Football

Suarez exposes england's soft underbelly

FLAT-FOOTED: Gary Cahill (top) was caught wanting by two-goal hero Luis Suarez (above). PHOTOS: AFP, REUTERS

The words "England's defensive frailties" is probably the favourite phrase for the British journalists and the 2-1 loss to Uruguay at the World Cup yesterday morning (Singapore time) underlined why.

Man-of-the-match Luis Suarez, back from injury and the focus of intense media attention in the build-up to a game both sides desperately needed to win, scored twice to put England on the brink of elimination from Group D.

Both goals underlined his attacking brilliance - peeling off a defender for a well directed header in the first half, and rifling an angled shot past Joe Hart after a speedy run on goal in the second. And he was not even fully fit.

But England will feel both goals could have been prevented.

For the first, central defender Phil Jagielka allowed the prolific striker to lose him and get a free header on goal.

That would have been doubly depressing for England manager Roy Hodgson because Jagielka's partner in central defence, Gary Cahill, was beaten by the same trick in the first match against Italy last week when Mario Balotelli headed their winner.

The second goal was more calamitous.

A clearance from Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera brushed England captain Steven Gerrard's head, ensuring that Suarez beyond him was onside.

This time it was Cahill who was flat-footed and ignoring the most basic rules of centre-back play, leaving the most deadly finisher in the English Premier League a free run on goal, and his sizzling strike was simply too hot for Hart to handle.

Jagielka did not try to paper over the cracks.

"We are very disappointed as defenders, that is the last thing you want to see from a punt down the field," he said after the match.

Hodgson, naturally, looked for positives in defeat, which came despite England having 62 per cent of possession and eight shots on goal to Uruguay's six.

"I thought we controlled Suarez well in general play, he did very well to get away to the back post for the first goal but frankly for long periods of the game we kept him quiet," he said.

That will be little comfort to the thousands of England fans in fine voice at the boisterous Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo and millions more tuning in at home.

England were given the benefit of the doubt by pundits and the public after losing 2-1 in their opening game to Italy.

A youthful side showed plenty of attacking promise, raising hopes that they would be well placed to expose a slower Uruguay team who had been outclassed by unfancied Costa Rica 3-1 in the first round of matches.

The defeat by Uruguay is unlikely to be so easily forgiven.

England are bottom of their group without a point, while Costa Rica, Italy and Uruguay all have three.

Italy play their second match against Costa Rica this morning (Singapore time), meaning there is a mathematical chance England could still reach the next round. All will become clear on Tuesday, but English hopes are fading fast.- Reuters.

World Cup