World Cup 2014: Steven Gerrard haunted by more bad memories after … –

Combine the transfer values of Suarez and Cavani and you would be up to around
£140m. Not bad for a country of 3.3 millions souls – the most diminutive at
this World
. A small land mass delivered a huge setback to Hodgson’s plans.

In Manaus and in this vast metropolis we saw that successful teams need not
only promise but the hardened, ruthless edge that comes only with
experience. This was not boys against men so much as a team of worldly
veterans against one that have just re-discovered creativity.

There was a terrifying simplicity about £140m worth of goalscoring talent
combining to beat Phil Jagielka and Gary Cahill, the two England
centre-backs. Rooney’s first World Cup goal was wiped out by the second, a
vicious drive after Gerrard had flicked the ball into Suarez’s path.

Deemed not fit enough to come on against Costa Rica – when Uruguay were losing
– English football’s player of the year was considered sound enough to start
at the Arena de Sao Paulo, with disastrous consequences. For the first half
hour he chugged around, sizing up the England defence and mapping the
movements of Cahill and Jagielka. A player of his quality can never be
trusted to stay out of the action for long.

Cavani cost Paris Saint-Germain £50m and Suarez might fetch £90m on the open
market. England can rebuild a team but they cannot give it instant know-how.
Gerrard has experience to burn but it was no use to him here.

The hope was that England were facing a team slipping from their peak. The
Italy result could be excused on the grounds that England had attacked,
dribbled and probed like a thoroughly modern side. The players returned to
Rio energised rather than depressed. There were glimpses in Manaus, however,
of inexperience as a handicap, in the attacking third of the pitch, when
decisions were rushed, or ill-conceived, and brought promising moves to a
premature end. We saw them again in Sao Paulo.

‘Roy’s Boys’ is a pleasing rhyme but distorts the picture. These are not kids.
Sturridge, 24, has played for Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool. Adam
Lallana, Hodgson’s leading impact sub, is 26 and has worked his way through
the leagues. Welbeck and Henderson are 24. Even Sterling, still a teenager,
has starred in a Premier League title challenge that fell only two points

They are not youth team footballers, but nor had many of them been here
before, in a must-win World Cup game, two fixtures in, against opponents who
are workmanlike in parts but always dangerous, especially with Suarez. The
joke before this game was that if England were eliminated they would have to
play “the seniors” in a potentially meaningless game against Costa Rica –
with “the kids” rested for the Euro 2016 build up.

Despite this blow the course is set in favour of greater ambition. England’s
first substitution was Barkley for Sterling, whose play lacked a decisive
edge. There were gaps aplenty but not the composure to take players through
and finish. The defensive block of Gerrard and Henderson, Cahill and
Jagielka, was exposed as flawed.

In the past a generation of England players routinely lost heart because
crashing out of tournaments became soul-destroying. Learning is also hard
work. These games are different to big Premier League fixtures or even
Champions League engagements. There is another level of intensity, and no
transfer market to solve a country’s problems.

Some things were familiar, though: the demon Suarez, and the sense of dread
that watching England so often brings. The Chelsea game at Anfield haunted
Gerrard before he arrived in Rio. Now he has more dark memories to fight. He
deserves a kinder fate.

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World Cup 2014: Steven Gerrard haunted by more bad memories after … –

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