UK & World News

  • 20 June 2014, 5:56

England Must Rely On 'Freakish Good Fortune'

When it comes to England even low expectations can be dashed.

When they were drawn against Italy and Uruguay, FA chairman Greg Dyke ran his finger across his throat.

On a cold, grey night in Sao Paulo, we discovered how right he was, as England suffered a second 2-1 defeat that, barring freakish good fortune, will end their World Cup.

Credit this England side with efficiency if nothing else. Even the inquest can begin before they board the plane home.

This was a desperately disappointing evening for a manager and group of players who, following a perfect, untroubled build-up, believed they could exceed the nation's modest hopes and explore their significant potential.

They were wrong and will not need any help explaining why. When it came to it, against two of the better teams in the tournament, they were simply not good enough.

Mistakes, personal and collective, have undone England in Brazil.

They could ill-afford errors against good teams and they were culpable in their own demise against a Uruguay side that bristled with intent and, in Luis Suarez, boasted the game's outstanding player.

He scarcely needs the sort of help he was offered. His first goal was a masterpiece of movement and the combination with Edison Cavani was world-class, but it stemmed from Steven Gerrard ceding possession and was assisted by the defence standing off.

The second was again inadvertently teed up by Gerrard, whose fluffed header fell into the path of his Liverpool team-mate with fatal consequences. It was doubly cruel on Gerrard and may hasten the end of an international career that might be defined by regrets.

That both Uruguay goals came from a player who has flourished in a Premier League league in which just 30% of the players are English will add weight to the arguments of those who believe the national side's problems are structural.

The numbers are unarguable but this defeat felt simpler than that.

Broadly the manager selected the right players, trusted those in form and encouraged their spirit of adventure.

It is probably not Hodgson's fault that was not enough and having said he will not resign he is likely to keep his job.

There is little appetite within the FA to remove the manager who appears to have players on an upward curve.

That faith might be tested were they to lose for a third time to Costa Rica but should they salvage some pride he is likely to be asked to continue through to Euro 2016.

That will give him two more years with an emerging group of players who have just learnt a very harsh lesson in tournament football. It is not one they will easily forget. To go out of any World Cup is hard.

To go out of this one, an apparently endless festival of attacking football in the country that embodies that spirit, will be unbearable.

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