Hindsight is a wonderful thing. I actually wrote the below post a week or 2 after England’s miserable exit from the World Cup but didn’t publish it because I sensed the derision you [the reader] would have towards my ‘silver lining’ attitude to England’s poor results in Brazil.
I am now releasing it because a) England are playing this week, b) England impressed in last month’s win over Switzerland, and c) I was reminded of it (just a little bit) by this goal scored by the Ipswich U14 team. England clearly weren’t good enough in Brazil, but my memory remains that they gave the impression of a decent team whilst in possession of the ball. Results notwithstanding, this represented an sizeable improvement on the style of play seen in the previous 10 years (or so).
Rooney’s inconsequential goal against Uruguay was one of the best I’ve seen from the Three Lions in a game of importance.
England fans have been treated to a few goals of individual brilliance over the past 20 years: Gazza at Euro 96, Owen at France 98, Joe Cole at Germany 06 and Beckham’s last minute free-kick against Greece to qualify for the 2002 World Cup. But Rooney’s first world cup goal was for once an excellent team goal that sets it apart from the rest – and perhaps that is why I enjoyed it so much.
The goal against Uruguay isn’t quite forgotten, in so much as it was only a couple of weeks ago, and English readers will likely remember Rooney sliding the ball into the net from Johnson’s cross.
But no match reports, highlight reels or analysis I can find seem to appreciate quite how the attack swept from one corner of the pitch to the other. 26 seconds from start to finish involving 7 different players.
The deluge of doom and gloom that Suárez’s freak winner brought on totally overshadowed what was overall a reasonable performance, and an excellent goal. The (UK) pre-game betting market had the odds pretty close between the teams which in itself suggests that Uruguay were favourites but on balance I still think England can count themselves ‘unlucky’ to have lost the match.
All the highlights of the goal appear to begin when Sturridge collects the ball. Admittedly, his improvisation under pressure from 2 players is the most elegant part of the move but we need to rewind 15 seconds to see where the play began.
You can watch it again in full here, select the analysis section and navigate to 6:52. And mute the miserable commentary from Dixon. It’s documented as Rooney’s first goal at a world cup, but little else. I wonder how the goal would have been received if Argentina, Brazil or Germany had scored it? I admit that other teams DO score goals like this, but England? Really?
Embellished text commentary:
- Suárez takes the ball on the turn from Cáceres’ throw-in, only for Jagielka to steal in near the England corner flag and advance with the ball, laying it on to Lallana who had doubled up on Suárez. Meanwhile, Suárez hopelessly slumps onto his back in hope of a free-kick from the referee’s assistant (time 0-3s)
- Lallana takes a touch and lays the ball short to Rooney deep on the left flank, who, under pressure from the retreating Cáceres, nudges the ball back towards his own goal and then stretches to thread a pass to Gerrard through the legs of the onrushing González. Rooney, having fallen upon passing to Gerrard, picks himself up and begins his run towards goal (time 3-6s)
- Gerrard collects the ball mid-way between the penalty area and the halfway line, switching the ball to Johnson on the right (time 6-10s)
- Johnson stops the ball and then pushes it further forward and wide to Henderson and then runs inside him. Henderson, receiving the ball just inside the Uruguayan half under pressure from Cavani, takes the ball further wide and then passes forward to Sturridge (time 10-16s)
- Sturridge, with his back to goal, drags the ball inside taking it out of Cavani’s reach, then turns outside from the challenge of Pereira, leaving Pereira on the ground. With Johnson now ahead of him on the right, Sturridge plays a nicely weighted pass encouraging Johnson to change direction and move towards the goal (time 16-21s)
- Sturridge’s pass also tempts Godín wide and too close to the advancing Johnson and he is also left on the ground as Johnson controls and pushes the ball in one movement directly into the penalty area (time 21-24s)
- Now at the final line of defence, Johnson is weakly challenged by Lodeiro as he crosses the ball along the ground into the 6-yard box (time 24-25s)
- Rooney ghosts in behind Cáceres to pass the ball into the net (time 25-26s)
- Henderson and Johnson celebrate with a front-on-knee-slide-hug in the penalty area that isn’t weird at all
Sturridge took 6 touches, everyone else only had a maximum of 2 touches on the ball, controlling the ball and moving it on.
This insignificant goal remains at the very least a small endorsement of the potential that Hodgson’s England team had at the tournament, and above all how England’s style of play (at least in possession of the ball) has improved since 2012.