SAO PAULO — After defeat in the tournament opener in the stifling humidity of Manaus, it was somewhat of a surprise to see an unchanged England side to the one which started in the Amazonian region. But at least coach Roy Hodgson did switch the system around.
Wayne Rooney kept his place in the side despite a lacklustre display against the 2006 World Cup champions Italy and was deployed more centrally behind Daniel Sturridge in attack, with Raheem Sterling pushed out wide as England toiled with the determined Uruguayans.
Just like they did against the Azzurri, Hodsgon’s men certainly created chances here in Sao Paulo. The majority of which fell to Rooney. But unlike the returning Luis Suarez at the other end, Rooney could only convert once. His wastefulness was evident. And, coupled with the Liverpool hitman’s incredible goal-scoring acumen, it means England faces an early exit from another tournament which promised so much more.
Possession in England's favour
What will be so frustrating to the vociferous England fans in attendance is that the Three Lions, not normally known for their possession football, enjoyed 62 per cent of the ball throughout the match.
The finish, however, was lacking, and guilt-edged chances weren't converted, with Rooney the main culprit.
Much of the blame for the Italy defeat was attributed to Rooney’s anonymity, but the Manchester United forward certainly upped his game this time around, finally ending his baron run without a goal in World Cup competition, but there could, and should have been so much more.
Rooney looked odds-on to break his duck when picked out at the back post by Steven Gerrard late in the first half, but from practically underneath the crossbar, the 28-year-old couldn’t get over the ball, and only managed to head against the bar.
In contrast, Suarez clinically dispatched his headed chance when found brilliantly by Edinson Cavani in the box, and dispelled any pre-match talk of him not being fully ready to make a return to the fray.
Rooney did get his goal, equalizing from Glen Johnson’s cross, but not before wasting another glorious chance to find the net, firing to close to La Celeste’s keeper Fernando Muslera from point blank range.
Suarez thrives on pressure
The difference between the very good and the world class is that when called upon at crucial times, the likes of Suarez, more often than not, produce the goods, and when presented with the opportunity to win the encounter for his team, the 27-year-old duly obliged.
This may seem harsh on Rooney, who was easily England’s biggest, if only threat on a chilly night in Sao Paulo, but for all his natural talent, on the big stages he has failed to deliver the goods time and time again.
On the other hand, Suarez thrives on such pressure, and with the world always watching his every move, waiting for him to step out of line, Uruguay’s leading light delivers when it matters most.
“I dreamt this. I'm enjoying this moment,” said an emotional Suarez post-match, and showing such passion, and back to full fitness, the rest of the competition better beware. Meanwhile, Rooney yet again looks set to be contemplating what might have been.
Pete Hall is in Brazil covering Team England at the World Cup.