England cheering for Italy after Suarez, Uruguay put them on the ropes
Uruguay's Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring his second goal against England during World Cup action at the Corinthians arena in Sao Paulo on Thursday, June 19, 2014. (Tony Gentile/Reuters)
SAO PAULO - The English love all sorts of things Italian.
Italian soccer is usually not one of them.
That all changed Thursday. Italian soccer moved swiftly past pasta, Pavarotti, Pisa and polenta on the English what-I-love-that’s-Italian list.
Why? If England wants to remain in the World Cup in Brazil, they will only do so by the good graces of Italian soccer.
Uruguay put England on the brink of elimination from the tournament Thursday, getting a late goal from Liverpool forward Luis Suarez for a 2-1 victory. Suarez, who returned from injury for this game, scored both goals for Uruguay.
Two weeks ago, Suarez was in a wheelchair. Thursday, he may have buried the country where he collects his paycheque.
Uruguay responded proudly from a stunning 3-1 defeat to Costa Rica in their opening game.
As for Jolly Old England, well, it was far from jolly. England looked to steal a draw Thursday after the fates finally smiled on hard-luck Wayne Rooney, who scored his first World Cup goal in the 75th minute.
But fate is indeed fickle and 10 minutes later a goal kick ricocheted off the head of Steven Gerrard to Suarez behind the English defence. From a tight angle, Suarez ripped a screamer into the top of the net past England keeper Joe Hart.
It was the ultimate scorers’ goal, a poacher finding his prey and dispatching it with a stunning shot.
With the loss, England has no points in two games while fellow Group D sides Italy, Costa Rica and Uruguay have three each. Italy and Costa Rica play their second group game Friday.
For England to live, Italy must beat both Costa Rica and Uruguay. England would then have to beat Costa Rica by two goals. If all that happens, England would be through to the next round on goal differential.
Italian striker Mario Balotelli got into the swing of things. He says he expects the English to be appreciative.
He tweeted, “if we beat Costa Rica I want a kiss, obviously on the cheek, from the U.K. Queen.”
No one in England was laughing. The loss was a kick in the stomach for the English.
The idea the stars can align for England is not Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy unbelievable but its getting pretty close.
England coach Roy Hodgson looked like he’d lost his best friend at the post-game press conference. He didn’t look as if he believed his club still had a chance.
“What do you want me to say?” Hodgson said several times.
“I don’t know what to say,” he said on another occasion.
It was the kind of game that would leave the English speechless.
Hodgson was asked what he thought would happen regardless of results the rest of the tournament.
“I see a team that’s making progress but results are everything and both results were negative,” Hodgson said.
England may be getting better but it’s not enough. They continue to fail in key situations. They don’t make the big play when it’s there to be made.
Rooney had a sitter directly in front of the Uruguay goal in the second half for the tie and he drove it right at goalkeeper Fernando Muslera.
“We’ve seen (Suarez) a lot more active because he’s just come back from injury. But he had two chances and he took them both,” Hodgson said.
Even on the winner, Hodgson said that despite the flick by Gerrard there was no way Suarez should have gotten behind the last two defenders.
Another key moment and another failure by England.
“The dressing room is a quiet dressing room, a frustrated dressing room,” said Hart. “We’ve come to Brazil and given everything we have.”
Not enough it seems.
It’s the failure to produce in key situations that make a difference in tournaments like the World Cup.
After Suarez was substituted, he was shown on the bench in tears absolutely over the moon at his performance, one that was magnificent considering its timeliness and the pressure Uruguay were under.
It screamed that this is how teams who believe they are potential World Cup winners produce when the lights are on and the world is watching.
Instead, come Friday, England will only be screaming “Forza Italia.”