Pitiful Gerrard and poor England
Skipper's mistakes cost club and country, but England don't deserve sympathy
(Luis Suarez 39, 85)
(Wayne Rooney 75)
The Beautiful Game has never been this sadistically cruel.
Steven Gerrard cost his club. Now he has cost his country.
Such a dignified, distinguished servant does not deserve to be punished this way twice, but sport is not renowned for its sense of justice.
His slip for Liverpool broke his heart. His mistake for England this morning (Singapore time) shattered it into a thousand pieces.
In their critical Group D clash in Sao Paulo, the Three Lions were level with Uruguay when goalkeeper Fernando Muslera sent a hopeful punt upfield.
It was a routine clearance for the England skipper.
But fate intervened to crush a proud man's soul twice in as many months.
His misjudged header inadvertently provided a perfect pass for an overlapping striker.
But not just any striker, it was that striker; Uruguay's pantomime villain, Gerrard's club-mate and friend at Liverpool.
And his friend crushed him. Luis Suarez broke away to slam in his second of the contest. He defeated the English. He destroyed his closest friend in English football.
Suarez broke down in tears at the final whistle. Joy overwhelmed him. Gerrard will shed his tears in private; the English way.
He didn't deserve this. But perhaps England did.
In truth, Gerrard's mistake didn't entirely consign Roy Hodgson's men to their second consecutive defeat in the group stages for the first time in World Cup history.
When the moment came to resurrect their campaign, to prove they belonged at the tournament's top table, to justify the omnipresent hype, they blew it.
The indomitable Three Lions turned into rabbits in the headlights.
Sympathy belongs to Gerrard. But the England side will be largely spared.
Their World Cup journey is likely to come to a premature end.
Gerrard's header was the final nail in the coffin, but his teammates and manager conspired to build the coffin. They were the architects of their own downfall.
They ran out with the same attacking line-up as Manaus, but left the dynamism somewhere along the Amazon.
The chilly Sao Paulo air dropped to below 15 deg C by kick-off, but the Three Lions got cold feet. They froze.
Second to the ball and often third-rate in possession, the game drifted away from England on a shivering breeze.
For all the incessant hyperbole that has surrounded Hodgson's attacking template, which landed in his lap after being incubated on the Liverpool training ground, his 4-2-3-1 formation lacked any notable enterprise for much of the game.
Positions impress on a whiteboard. But they are meaningless without movement. The Three Lions were static at times, even sterile, and the Uruguayans gobbled up the space like hungry hippos.
Nicolas Lodeiro, playing behind Suarez and Edinson Cavani, picked pockets with the skilful precision of the Artful Dodger, displaying the kind of intelligent movement seemingly beyond the labouring Englishmen.
Further ahead, Cavani dropped between the lines and was granted the freedom of the Arena Corinthians.
From right to left, he roamed. He was a walking warning England refused to heed.
Gary Cahill and Jordan Henderson were caught between a rock and a hard place, unsure whether to stick or twist, allowing the Paris St Germain striker the time to play his winning hand.
In the 39th minute, he slipped out to the left while Glen Johnson enjoyed a mid-afternoon snooze and plonked a perfect cross onto the head of the so-called injured striker.
Suarez did the rest. Of course he did.
A half-fit Uruguayan striker scored his solitary first-half chance. A fully-fit Rooney missed his from two metres under the crossbar.
England's much-maligned striker made amends in the second half, sliding in Johnson's cross to finally end his protracted World Cup Finals goal drought.
From that moment, the Three Lions enjoyed their only dominant period of the game, thanks largely to the introduction of Ross Barkley.
Like in Manaus, his injection of pace and energy in central midfield only underscored what was lacking before with Rooney plodding and Danny Welbeck and Raheem Sterling strangely subdued.
But then, none of the England players covered himself in glory. Much has been made of the attacking formation, but it has been poorly executed in two games and England, barring a miracle, are going home.
The Three Lions might be a youthful work in progress, but Uruguay had an unfit striker leading the line, a weakened defence and their inspirational skipper missing.
The fanciful notion that England are a lively, inventive forward line hampered by a brittle backline proved to be a fallacy.
They lacked inspiration both on the pitch and in the dugout.
When a positive substitution was made in the second half, it was all too little too late.
Hodgson cut an irritable, impatient figure in the press conference, which was understandable perhaps, but the questions being asked were no less legitimate.
An England team that promised so much has once again delivered so little.
It's going to be a long summer for Hodgson and his sputtering starlets. They won't want to remember this World Cup.
Gerrard will never be able to forget it.
The first one, (Suarez) peeled off onto the back post, it’s a fantastic ball by (Edinson) Cavani... The second one I’ve tried to get good contact on the ball and I haven’t...
— England captain Steven Gerrard regrets his error that leads to Luis Suarez’s winner
I’m bitterly disappointed, of course, but I don’t feel I need to resign... if the FA thinks I’m not the right man...
— England manager Roy Hodgson