On Thursday, England face Uruguay in a must win game for both teams. After suffering a defeat in their opening group stage game against Italy, England will need to win to give them any chance of qualifying from Group D. Despite the loss, Roy Hodgson’s men gave a good performance in Manaus, but it was the Italian team that was more experienced on the world scene. After going 1-0 up in their game against Costa Rica, the Uruguayan’s suffered a shock 3-1 defeat. They too will need to win this game in order to give them a chance of qualifying for the knockout stages. The current Copa America holders were some people’s dark horse for this tournament, but poor defending was their undoing last Saturday and they will need to rectify that for Thursday’s game.
England go into the game hoping that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will be fit enough to at least be on the bench. The Arsenal man sustained a knee injury in the warm-up friendly against Ecuador, after exciting for much of the game. Roy Hodgson has some big decisions to make in his forward positions. Ross Barkley will be hoping that he could get a start.
Uruguay will be without the suspended Maxi Pereira, who was sent off in their opening game against Costa Rica. Jorge Fucile is expected to deputise at right-back. Luis Suarez has declared himself fit for the game, but this will not be known until matchday.
The last time the two teams met in a fixture was March 2006 in a friendly. England came out on top in that fixture winning 2-1. There has been much change in both squads since that fixture. England only have two players remaining in their squad who appeared in the fixture: Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard. The Uruguayan’s squad still contains Diego Godin, Diego Lugano, Diego Forlan and Maxi Pereira, who is suspended for the fixture this time round. The teams last met in a World Cup in 1966 where they played out a 0-0 draw. England famously went on to win the tournament that year. Uruguay have won the World Cup twice, one of which was when the tournament was held in Brazil in 1950.
Daniel Sturridge had an excellent season for Liverpool, and he continued his good form into England’s opening game by scoring against Italy. With Wayne Rooney struggling to score in a World Cup, much of England’s goal scoring responsibility falls down to the former Chelsea man. Sturridge is not one to shirk the responsibility and has firmly established himself as a starter in England’s first eleven. Who plays behind him is an important point going into the game. Raheem Sterling started in the number 10 position behind Sturridge in the first game and impressed. There have been calls for Wayne Rooney to be given the position and if he is given back his favoured position, his relationship with Sturridge will be very important for England. Sturridge’s goal scoring pedigree is constantly improving, so whoever is put in behind will be able to rely on him. He has now scored five goals for England, and he looks like he could have some more before the end of the tournament.
Edison Cavani was tasked with leading Uruguay’s front line against Costa Rica in the absence of Luis Suarez. The Paris Saint Germain striker has had a mixed season for the Paris club, having a great end to 2013, but a difficult start to 2014. There is no doubt that Cavani possesses real quality. He scored over 20 league goals in Serie A during his three seasons at Napoli. He also managed to score 16 goals in Ligue 1 this season and finish second top scorer to Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He has managed to score 22 goals in 63 caps for his country, which is a good strike rate at international level. If Suarez is not fit to start, Cavani will be the man Uruguay will look to. If Suarez is fit and Diego Forlan also starts, Cavani could find himself shafted over to the right hand side like he has been for club and country in the past. How Cavani responds to this will be important because he still has the ability to cause Leighton Baines problems by coming in off that right flank. Wherever he is picked to play, Cavani will be a handful for England.
It is a hard fixture to call as both teams need the win. Although it is the group stages, both teams’ prior results means that it essentially becomes a knockout game. With that in mind, England will feel that their attacking quality will prove too much for the Uruguayan defence, even if Suarez is causing problems up the other end. I predict a 2-1 win for England.