Attack Early, And England Should Make Hay

The way in which Costa Rica were able to pick off Uruguay should make England's task easier, so long as they keep up their attacking intensity. He who dares win, Rodney...

Last Updated: 18/06/14 at 16:12 Post Comment

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Five Things For Roy To Consider, Six Lessons From England's Defeat To Italy, Ten Questions We Want England To Answer; you'll read them all before England kick off against Uruguay but, for once, this England game needs no five, six or ten things, lessons or points, but just the one message: Do that again but ever-so-slightly better.

As I wrote early on Sunday morning, that was a different England defeat that left more answers than questions, more reasons for optimism than causes for despair. England played with brio, with intent and with pace. The margins of defeat were tiny and hinged on one chance missed while another was taken. This was no footballing lesson; Italy are a handful of points ahead of England in the FIFA world rankings and they were a handle of imaginary points ahead in Manaus.

Usually we would ponder selections and formations. Should Leighton Baines and Glen Johnson retain their places at full-back despite flawed displays? Are Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson still the best option in the middle? Do they need help? Should Wayne Rooney play and, if so, should he play on the left or behind Daniel Sturridge? The latter is the only question that really needs answering and it's so obvious that it doesn't merit the thousands of words that will be written in the space between now and kick-off: Move him into the middle, put Sterling and Welbeck wide, and give him at least an hour to wreak havoc on a very suspect Uruguayan defence. Otherwise, leave the rest of the team intact - Hodgson picked England's strongest XI against Italy and that is still England's strongest XI now.

But more importantly, England need to start with exactly the same sense of purpose; start like they did against Italy - where three shots were unleashed within the first 11 minutes - and a poor, slow Uruguay side with already-battered confidence will be on its knees. They were torn apart by the movement of Joel Campbell on Saturday afternoon so the combination of Sturridge, Rooney, Sterling and Welbeck should be their worst nightmare. Not letting them settle will be the key.

The theme of this England campaign has been the moulding of the national side in the image of Liverpool, who made a habit of flying so fast out of the blocks (3-0 up against Arsenal within 17 minutes, 2-0 up against Manchester City in little more). If England hit Uruguay with the same intensity on Thursday, there's no reason why they should not be staring down the barrel of a similar scoreline. Then there will be no need to worry about whether Luis Suarez is half-fit, fully fit or a hobbling mess. Uruguay will be broken.

The one caveat is that we must defend better - especially the basics of set-pieces. That's the 'ever-so-slightly better' part of our one, simple message to England.

Sarah Winterburn

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