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Jack: Average England exposed by genuine world class talent

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Kristian Jack
6/19/2014 9:02:29 PM
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Day 8 in 100 words or less

The competitive group C played out their second games and it became evidently clear that Colombia are the class of that bunch as they beat Ivory Coast, while Japan and Greece played out a 0-0 stalemate.

It was a day that saw England slump off a World Cup field once again battered and bruised. This time there was no red card to wonder about, no goalkeeping error or individual mistake. They were thoroughly beaten by something they have nothing of – genuine world class ability.

England 1-2 Uruguay

After every major international tournament, UEFA releases a technical report that focuses on many things including the tactical trends and the direction the game is going.

Roy Hodgson was part of that committee after 1996, and up to becoming England manager, as a match analyst.

After Euro 2012 he spoke at length about possession, midfield domination, the importance of finding space, getting full backs high, starting transitions from the attack and seemed to have a very good idea of where the game was headed.

However, no matter how many words he spoke, he couldn't shake the reputation of being a cautious coach.

After his team lost 2-1 to Italy, Hodgson was praised in the press for picking youngsters with pace who were brave to attack. The issue with this was that it was all based around counter-attacking. The moment the opposition got the lead, and therefore defended deeper, England couldn't break them down.

Next up was Uruguay on Thursday. This was a perfect test of England and Hodgson's credentials. Uruguay are not a team that has success based on possession. They defeated teams in South Africa on the counter, defending deep with two banks and letting their front two do the damage. It was the same in Copa America 2011, when they famously beat Argentina at home with 10-men, on the way to lifting the trophy.

England had a dangerous opponent staring them down, without question, but also one that would let them have the ball. With it, England were clueless. Slow in possession, poor in positioning and unconvincing in their movement. With the 'Hodgson handbrake' on, they leisurely played their way through the first-half until they were knocked to the ground with a sucker punch.

Counter attack…in behind Steven Gerrard, out to Edinson Cavani, whose majestic ball was headed home by Luis Suarez. Who else?

England spent 36 minutes behind, before Wayne Rooney's late run in the box ended his goal scoring streak, and it was during this time that it was evidently clear that Hodgson remains a significant problem for England.

Sure, it is clear this England team is very average but there was no reason for them to be average and outnumbered in central midfield. For one, the fact that their defenders are average speaks to the need for more protection.

After playing Denmark in March it seemed he would play 4-3-3. It would be a shape that could solve many problems. Wayne Rooney, not trusted to play as a 10, could have gone up top and Gerrard, badly in need of support around him, would be more comfortable. Centre-backs could then split and full backs could be progressive.

Instead, the full backs were very poor, aside from Glen Johnson's one assist, and the centre-backs were not much better, clearly not helping Gerrard as Suarez smashed home the winner.

You could go through each player and say he wasn't good enough, but the style certainly didn't help them. As the club game evolves into a progressive, attack-minded style, with no midfield superiority and intelligence, England were left looking like a team decades behind, once again.

Despite being humbled by old enemies in Suarez and Mario Balotelli inside a week, the pain isn't over for the English and when Italy defeats Costa Rica on Friday the nation will likely spend the next three days convincing themselves that their next destination could be the last 16.

The truth is, no matter when England are put out of their misery, they will not have learned a great deal about their players. Many already knew their limitations. We just didn't expect their own manager to highlight them for us.

Colombia 2-1 Ivory Coast

Colombia were not great, but a couple of their players were and that was enough.

In Abel Aguilar and Carlos Sanchez, they have two holders who are positionally very good because the centre-backs behind them sit deep, giving them plenty of work to do.

Colombia's back six is very organized even though Pablo Armero is clearly the weak link at left back. Mario Yepes, sitting deep with most attacks in front of him, was superb.

In front of them all, though, are four positions who have now all been good, in periods at this World Cup. Victor Ibarbo and Teo Gutierrez were quiet against Ivory Coast but good against Greece, Juan Cuadrado has been excellent in both games and James Rodriguez has been sensational in both.

The front four are lethal in their speed when they attack and are a joy to watch. Ibarbo was replaced by the lovely young playmaker, Juan Quintero, and he came inside more and gave the side another ball treasurer in and around Rodriguez.

The Monaco man, however, was on a different level to anyone. He chased a seemingly lost cause to play in an uncomfortable ball to handle for the Ivorian defence and from that subsequent corner he headed home a thunderbolt.

He was involved in the transition on the second goal, also, but Didier Zokora's misplaced pass allowed Colombia - through Quintero - to double their lead.

Ivory Coast responded well and for the second successive game were the better side as the match went into its final quarter. Gervinho's individual effort meant the scoreline - at least - reflected how close the match was.

It was another absorbing contest highlighted by good young players coming to the fore again, led by Rodriguez of course.

Greece 0-0 Japan

There are very different ways to get what you want out of a football match. Greece, who were woeful with 11 players, went down a man in the first half and it was then that they knew what to do. Japan couldn't break them down despite having 75% and Greece grew into the game.

They were better with ten men than when they had 11 and now have a shot, one opportunity at making the last 16 in their final game against Ivory Coast.

As for Japan, it appears their World Cup is over and they simply never recovered from the second half meltdown against Serge Aurier's crosses.

Man of the day

Nominees

James Rodriguez – the football world has known about him for some time but a true star is being born in Brazil.

Mario Yepes – The 38-year-old didn't have pace when he was 28, but he has always been a good reader of the game and, with everything in front of him, he dominated.

Gervinho – a fine individual goal got his team back into the game.

Edinson Cavani – played a brilliant ball for Suarez to score his first goal and was a handful for England to deal with all game.

Luis Suarez – three weeks ago he had knee surgery, 21 days later he looked back to his best.

The winner…

• Luis Suarez – Cavani's ball was brilliant, Gerrard's back header wasn't, Gary Cahill's positioning was questionable but all of those only became major stories because the Liverpool striker scored two brilliant goals, many of which would have been put wide by others.

What comes next?

Italy vs Costa Rica (12pm/9am), France vs Switzerland (3pm/noon), Ecuador vs Honduras (6pm/3pm).

Burning question for tomorrow

Will France have enough talent for a young Swiss side and win a game that will help them stay away from Argentina in the next round?

Key stat of Day 8

No team has ever progressed through a group at the World Cup or European Championships after losing their opening two matches.

Luis Suarez (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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