World Cup 2014: Suárez double edges England towards World Cup exit

Although England are still mathematically capable of qualifying if results improbably fall their way, the familiar inquest now begins

England's World Cup campaign has barely begun but is already almost over, their hopes in Brazil left hanging by a gossamer thin thread by Luis Suárez.

Even half fit, the Uruguay striker tormented England and their captain, his good friend Steven Gerrard, with the goals that secured a 2-1 victory.

Following a mistake by Gerrard, he fired home the winner with just five minutes left, sparking wild celebrations among the Uruguayan fans.

He was in a wheelchair a month ago after injuring his knee and said afterwards his goals were revenge for the criticism he had received from "too many people in England". "I'm enjoying this moment, because of all I suffered, the criticism I received," said Suárez.

While Suárez cried tears of joy, England were condemned to the gloom and recriminations of their worst ever start to a World Cup campaign.

Although they are still mathematically capable of qualifying if results fall their way – Italy need to win their remaining matches and England convincingly defeat Costa Rica – the familiar inquest will now begin.

While sections of the public and the press may call for Roy Hodgson's head, there appears to be little appetite at the FA to get rid of the England manager. Hodgson said afterwards he was "bitterly disappointed" but had "no intention" of resigning, however the final match went.

The microscopic attention to detail of the FA's pre-tournament training camps had not, in the end, helped. Not the iPods loaded with tactical instructions, nor the recovery drinks individually tailored to each player. Not the warm-weather training to cope with the heat, nor the lauded sports psychiatrist, Dr Steve Peters, hired to help the players control their "inner chimp".

From the moment the Uruguayans belted out the national anthem and the camera panned across the wan faces of the England players, the pattern was set. Wayne Rooney, who had hit the bar and missed a gilt-edged chance, had converted a Glen Johnson cross with 15 minutes left to equalise Suárez's first half goal and transform the mood. But the Liverpool striker that football fans have grown to love and hate, often at the same time, had the last laugh.

And if the feeling of desolation and frustration was familiar, it had settled over England and their fans earlier than anyone had dared anticipate. An estimated 9,000 England fans in the stands of the Arena de São Paulo and millions more watching at home had told themselves that this time it would be different; that English hopes would not be overinflated and Hodgson's young side given time to breathe and grow. But no one wanted to be thinking about going home after just two matches.

For the first of Suárez's two goals, Paris St Germain's Edison Cavani found himself in space and, bisecting six English defenders, lofted a superb, teasing cross beyond Phil Jagielka for Suárez to guide home with his head.

He celebrated by running to the team doctor, Alberto Pan, who had nursed him back from injury. The sea of Uruguayan fans bounced up and down, joyously singing: "He who doesn't jump is an Englishman."

Following Rooney's equaliser, England looked like they might live to fight another day. But then came Suárez and the decisive swing of his right boot. "If you go out in the group stage, it will be a very personal low for myself and the team," admitted a downcast Gerrard afterwards.

A tense, nervy encounter that saw the ball ricocheting between players as if they were in a pinball machine created a very different mood from the freewheeling opening match with Italy. Then, England had felt like a breath of fresh air as Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge tore into the Italian defence.

After the heat of the jungle in Manaus, the temperature here was a chilly 15C at kickoff under leaden skies. And in São Paulo, it was as though England were haunted by memories of exits past.

The match, like the buildup, coalesced around the contrasting fortunes of two men: Suárez and Rooney. The Uruguay striker had in the space of a season gone from the Premier League's vilified villain – he received a hefty ban for racially abusing an opponent and another for biting a Chelsea player – to the footballer of the year.

But the national hero had been battling to recover from his knee injury and didn't feature in his side's opening defeat to Costa Rica.

Rooney, who had yet to score for England at a World Cup, had been the topic of endless conjecture over his best position. He broke his World Cup duck but, at the end, only Suárez was beaming.

If the climate was more Crewe than Copacabana, then the football felt familiar too. The atmosphere between two sides featuring players familiar to one another felt like an action-packed, attritional English match rather than the end-to-end counterattacking encounters that have so far enriched a wonderful tournament.

It is one that, in all likelihood, will now continue without England's travelling circus.


Owen Gibson, Arena de São Paulo

The GuardianTramp

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