On Thursday, England and Uruguay will battle it out in Sao Paulo as both teams are looking to return to the thick of the hunt in a loaded Group D. England lost 2-1 to Italy in their first match while Uruguay suffered a shocking 3-1 defeat at the hands of Costa Rica.
The man at the center of this match, Luis Suarez, has not played a minute yet in this tournament which means his fitness and health is in question for Uruguay’s most important match of the tournament. When Suarez is fully healthy, Uruguay’s attack is one of the most dangerous in the entire tournament. His mazy dribbling ability and clinical finishing ability make his team’s attack that much more dynamic, and without him against Costa Rica, they looked ordinary and very beatable. If Suarez is unable to start or even make a cameo appearance and the game is still in the balance late, Uruguay could be going home much sooner than anyone anticipated.
Uruguay still possesses Edinson Cavani and Diego Forlan with Cavani being one of the world’s best strikers while Forlan’s expertise at this tournament is well-documented. If Suarez cannot go, these two players will need to step up their game against an England team that fields a much sturdier defense than the one Costa Rica presented in their first match.
The weak spot for Uruguay heading into this match is their defense which will be without captain and leader, Diego Lugano. Coming into this tournament, their defense was an unreliable unit that ended up surrendering three goals to Costa Rica. While this England team is still working to create its attacking identity, their quality of players in the midfield and forward positions is a big step up from their last opponent and Uruguay will need to limit big mistakes in order to have a chance at three points.
While many of the younger attacking players for England thrived in their game against Italy, it was their oft-criticized talisman, Wayne Rooney, who once again had to answer for a poor performance. Other than his brilliant cross to Daniel Sturridge for England’s lone goal on a counter, Rooney squandered several chances and has left us with the question of whether he should even start the next game. His performance will need to improve in a game England desperately needs a result from to even think about advancing to the knockout stage.
The Rooney dilemma presents a difficult situation for manager Roy Hodgson, who must choose to stick with Rooney or replace him with a younger player like Ross Barkley or even Adam Lallana. Barkley’s impact was felt immediately once he entered the game against Italy and Lallana brings a different skill set that could allow Raheem Sterling to play wide or underneath the striker in an attacking midfield role which he has excelled in so far.
This match should ultimately decide which team will be the first one to head home in Group D, but a draw would keep both teams alive in a sticky situation where each team would need a win with some major improvement in the goal differential category. Uruguay’s situation is a bit tougher because they have already played Costa Rica, whom almost all considered to be the weakest team in the group. England would be a much better position than Uruguay should a draw be the result, but I see England’s attacking talent overwhelming Uruguay’s shaky defense enough to hand them a victory.
Prediction: England 3, Uruguay 2