As England prepare to travel back to their training base in Rio - the city that the Christ the Redemeer statue looms over - they are hoping for a miracle.
After last’s nights insipid performance against Uruguay, England now need Italy to win their remaining two group-stages fixtures – against Costa Rica and Uruguay – whilst they must beat the former themselves in their final Group D match.
This was a World Cup that England went into with low expectations. They were drawn into a group with two former winners of the competition, but they have still managed to disappoint.
It is not about losing anymore, supporters of the side have become accustomed to that, but more the manner of defeat. There was genuine hope and encouragement when England played Italy that this side, filled with exciting, young talents could spring a surprise in the tournament. They played on the front-foot, at a quick pace and could consider themselves unlucky not grab a point.
Yet, they came up short. And, last night, in Sao Paulo, they came up short again. Against Uruguay their play was tepid, the moments of inspiration were too fleeting and the very principles which had encouraged England fans in the first game: barely visible.
Wayne Rooney had his moments, and scored his first World Cup goal, in a more central position, but the industrious Raheem Sterling and Danny Welbeck – two of the main protagonists in Roy Hodgson’s sides excellent opening performance – were too often on the periphery.
Much will be made of Hodgson’s decision to move Rooney into the more central role that Sterling thrived in during his team’s opener, but it will be given too much attention. England did not lose because they played Rooney centrally – much like they did not lose as a result of playing him out wide against Italy.
Instead, England were defeated by a player who they knew everything about. Luis Suarez is a phenomenon. Indeed, he is arguably the greatest player in the world if you exclude the duo of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. But even Rihanna, the pop sensation, could point out on Twitter that you cannot give him space.
Instead Hodgson did little to combat him. Much like he did little to negate Pirlo’s threat in the first game. Italy and Uruguay have two stars which plainly stand out amongst the rest, which England knew all about, and still they paid them too much respect.
And, Uruguay, for all the fuss that is made over Suarez, are an average side. Perhaps, that too is what England are. But the South American outfit came fifth in their continent’s qualification campaign – requiring a playoff against Jordan to even compete at the World Cup. It was also a qualification campaign that did not include Brazil.
Look deeper into their squad and it is easy to see why they struggled so much. This is not the Uruguay team that reached the semi-finals of the competition in 2010. This is a side, for the most part, which is weary or, simply, lacking quality.
Of the eleven men that started perhaps only Edinson Cavani, Diego Godin and the aforementioned Suarez would grace England’s starting XI. Most of the rest wouldn’t even be considered for a place in Hodgson’s squad.
And that is what rankles so much. There has been improvements since Euro 2012, but they have not been vast enough to make England an elite level side.
Since beating Argentina in 2002, England’s only other World Cup wins have come against: Denmark, Paraguay, Ecuador, Trinidad and Tobago and Slovenia. Hardly the elite of world competition.
The problem for Hodgson is that most the nation still believes that they are. And maybe they should be. Much has been said about this squad being in transition yet it still contains a player who scored the second most goals in the Premier League in Daniel Sturridge, a star in Wayne Rooney, a captain widely recognised as one of the greatest midfielders of his generation and a goalkeeper amongst the best in the world.
It has quality beyond that, too. Raheem Sterling and Ross Barkley have emerged as two of the most exciting prospects the country has produced in a long-time, whilst in Leighton Baines and Adam Lallana they possessed two of the form players in a division which is touted as the best in the world, in terms of quality.
In-fact, five of the starters in England’s 11 last night were regulars for a Liverpool side which nearly claimed the Premier League title. The group they were drawn in was tough, but it was one England should have emerged from.
Now, the question is where to go from here. The persisting problems which have plagued England for so long are still evident and the FA shows no signs of knowing how to change them. The organisation is outdated and out-of-touch. When they do offer up ideas - like the ludicrous League 3 offering - they create indignation from supporters of the very side they are trying to make better.
St George’s crosses baring the likes of Portsmouth’s, Oldham’s, and Crewe’s names across them have been spotted in stadiums all across Brazil, but the FA are in danger of disillusioning the very life-blood of this football team. England have a great league system, one to be cherished, and to suggest that the players in this squad may have qualified during this tournament if they have played against these clubs when they were 18 is nothing short of farcical.
So what else? Inevitably Hodgson’s position will be called into question, but there are few candidates to replace him. The usual list of Alan Pardew, Harry Redknapp, Sam Allardyce and Steve Bruce will all be touted, but none offer a skillset that is particularly different to what is existing.
The FA had a wonderful opportunity to take a gamble when they sacked a pragmatist in Fabio Capello. They could have had Roberto Martinez, then of Wigan, or Brendan Rodgers, then of Swansea, but instead they played safe. They picked the conservative Englishman to take forward a team of burgeoning but exciting prospects and the problems continued.
Hodgson hasn’t done a bad job with this England team, he has improved them, but the whole country has been overtaken in its approach.
It is too often trying to emulate other countries – like Spain and like Germany – to forge its own ideology. Until it does, things will remain the same. It is not conservatism that is needed: it is revolution.
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