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World Cup 2014
 
OUR MAN IN BRAZIL

World Cup 2014: Uruguay vs England; Luis Suarez scored the credibility he craved in a win over England, leaving Wayne Rooney in the dust

Uruguay forward sinks England, and exposes gulf in class with Rooney

Published on Jun 21, 2014 10:20 AM
 

It was only ever going to be about those two. The battle in Sao Paulo between Uruguay and England, the under-achievers in Group D, will be remembered as the duel between Luis Suarez and Wayne Rooney.

Even when the line-ups were announced at the Sao Paulo Arena, Suarez and Rooney's names were the ones that got the 62,575-strong crowd going.

Uruguay fans, who mainly occupied one end of the stadium, cheered their hero's return. England fans, who were outnumbered two to one, did their best to lift their voices for their No. 10, but found themselves overwhelmed by boos and hisses.

On an unusually cold 14 deg C Brazilian evening, Suarez proved too hot for England and Rooney even though the temperature should have suited the Scouser.

He scored twice to Rooney's lone breakthrough as England, 1-2 losers, were pushed closer to the exit door at World Cup 2014.

"I dreamt this," said Suarez of his role in breaking the hearts of the English at the stadium and those watching on television around the world.

"I enjoyed this moment, because of all I suffered, the criticism I received. So, there you go."

It was a tie that had plenty of say in the World Cup future of two highly-fancied teams. In a match pitting 11 against 11, inevitably the focus narrowed to just the two protagonists.

Suarez went into the match with a point to prove. Not only was he keen to reinforce his fitness after an injury that ruled him out of Uruguay's opening loss to Costa Rica, he also wanted to erase the memory of the last World Cup, when he infamously blocked a goal-bound header with his hands to deny Ghana a spot in the final four.

Rooney, with zero goals in nine World Cup Finals games, also wanted to make a point. Branded one of the reasons for England's opening defeat by Italy, he was eager to shut the critics up.

Within five minutes, Suarez had the audacity to test Joe Hart in the England goal direct from a corner. Rooney responded by curling a free kick just inches over Uruguay's goal.

Just after the 30-minute mark, Rooney went even closer when he headed Steven Gerrard's free kick onto the crossbar from barely a metre out. But the English, of all people, should know Suarez best. Even though English football's Player of the Year was obviously not fully fit, even a 75 per cent ready Suarez can still make a team pay for any mistakes. 

And the Liverpool hit-man did just that six minutes before the break.

Part of Suarez's strength lies in his ability to lose defenders. And as Edinson Cavani floated a cross to the far post, Phil Jagielka's inability to track the Uruguayan allowed him just enough time and space to guide a header past Hart.

The duel continued in the second half, with Suarez dragging a shot wide when put through on goal. Then in the 54th minute, it was Rooney's turn to rue a missed opportunity as he shot straight at Fernando Muslera from three metres out.

But the goal he had been waiting eight years and 10 games for finally arrived in the 75th minute and it was English tenacity that created the goal.

Glen Johnson sprinted and tackled his way through to send a cross for Rooney to tap in, giving him the easiest but most significant goal of his England career.

But Suarez was not done. And when Muslera's goal kick was cruelly back-headed into his path by Liverpool team- mate Gerrard, Suarez punished the English with a clinical finish to seal victory five minutes from time.

Suarez, who broke down in a post-match interview, later revealed that he was motivated by England manager Roy Hodgson's comments that he was not a world-class player in comparison to Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

Ironically, it is this "I'll prove you wrong" mentality that may indeed make him even better than Ronaldo and Messi when the chips are down.  

"The England coach said I was a proven Premier League player, but not world class," said the man of the match. "So there is the answer. Before the game too many people in England laughed about my attitude. This is a very good time for me. I want to see what they think now."

It is perhaps apt that England's undoing at yet another World Cup comes from within - in this case a familiar face who plays in their league. It sums up this campaign where - despite the presence of some of the most exciting young English talent in years - the lack of courage to introduce new faces in favour of under-performing seniors has come back to bite them. England just do not seem to know how to get the best out of their own players, and get the better of foreign players they know.

marclim@sph.com.sg

Twitter: @STmarclim

Background story

TAKE THAT, ROY

The England coach said I was a proven Premier League player, but not world class. So there is the answer. Before the game too many people in England laughed about my attitude. This is a very good time for me. I want to see what they think now.

– Luis Suarez’s riposte to England manager Roy Hodgson’s assessment of the striker


The match in numbers

  • Uruguay completed just 59.2 per cent of their passes against England - the worst accuracy rate by a winning team since 1962.
  • It was Uruguay's first win over a European side in normal time since 1966, when they beat France 2-1.
  • Uruguay have won every World Cup match in which Luis Suarez scored.
  • Suarez has now scored six goals in six career meetings against Phil Jagielka.
  • This is the first time England have lost back-to-back World Cup matches since 1950.
  • No team who lost their first two group matches have progressed to the knockout stage.
  • England advanced to the knockout stage in their last 10 World Cup appearances.
  • Wayne Rooney needed 759 minutes to net his first World Cup goal. He scored on his 29th shot.
  • England goalkeeper Joe Hart has saved just one of six shots on target.

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