Jun 24, 2014 at 5pm UK at ​Estadio Mineirao, Belo Horizonte
Costa Rica
0-0
England

Gonzalez (59')
FT

Barkley (52'), Lallana (59')

How must England improve against Uruguay?

Sports Mole considers three ways in which England should improve if they are to beat Uruguay.

England's bid to escape the very tricky Group D took a huge hit in their opening match after a spirited, but ultimately disappointing, defeat to Italy on Saturday night. England probably deserved better in one of their strongest performances in years - certainly their best under Roy Hodgson - but they now face Uruguay on June 19 in a game they probably need to win.

Here, Sports Mole picks out some ways that England must improve in order to get a positive results against Edinson Cavani et al, themselves smarting from a surprise defeat to Costa Rica.


1. Rooney is still not a winger

Wayne Rooney of England reacts during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group D match between England and Italy at Arena Amazonia on June 14, 2014© Getty Images

Hodgson had a tough selection against Italy. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was still recovering from injury which left a gap on the flank to be filled. Daniel Sturridge's season for Liverpool meant that he had to start, but with Hodgson keen to have five in midfield in order to limit the impact of Andrea Pirlo, and Danny Welbeck a favourite of his, it left a dilemma for the left flank and the number 10 role in behind Sturridge.

Rooney has played behind the striker for England, but Raheem Sterling and Ross Barkley were excellent there last season for their respective clubs, which meant that the Liverpool man got the nod and put in a man-of-the-match performance. Rooney, although managing an impressive assist, was out of sorts on the left for much of the game. It was not so much a tactical blunder from Hodgson, but rather you have to start your biggest player, no?

Sturridge, at the moment, is undroppable, while it would be harsh to push Sterling out of the team after his performance. Welbeck performed well as did Adam Lallana on the left when he came on. Could dropping Rooney be the answer? It is vital in games where points are required to put players in their best positions and, frankly, Rooney is out of form for England so appears somewhat dispensable. Could this be the big decision from Hodgson that turns England's tournament around?


2. Leighton Baines needs defensive support

Robert Lewandowski of Poland is challenged by Leighton Baines of England during the FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifying Group H match on October 15, 2013© Getty Images

One of the discussions in the lead up to Hodgson's squad selection was whether he would choose Ashley Cole or Luke Shaw as a second left-back behind first-choice Leighton Baines. In the end he went with Shaw, but this has left him with two very similar full-backs. Both are very good, of course, but against a team such as Italy, with marauding wing-backs, they can get exposed, as Baines was at times in England's defeat.

This issue ties in to Rooney playing on the left, as well. The Manchester United man did track back, but at times he was less than enthusiastic trying to win the ball. It was Welbeck, however, who left Baines exposed for Mario Balotelli's winner. He did not get wide enough to stop Pirlo from finding Matteo Darmian with a pass, which then left Baines trying to mark both the full-back and Antonio Candreva. The result: goal.

The second goal was a problem that came about from Hodgson not wanting to be too rigid. In such a formation, Cole might be a better option at left-back, as he is a defender first and foremost. The other option is Lallana on the left, who is used to defending from the front. Either way, if Baines is exposed again against Uruguay they have the talent to upset England.


3. They must be more clinical

 Manager Roy Hodgson of England looks on during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group D match between England and Italy at Arena Amazonia on June 14, 2014© Getty Images

It sounds quite obvious, but Hodgson's side really must learn quickly to take the chances that they create. On balance against Italy, the Three Lions had by far the better chances, but a combination of fine last-ditch defending and wasteful finishing - Rooney particularly guilty of this - meant that their strongest showing under Hodgson ended in defeat.

There were a handful of chances from around the edge of the box that either went wide or were comfortable for Salvatore Sirigu, while Rooney dragged one wide from a really good position inside the box when he should have made it 2-2. Conversely, at the other end, Balotelli scored with his only real chance of the game, and that is what made the difference.

Costa Rica showed with their excellent 3-1 win that Uruguay's defence can be flat-footed and disorganised. If they do not manage to fix that in four days' time, then England could well get as much if not more joy from their movement than they did against Italy. This time, however, they must hit the target more and make sure Uruguay are punished. They let Italy off and that cannot happen again if the Three Lions are to make the second round.

Italy's forward Mario Balotelli celebrates with teammates after scoring during a Group D football match between England and Italy at the Amazonia Arena in Manaus during the 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 14, 2014
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