions in São Paulo.

Suárez opened the scoring in the 39th minute with his team’s first shot on target, heading inside Joe Hart’s right post to give Uruguay a 1-0 lead. After Wayne Rooney’s first World Cup goal in the 75th minute appeared to preserve a draw for England, Suárez blasted a 84th minute shot from the right of the penalty area into the center of goal, converting La Celeste’s second shot on target into the game-winning goal.

Though England managed six shots on Fernando Muslera, the loss leaves the team on the verge of its first group stage exit since 1958, potentially eliminated before they take the field next Tuesday in Belo Horizonte. If Costa Rica draws Italy tomorrow, the Three Lions are out.

Uruguay, on the other hand, have new reason for optimism. Playing his first match since the end of the Premier League season, Suárez almost single-handedly sank a team that started five of his Liverpool teammates. In the process, Suárez gave Uruguay reason to believe ahead of their group stage’s toughest match: Tuesday’s meeting with Italy in Natal.

[ MORE: Talking points: Putting England’s failure in context ]
[ RELATED: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly ]

Even play that saw England hold 60 percent of the ball through halftime failed to produce a shot on target until the 39th minute. Then, perfectly executing a plan that asked Nicolas Lodeiro to connected Uruguay’s midfield with its two attacking stars, La Celeste struck first, getting both Edinson Cavani and Luis Suárez involved in the day’s first goal.

On a quick movement out of its own half, Uruguay found Lodeiro in front of the defense, with the ensuing attention leaving Cavani open on the left flank. A ball played wide opened up the English defense, allowing the Paris Saint-Germain striker to find Suárez with a right-footed chip to the middle of the area. Having pulled off the back of defender Phil Jagielka, Suárez headed inside Joe Hart’s right post, giving the two-time champions a 1-0 lead.

England nearly responded through Daniel Sturridge two minutes later, but after being sent to halftime with their one-goal deficit, the Three Lions allowed Uruguay to assume control of the game early in the second period. A 49th minute cross from Suárez nearly caught Hart out of position, though the Manchester City keeper fell back to his line to keep the ball out. Three minutes later, Lodeiro put Cavani in on goal in the left of the penalty area, though the ensuing shot was sent well wide of the right post. Minutes after the teams returned to the field, England was in danger of conceding a second goal.

source: AP
England’s Wayne Rooney celebrates after scoring his side’s first goal during the match between Uruguay and England in Sao Paulo. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

In the 54th minute, however, the Three Lions nearly even the scales, but with his second big miss of the match, Rooney’s World Cup goal-scoring drought continued. After heading an open chance onto the bar in the 31st minute, Rooney was given a chance to equalize from nine yards. One-timing a left-footed shot, Rooney found Muslera in the middle of goal, allowing the Uruguayan keeper to preserve his team’s 1-0 lead.

Just over 20 minutes later, however, Rooney’s slump was over. Attacking the far post as play built down England’s right, the maligned attacker tapped in a Glen Johnson pass sent through the six-yard box, scoring his first World Cup goal from close range to bring the Three Lions back into the tournament.

By match’s end, however, the headlines belonged to Suárez. Off a long ball out of Uruguay’s end, a headed ball allowed Suárez to get behind the England defense and into the right of Hart’s penalty box. As the England keeper went low to try to block the shot, the Uruguayan sniper went high, putting his 41st international score into the middle of the Three Lions’ goal.

It’s a score that will likely send England out at the group stage for the first time since 1958 (England failed to qualify in 1994). Roy Hodgson and his team need Costa Rica to lose twice, Italy to beat Uruguay, and the tiebreakers to fall their way in order to make the knockout round. Any draws over the group’s final three games send the Three Lions home.

Though Uruguay has yet to face the Italians, their scenarios are more positive, particularly if Suárez continues scoring goals. With a win on Tuesday, La Celeste will likely go through. Even without that result, there are other scenarios that could see the two-time champions into the second round.

LINEUPS

Uruguay: Muslera; Pereira, Godín, Jimenez, Cáceres; Rodríguez, Gonzalez (78′), Ríos, Lodeiro (Stuani 67′); Suárez (Coates 88′), Cavani.

Goals: Suárez 39′, 84′

England: Hart; Johnson, Cahill, Jagielka, Baines; Gerrard, Henderson (Lambert 87′); Welbeck (Lallana 71′), Sterling (Barkley 64′), Rooney; Sturridge.

