Desmond Kane

Error-prone England represent land of hope and no glory

Desmond Kane

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The timing was dramatically unfortunate.

Moments after England had slumped to a potentially tournament-ending 2-1 defeat to Uruguay with a semi-fit and almost disbelieving Luis Suarez celebrating wildly his two goals in front of the South American country's fans - including an errant Scotland supporter - ITV decided to halt the suffering by cutting quickly to the adverts.

Little did we know that the well-manicured England goalkeeper Joe Hart would be found there plugging his latest commercial work for that old time-honoured shampoo brand Head and Shoulders.

"We all know what it will probably come down to (penalties). I need to be ready for anything," says Hart. "Ready to make it count."

Irony has never had it so good. Hart needs a reliable coach more than a coiffeur, but he is not the only one. The timing of his words from an England point of view were almost as bad as the goals the national side shipped to turn a possible draw into certain defeat in their Group D meeting in Sao Paulo. Hart needn't worry. This won't come down to penalties. Not this time.

The guys "ready to make it count" were Suarez and his comrades.

With the Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera holding the football in his own box and five minutes remaining, there appeared little prospect of England conceding the losing goal.

Within a matter of seconds, Roy Hodgson's side were 2-1 down courtesy of the opportunism of a Liverpool forward who makes his living by purging defences on a weekly basis in the Premier League.


Suarez's ball striking was fabulous to win the game as he burst through on Hart before walloping the ball into the rigging, but how he wound up there ahead of the England defence remains as mysterious as Glenn Hoddle's interest in faith healing prior to the 1998 finals.

Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka had ages to study the ball coming out of the Sao Paolo air, a typical goalkeeper's clearance that is seen weekend in, weekend out on public pitches around England's green and pleasant lands.

Almost unforgivably, Suarez, the only figure likely to damage them from the clearance, was the only man to anticipate where the ball might end up. He gambled and got it right as Steven Gerrard unwittingly played provider for his Liverpool companion as he jumped above Edinson Cavani only for the ball to race off the back of his head.

Quite farcically, neither Cahill nor Jagielka had spotted the danger. The ball flew over Jagielka and was beyond Hart and in his net before Cahill realised Suarez had set off without him.

It was a galling way for England to lose a second straight match at the finals after Wayne Rooney had restored parity with a tap-in from Glen Johnson's cross on 75 minutes.

It was hard to believe Suarez was undergoing knee surgery only three or four weeks previously. He might not have been fully fit, but he looked as if had never been away.

The mind boggles what he might have done to England if he had been up to speed.

He was smiling as he guided Cavani's cross over Hart and into the corner of the net six minutes prior to half-time with Jagielka again out of position as the cross was arrowed in.

Suarez is a figure who has transformed Uruguay from a team of abject losers in the 3-1 defeat to Costa Rica into a battle-hardened unit.


Five changes were made to the side who suffered in that opening game. They were always likelier to emerge with three points than England.

That is the effect Suarez has on his national side. This is because he one of the top three outstanding forwards in the world behind only Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

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But then again, it was only England's shambolic defence he was facing. In football terms, it is like taking candy from a baby. Cahill, Jagielka, Johnson and Leighton Baines have all been found wanting in the heat of the battle. Harsh, but true.

It is not only the defence to blame. Gerrard and Jordan Henderson have struggled to impose themselves upon the opposition while the wide positions have been a source of concern that was not solved with the deployment of Danny Welbeck and Raheem Sterling there. Uruguay had better and wiser players than England. They should really have been two or three goals clear before Rooney struck for the first time at a World Cup finals.

Rooney was sharp, but sticking him back in the centre negated Sterling's influence on the game out wide. Basically, Hodgson can't get what he wants out of either man on the wings. England are not quite out of the tournament, but they are on life support. They require Italy to complete wins over Costa Rica and Uruguay to have any hope.

They must hope their goal difference winds up good enough for second spot with a win over Costa Rica on Tuesday.

It sounds an unlikely rather than an unfortunate series of events. England are facing elimination in the first round of the finals since 1958.

At least they can glean some comfort from the fact it was not down to bad luck. Only bad play has stunted their growth yet it was all so predictable.

If mistakes keep happening, you cannot keep blaming misfortune.

At some point, the truth eventually confronts us all.


England do not have the defenders, the concentration levels or the basic technique required to succeed at this level. The last 16 was always a tough goal. Too tough when you are error-strewn.

They had conked out at the wrong moment during the 2-1 loss to Italy in Manaus on Saturday as Welbeck failed to track back in the left midfield berth.

Baines then failed to close down Antonio Candreva before he crossed and Cahill lost Mario Balotelli as the Milan striker sent a header crashing into the English net. The list of basic mistakes doesn't end there.

The inquest into England's latest defeat at these World Cup finals will be long and it will be harsh, especially from the tabloids, but Hodgson should not be made a scapegoat for moments outwith his control.

Some hacks have been wondering this morning what would have happened if John Terry had been selected in central defence, but he was around when England were being flogged 4-1 by Germany at the previous finals. Should the gone-but-not-forgotten Matt Upson have been offered up to Suarez too?

Therein lies part of the problem: too many people surrounding England are living in the past. England gave the world football and John Terry was once a solid England captain. So what? The world has moved on, but a rabid range of critics seem immune from a dose of reality. Terry's baggage away from the pitch was enough to make him a non-starter.

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Hodgson felt that England controlled Suarez fairly well. They didn't. Neither did they control the football well enough.

What was also notable was the passion of the Uruguay players. There was an edge, patriotism and intensity to their men that England lacked. Has the Premier League millions made England players soft on such nights? It has had no adverse effect on Suarez who maintains his splendid form for club and country.

You can only play with the hand you're dealt. England's house of cards was always likely to come crashing down around them when you have players who are guilty of ball-watching.

The harsh facts of life dictate that England are where they are in Brazil because that is their level, one well below the vision fellow former winners Italy and Uruguay aspire to at World Cups.

The land of hope and glory is suddenly all about hope and no glory.

Desmond Kane

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