England…Oh, England. The four-yearly cries of agony have come much earlier this time around with the World Cup now offering just a consolation game against Costa Rica for England to run through before boarding the plane home. The team once again gave us brief, glorious hope when Wayne Rooney broke his World Cup duck on Thursday evening by equalising Luis Suarez’s opener and for a few minutes breathed fresh life into the campaign.
But that man Suarez wasn’t finished yet and the goal that we’ll see over and over again – alongside Beckham’s kick, Ronaldo’s wink and Ronaldinho’s free kick that baffled David Seaman – was the bullet heard around the country. Uruguay had come back from a threat that looked like we may even nick a win and to send us into despair.
England were not close to the standard of the Italy defeat with a nervy start leading to Suarez’s first goal and not enough going forward to suggest that we could break down their stubborn resistence. You once again got the feeling that we were susceptible to the incredible talents of the man who is so much more than a pantomime villain on these shores. Suarez’s gifting sets him apart on the football pitch…if only it stretched to a grounded personality that complemented it. Had Lionel Messi been the one to use his extra yard of pace and thought to beat us there I wouldn’t have thought there would be half as much frustration come Friday morning.
As it is, though, we are left to lick our considerable wounds. No matter how many people have played with or against Suarez you just can’t plan completely for dealing with him and the England defence were simply not good enough to handle him for ninety minutes. At the back is where many of our problems remain and this system needs a little adjustment to ensure that we go into (hopefully!) the next major competition with practiced and competent shielding for our biggest Achilles heel.
Costa Rica becomes a game where we could really do with giving “the kids” a fair crack of the whip. There’s nothing to play for and nothing at stake for us and this is surely as good a time as any to unleash a Ross Barkley or to blood a Luke Shaw at the top level. If any good can come from a game like this then setting ground work for the upcoming qualifying campaign for France 2016 is it.
Keeping Roy Hodgson in the top job is best for all parties despite this exit. We’ve been placed in a treacherous group and had we been lucky enough to be slotted into the type of group that we’ve had before I’m almost certain we’d all be sat here singing the praises of our vibrant national side. Roy deserves a chance to bring these young lads through the next qualifying campaign and the European Championships themselves.
Standing in our way in that respect are Switzerland, Slovenia, Estonia, Lithuania and San Marino. With more teams qualifying this time it means that the first, second and some third placed finished qualify direct to the finals and the next best eight teams go to the playoffs so if we don’t end up doing this all again in France then something has gone horribly wrong!
I didn’t think I’d be looking towards that so soon and before we’d even played our third group game but that’s how we stand with plenty of questions to be answered in the coming months. Now all we can do is enjoy this magnificent competition which is throwing up results that we can only be envious of.
After that, we can start to worry about the Cobblers again…whisper is quietly but we play our first friendly even before the World Cup Final takes place…