Goals: Rooney 75′

At halftime: Suárez header has Uruguay up on England, 1-0 — FOLLOW LIVE

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Story of the half: Thirty-eight minutes of even play loses its balance after the game’s first shot on target. Playing his first match since knee surgery last month, Luis Suárez heads his team in front, converting a Uruguayan moment of transition into a 1-0 lead over England.

FOLLOW LIVE: Soccerly’s real-time match center

Goals:

39′ – In his night’s first moment of freedom, Suárez gives his team the lead. On a counterattack orchestrated by Nicolas Lodeiro, Edinson Cavani moves wide left, giving his teammate an outlet as the defense reacts at the edge of England’s defensive third. Cavani takes the ball and cuts onto his right foot before chipping to the middle of the box. There, Suárez has pulled away from Phil Jagielka, giving himself enough room to head the opening goal inside Joe Hart’s right post.

Other key moments:

9′ – Moving quickly into their attacking third, England finds Danny Welbeck at the top of the arc, with Wayne Rooney coming from deep for a pass that looks like it will make its way through the defense. Diego Godín, however, brings his right hand down on the chip, drawing a yellow card while killing the movement. Rooney’s ensuing free kick goes wide of the left post.

15′ – Uruguay’s first moment of danger comes when Phil Jagielka’s failed clearance sits up for Cristian Rodríguez in the left of the penalty area. The Atlético Madrid midfielder has all the time he wants to line-up a left-footed shot, but when his blast goes into the stands, Joe Hart’s left untested.

26′ – La Celeste’s best spell of sustained pressure sees a ball chipped into the box brought down by Nicolas Lodeiro, who turns and plays through ball for the cutting Edinson Cavani. Gary Cahill tracks the run and eventually sends the ball out for a corner, though on the ensuring restart, Cavani gets a step on the Chelsea defender and is able to get off a shot. The ball goes into the seats, leaving Uruguay without a shot on target.

31′ – A restart deep on England’s left sees Steven Gerrard hit a perfect ball high and just inside Fernando Mulera’s far post. Wayne Rooney’s beat his mark but, continuing his World Cup goal-scoring drought, plays the ball off the side of his head and onto the corner of goal. The best chance of the match ends with Rooney tangled in the back of the net as the ball rebounds back into the box.

41′ – England nearly responds to Suárez’s opener when Rooney finds Sturridge making a diagonal run behind the right of Uruguay’s defense. Left with a sharp angle, the Liverpool attacker turns to shoot before he’s closed down by Godín. Muslera is there to block England’s first shot on target out for a corner.

Lineups:

Uruguay: Muslera; Pereira, Godín, Jimenez, Cáceres; Rodríguez, Gargano, Ríos, Lodeiro; Suárez, Cavani.

England: Hart; Johnson, Cahill, Jagielka, Baines; Gerrard, Henderson; Welbeck, Sterling, Rooney; Sturridge.

Key Players:

  • Steve Gerrard, England – After the Three Lions’ opening game loss to Italy, fans were left asking “what happened to Gerrard?” He had no impact on the match. Today the England captain got off to a more influential start but failed to sustain that influence. Particularly against a Urugayan midfield apt to sit deep, can England’s key distributor get more involved?
  • Diego Godín, Uruguay – Just before the half-hour mark, Godín teased a second yellow card when he brought down Daniel Sturridge on England’s right. With a 19-year-old World Cup debutant to his right in Uruguay’s central defense, Godín is one of Óscar Tabárez’s most important players, but against a quick England attack, the veteran defenders in danger of going off.

Numbers to know:

40 – Suárez, already his country’s leading scorer, hits a benchmark, scoring his 40th international goal (in 78 appearances).

2 – Total shots on target. Suárez’s goal should open things up.

60% – England’s possession, though the team’s best chances have come off a dead ball and a quick movement through the middle of the field.

Question for the second half:

  • Does England leave Raheem Sterling wide? – Wayne Rooney has come in from the wide position he occupied against Italy to take up a place in the middle of the park, a deployment that pushed Sterling to the flank. Whereas the Liverpool teenager was one of England most influential players against the Italians, his influence has been more sporadic against Uruguay. With England generating fewer chances today than they did against the Azzurri, does Roy Hodgson need to bring Sterling back to the middle?

