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Jun 11, 2014

Uruguay vs. England 50-50 Challenge

UruguayUruguay
EnglandEngland
2
1
FT
Match 23
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Our expert bloggers will give their thoughts ahead of each game, so as Uruguay take on England in Group D, Felipe Miguel (Uruguay) and Peter Thorne (England) are your guides.

What's at stake?

Felipe Miguel: Uruguay and England haven't faced each other since the 2-1 victory for the latter in friendly at Wembley in 2006. From the team played that day, only Diego Lugano, Diego Godin, Maximiliano Periera and Diego Forlan still play for La Celeste. In competitive fixtures, Uruguay are unbeaten against The Three Lions, having played twice (at the 1954 and 1966 Cups).

On this occasion, we will see the most exciting match between these two teams as both of them realistically need to win in order to have a chance of qualifying. If England win, they will have a decisive winner-takes-all game against Costa Rica. If Uruguay take the three points, Roy Hodgson's men will become their No. 1 allies, as Costa Rica will need to drop points. A draw is pretty much worthless to both of them.

Peter Thorne:  It was always likely the second match in Group D would be the vital one. England's loss to Italy and Uruguay's defeat by Costa Rica has only confirmed the suspicion. Historically, there isn't much to look at to find a winner; the teams only meeting twice before in a World Cup -- most memorably for England fans in the opening match in 1966 when Uruguay held Sir Alf Ramsey's men to a 0-0 draw.

However, Uruguay did knock out an England side containing Nat Lofthouse, Stanley Matthews, Tom Finney and Billy Wright in the 1954 quarterfinals, confirming the South Americans as no respecters of legendary status.

X factor

FM: Luis Suarez is almost certain to make his return to the first team. And if anyone is wary of his ability, it's England. The best striker Liverpool have had in many years, Suarez has been a revelation since moving to England. The whole English team know what to expect with him, the question is whether they can stop him. However, Suarez is such an unpredictable goal scorer that every precaution taken is not enough. His rivals have suffered when facing him and know what they are up against. His Liverpool teammates will try to point out his weaknesses to try to undermine him. If Suarez's teammates are able to set him up with some chances, "the Predator" won't have mercy on the country that made him a global superstar.

PT:  Raheem Sterling's young shoulders seem broad enough to take the pressure and if the Liverpool player is able to replicate his form against Italy the Uruguayan defence will be in for a torrid time. But let's be bold here: Roy Hodgson will have thought long and hard on this game and I think Wayne Rooney will play but in a freer role -- and that could be the key for England.

Luis Suarez says he is fit and ready to face England.

Fear factor

FM: I honestly think that England's best asset is the team collective rather than an individual. If I have to pick one, I would stick with Daniel Sturridge. After his best season ever, Liverpool's striker is in fine form and scored his first World Cup goal against Italy in their opening match. His devilish speed and clinical finishing secured his place in the English first team alongside many of his teammates from Liverpool. Uruguay's defence is not exactly the fastest, so they will have to step up their work if they want to take Sturridge out of the game. The defensive midfielders will also need to be fully focused to stop him from shooting long range -- something that many Premier League teams struggled to do last season.

PT: Familiarity definitely doesn't breed contempt here; Suarez is the major worry for an England side with defensive frailties. Suarez says he is fit and will almost certainly start but there must be serious questions as to exactly how fit he is and his presence may be more a mental worry for Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka than a physical one. There might be more concern over England becoming fixated on Suarez and missing Edinson Cavani. The Paris Saint-Germain striker had a poor game against Costa Rica but was in lethal form for his club this season and any move of the spotlight to his strike partner could enable Cavani to cause havoc.

Key battle

FM: Raheem Sterling vs. Martin Caceres. One of the fastest men in the World Cup against one of the most versatile defenders you'll see at Brazil. If Hodgson's game plan for Uruguay is similar to the one displayed against Italy, Sterling is likely to shift from the centre to the right and get face to face with the Juventus defender. Although Caceres is quick, Sterling can leave him behind easily if he makes successful combinations with the likes of Wayne Rooney or Steven Gerrard.

One of Uruguay's biggest mistakes against Costa Rica was allowing the rival attackers to go up the field through the right so much, with two goals coming from that area. Caceres will have to be at his best if he wants to stop England's formidable attack. If he is at the top of his game, Sterling and company will need more than speed and good passes to break through him.

PT: This is likely to be an old-fashioned centre-half vs. centre-forward battle fought out at either end with Cahill and Jagielka against Suarez and Cavani likely to ensure England supporters will be biting their fingernails for the duration of the match. The key to getting a result for England might then depend on how Sturridge matches up against Diego Godin or Diego Lugano.

Prediction

FM: Uruguay 1-1 England. Prior to the kickoff, this is the most even game in Group D. If any match is meant to end in a draw, this is the one. However, the draw doesn't suit any of them so each side's hunger will force them to go for it. The winner will fight until the last minute. The loser goes home.

PT: Football perversity often dictates that matches that seem to be crucial beforehand seldom are and eventual outcomes are decided in unexpected ways. This group was always difficult to call and will surely go down to the last match -- England fans would expect nothing less. A draw, perhaps 1-1 or 2-2, looks a good bet here.

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