'Schoolboy' defending leaves England on brink

'Schoolboy' defending leaves England on brink

Friday, June 20, 2014 2:57 pm


Suarez inspired Uruguay against England [via official FIFA facebook page]

Suarez inspired Uruguay against England [via official FIFA facebook page]

RIO DE JANEIRO- England were left to count the cost of defending described as “atrocious” and “schoolboyish” after a 2-1 defeat by Uruguay left them on the brink of World Cup elimination.

While England’s forwards largely met with frustration at Sao Paulo’s Corinthians Arena on Wednesday, it was the performance of Roy Hodgson’s defence that supplied the most cause for alarm.

Both of Luis Suarez’s goals for Uruguay stemmed from English errors, with the Liverpool man ghosting in behind Phil Jagielka to open the scoring and then exploiting a misjudged Steven Gerrard header to poach a late winner.

Although Suarez’s opener also owed much to a delightful cross from Edinson Cavani, his second goal came after a simple long kick from goalkeeper Fernando Muslera was not dealt with.

For a country once renowned for the quality of its centre-backs — from Bobby Moore, emblem of the 1966 World Cup triumph, via the blood-soaked Terry Butcher to the lionhearted John Terry — it was a particularly galling way to be beaten.

Another former England centre-back, Rio Ferdinand, was scathing in his criticism of his old team-mates’ defending, telling the BBC: “The defending was nightmarish, especially for Uruguay’s second goal.

“It came from just a straight ball up the pitch from the goalkeeper and it was schoolboyish from England’s point of view. You cannot let that happen.”

Another England old boy, former winger Chris Waddle, branded the defensive display “atrocious”, while former captain Alan Shearer described it as a “huge concern”.

– ‘Sunday league’ defending –

“For the first goal, Glen Johnson has got to stop Edinson Cavani’s cross, but Luis Suarez was also free and running straight down the middle to meet it,” said the former Newcastle United number nine.

“Once Suarez can see Phil Jagielka’s back and his shirt number, then the England defender is in trouble because he cannot see him.

“For the second goal, if that happened on a Sunday morning in the park, then the manager on the sidelines would be disappointed.”

England’s defeat followed a similarly shaky defensive display in their 2-1 loss to Italy, when inattention at a corner cost them the opening goal and Leighton Baines was beaten too easily in the build-up to Mario Balotelli’s winner.

With Terry and Ferdinand having both retired from international duty, this World Cup represents the first time in 12 years that England had gone to an international tournament without either player.

But while the absence of an authoritative centre-back against Uruguay was glaring, England were picked apart with even greater ease by Germany at the 2010 World Cup when Terry was marshalling the back four.

For all their shortcomings, Everton’s Jagielka and Chelsea’s Gary Cahill remain the most obvious candidates to form England’s central defence, and they had started 12 games together without losing prior to the World Cup.

In reserve, Hodgson has only Phil Jones and Chris Smalling, who both emerged diminished from a desperate season with Manchester United, while Everton’s John Stones and Cardiff City’s Steven Caulker — neither of whom were selected — remain raw.

Hodgson will demand a vastly improved defensive performance against Costa Rica on Tuesday, but the damage may have already been done.



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