Prandelli’s progress, England’s threat, forgetting basics: Talking points from Italy’s win over England

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One of the most anticipated matches of the World Cup’s opening week lived up to expectations, with both Italy and England flashing second round form during the Azzurri’s 2-1 win in Manaus, Brazil. Yet despite goals from Claudio Marchisio and Mario Balotelli offsetting Daniel Sturridge’s first half equalizer, each side showed enough weaknesses to give future opponents hope. For Italy, that meant reminding the world of its inherent limitations, while England showed a surprising inability to deal with the obvious.

Here are five talking points from today’s marquee matchup:

1. This is so Prandelli’s Italy – Dominating possession, leveraging the skill of its midfielders, and relying on movement around its core. This is so Cesare Prandelli’s Italy, a team that represents the perfect balance of its coaches’ philosophy, players’ skills, and culture’s value.

In that way, there’s this brilliant, admirable balance to the Italians, especially considering their dependence on a few singular talents. Built around Andrea Pirlo, relying on Mario Balotelli, and hoping to protect its savvy but slow defense, all of the Azzurri’s defying qualities were on display in today’s opener.

Compared to the team that flopped four years ago, it’s a refreshing if imperfect change. Even against England, the defense’s shortcomings and the lack of attacking options was a problem. Just as we saw at Euro 2012 and the Confederations Cup, these issues could be Italy’s downfall.

Still, let’s not overlook the progress Prandelli’s made. Let’s not take his journey for granted. In the wake 2010’s group stage exit, the former Fiorentina boss had to completely remake this team. Now, as he approaches the end of his journey, we can appreciate the results.

[ MORE: Colombia downs Greece | Costa Rica shocks Uruguay | Ivory Coast takes on Japan ]

2. Pirlo didn’t decide the match – Here’s a brief synopsis of the English media’s expectations for the match: Pirlo, Pirlo, and more Pirlo. At least, that’s what I remember. The coverage was so focused on the regista, you’d be forgiven for asking “how’s Italy going to win if they play 1-on-11?”

And no mistaking it, Pirlo was good. Organizing, probing, distributing as Italy pushed England in their defensive third, all the sublime greatness we associate with the 35-year-old icon was on display.

Thanks in part of England’s approach, he completed 105 passes at a 95 percent clip. England’s high man: Steven Gerrard, completing 67 balls. It was an amazingly prolific and efficient day – one that will leave mouths agape as people scan the final numbers.

Pirlo, however, didn’t decide the match. He may have dictated it, but it was Claudio Marchisio, Mario Balotelli, and Antonio Candreva that influenced the game’s biggest moments. At the final whistle, Pirlo’s greatness was clear, but his teammates’ contributions were just as important.

[ MORE: Soccerly covers the World Cup ]

source: AP
England’s Raheem Sterling, left, and Daniel Sturridge, right, react after Italy’s Mario Balotelli scored today’s winning goal. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

3. England’s attackers deserved the hype – Once the game opened up, it was clear Italy wasn’t going to be able to keep up. Raheem Sterling, when he dropped to pick up the ball, saw room as he turned toward the defense. Wayne Rooney took advantage of the same space in the second half. Danny Welbeck was able to beat defenders one-on-one, while Italy had problems with Daniel Sturridge’s runs. If England finished their chances, they were going to get a result. Unfortunately, their best chance of the second half fell to Rooney, who remains scoreless in World Cup.

Mind you, England did this is against Italy. Yeah, their defenders are slow, but they’re good, and we know how organized their midfield can be. The Three Lions may have only scored one goal, but they created enough chances to expect more going forward.

What does that say about Wednesday’s game, where England will face and even more stoic Uruguay central defense? Or in the group finale, where Costa Rica won’t offer as much resistance in the middle. It says …

4. There’s no margin for error, but reason to believe – … that England should still be favored to get out of its group. Perhaps Uruguay will recover from today’s loss, and maybe Costa Rica is for real, but based on what we saw today, the Three Lions should be considered favorites in each of their last two games. Even with this loss, Roy Hodgson should maintain his sights on the second round.

5. Hodgson’s team failed at the basics – Who would have bet the one big deficiency would be something so fundamental? Especially from a Roy Hodgson team? Nobody got out to meaningfully challenge Claudio Marchisio on the opener, and in the second half, the most basic of movements was able to get Antonio Candreva behind Leighton Baines before he cut back for his cross.

I don’t know if Roy needs to break out the ropes, but some back to basics drills might be in order. Or, given that more weak defending down their left led to the first goal, Hodgson may need to make some tough decisions about how to protect Leighton Baines, particularly given how little influence England had in the middle of the park.

Hodgson’s not really going to regret passing over Ashley Cole … is he?