England Expects - The last 20 minutes will be the key

The Spanish juggenaut crashed yesterday, time for the England mini bus to sneak a tyre into the next round today.

England Expects - The last 20 minutes will be the key


A shock to some but predicted in my pre-tournament Group analysis the World and Double European Champions are out of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. This was a tournament to far for an ageing set of players and if truth be told they looked shattered after 30 minutes.

Unless you are from this climate you simply can't play old men and expect them to have the legs, in that respect Roy Hodgson has done the right thing picking a young squad in preparation for the European Championships and the next World Cup.

Uruguay today and while they are South American they are nothing to be feared. As they admit themselves they play an 8-2 formation. The eight do all the work and Edinson Cavani and Luis Suárez do the rest. The back to Suárez is 35 year-old Diego Forlán who plays for Cerezo Osaka in Japan.

The media and especially the daft TV presenters seem to have an obsession with Luis Suárez as if he is superhuman or something. Uruguay lost to Costa Rica, the time when they needed him, he wasn't even fit enough to come off the bench. After his surgery he is not fully match fit and in these conditions you have to be.

I'm delighted they are going to pick him because if we can't play against 10 men and a half fit Suárez we don't deserve to be there. As a unit and a central defensive pairing the defence and Jagielka and Cahill in particular need to ensure they don't get caught one-on-one with him.

Any defender who wants to call himself a defender should be able to keep him in his pocket, but then of course we don't have defenders there, we have Jagielka and Cahill. To be fair to Cahill he was one of our better players against Italy and had Johnson been nowhere to be seen in defence then Balotelli would not have had the easy header for their winner.

The BBC claim former Republic of Ireland and Liverpool central defender Mark Lawrenson is a sport expert, I'd question that myself, but he says:

"Much has been made of the damage that Luis Suárez can do to England, but he has not played since 11 May and, although he might now be injury free, he can be nowhere near match fit.

"I am backing England to win, and I don't think they have got to change too much from their defeat by Italy, although I would play Wayne Rooney in the number 10 position because you want his quality involved in crucial areas.

"England need to switch on more when they don't have the ball but, against Italy, they played it around nicely, did not lump it and carried a real attacking threat. I still think they will get out of the group."

Well he and I agree over the Liverpool striker and England have been training as we all know with Rooney playing number 10 and Raheem Stirling playing on the right-wing, with Danny Welbeck on the left.

I'd expect Frank Lampard to come on in this game for Steven Gerrard in the second half. Two games in this heat is going to take it out of the Liverpool captain so the fresh legs and experience of Lampard for the last 30 minutes may be vital in the holding role, assuming England are not losing of course.

This England team is all about attack, as Pirlo accurately said after his Italy had beaten us, they were what we expected, the attack is strong, the midfield moderate, the defence weak.

Diego Godín is a central defender who knows how to defend. He has just won the Spanish La Liga title with Atlético Madrid and finished runner-up in the Champions League, a minute away from winning it until that dramatic late goal. That success was built on solid defence, teamwork and breakaway attacks. Defenders who know how to soak up attacks and not panic are priceless, something Spurs missed last season where we saw mistake after mistake when under pressure.

The experienced duo of Lampard and Gerrard were asked by Hodgson to speak to the players after the Italy defeat to focus the minds of the players to the job still to do.

"It wasn't to scare any of the lads but a wake-up call to everyone - staff and players.

"I have had that feeling of going out of a major tournament. I know what that feeling is about and that is the feeling I don't want come Friday morning.

"That is the reality of where we are. We need everyone focused and right on it to perform individually and collectively on Thursday otherwise it will be a terrible, long summer."

Having gone out on penalties to Portugal in the 2006 World Cup in Germany and then that disaster to Germany in South Africa, both Lampard and Gerrard know the pain of leaving a World Cup. There are a lot of youngsters in the side who haven't experienced that. In sport the importance of games is not a negative but a positive. The more important the game the less chance of complacency so Gerrard made sure they knew the importance of this game before it is too late.

 "A lot of people in the dressing room already know that. But we have a few young lads and it was important for them to realise what is at stake and how important this game is.

"We all need to leave everything on that pitch. If a defeat was to happen it is probably the most difficult place to be as a footballer.

"There is no hiding place for a player when you go out of a tournament. You go home earlier than you expect. It can be tough as a player and it can take an awful long time to get over it."

The England approach has been a refreshing one, play to our strengths, our attack. In qualifying we have been poor and needed Rooney to rescue us but here we attacked against Italy in an encouraging performance, if intimately a defeat.

Roy Hodgson is making all the right noises about continuing that policy, although it was disguised as caution. 

"We're not going to put any of our weapons down. Any weapon we've got we are going to try to use.

"Against Italy we just set out to play the game we thought we wanted to play. We didn't say 'right, today we're going all-out attack'.

"We certainly won't be saying on Thursday 'we're going all-out defence', but it is very important at this level that you get both aspects right - that when we get the ball we use it, and we use the players we've got who can hurt the opposition." 

 "It is knockout football, even though it is the group stage. Any team that's lost its first game is entering a knockout stage even in the groups.

"I'm certain Uruguay aren't 100% happy with that performance against Costa Rica, but we have so many other videos of Uruguay and so many other recent performances where they have actually been very good.

"We want to stay in the competition, and to stay in the competition we've got to get results in the next two games.

"No-one's going to run away from that but worrying about it is not going to change anything before the game.

"What we worry about is making certain we are right for the game and when the referee blows his whistle we are in the best condition to play and we have got the right players on the field and those players feel very confident we can win the game."

Among England's staff is Gary Neville who has shown himself to be the best pundit on TV. He is part of Roy Hodgson's coaching staff and has seen and done it all. Neville knows this is no pushover.

"You look at Uruguay and you think that Edinson Cavani, Suarez, Diego Forlan, Christian Stuani, Cristian Rodriguez and Gaston Ramirez have got lots of attacking talent.

 "Look at Suarez. You leave him one-on-one with your defender and you're in trouble.

"In some ways this game could be decided by the obvious: how many times can you get the ball into dangerous positions, into the feet, turned in on goal, to our best players and Uruguay's best players?"


Caution at the back with concentration not to get caught in one-on-one situations, then deliver the ball as quickly as possible to our attacking players. Glen Johnson and Leighton Baines are a worry though. They both love to attack and are better going forward than they are as defenders but in South America, getting back takes more out of you, you have to judge the right time to go and the right time to leave it to others.

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Gary Neville was a right-back himself, an England and Manchester United stalwart. he will have been emphasising to Leighton Baines in particular the need for selecting your moments where you can make the most damage, overlapping for the sake of it will have a fitness effect later on.

Gerrard's influence will be vital because you don't want to have worn yourself out as a defender with 20 minutes still to go. It will affect your concentration, your reactions and that's when mistakes happen and attackers have the upper hand.

I think the twp full-backs are going to be key to England winning. If they man manage their game well England have chances but if they don't then England may be in trouble wide in the last 20 minutes. Uruguay attack from wide rather than central, Cavani is a centre-forward who effectively plays wide and cuts in, we have seen Suárez do the same for Liverpool. This is the key battle that will decide the game for me.

In this heat, although tonight is expected to be cooler, there is still humidity that spas you as Spain discovered. It's a tournament where late goals are to be expected, more so that at most tournaments.

Let's hope our young legs are causing the opposition problems in that last 20 minutes and England are not only winning but make the game safe.

England expects that every man will do his duty - Horatio Nelson



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