England to reignite their hopes by ending those of Uruguay.
The decision to seed Uruguay, who had to come through a play-off to qualify for the finals, looked a strange one at the time and that was reinforced by their opening defeat against supposed Group D underdogs Costa Rica.
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The whole country will be hoping that Luis Suarez is declared fit to face England as, without him, Oscar Tabarez’ men look booked on an early flight home. Last season’s Premier League top scorer is the focal point of their attacking play and his knowledge of England’s defenders will be vital if his team are to recover from an early setback.
Napoli’s Edinson Cavani is a class act but needs support up front as Diego Forlan is four years older than when starring in South Africa and is well past his sell-by date.
The same can probably be said of the majority of the Uruguay back-line; West-Brom reserve Diego Lugano is 33 and Diego Godin and Martin Caceres are almost devoid of pace. Maxi Pereira is experienced but is suspended for the England game following his sending off against Costa Rica and this is a match that Uruguay must realistically win to have any chance of progress with their toughest test on paper, against Italy, to come.
In the end, England didn’t have the experience to come back a second time against the Italians in Manaus but Roy Hodgson’s youngsters should take great heart for their performance and, with better finishing, would probably have got the draw their overall play deserve.
That sounds like a funny thing to say when the opposition has hit the woodwork twice as well as scoring a couple but Joe Hart had little else to do and Raheem Sterling has certainly arrived on the world stage. There were also excellent performances, too, from Danny Welbeck and Jordan Henderson.
Hodgson’s dilemma is whether to stick with playing Wayne Rooney out of position on the left wing. The Manchester United striker did supply the pass from which Daniel Sturridge scored but disappointed otherwise and missed a glorious opportunity to equalise. If Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is fit, Rooney’s position in the team may well be under threat.
Pace might be the key to this vital encounter. Both teams have to win so it should be open and that is likely to suit England far more than their opponents. Suarez will play but can’t possibly be match fit and Uruguay will suffer as a result. England are 11/8 to win and are 4/1 to triumph on the handicap conceding a goal start.
The match kicks off at 8pm UK time on Thursday June 19th at the Arena de Sao Paolo, Sao Paolo.