A few days before his team's clash against Uruguay, England coach Roy Hodgson opined that Luis Suarez had yet to prove his mettle at the World Cup. Much to Hodgson’s displeasure, the Liverpool striker produced an emphatic performance by scoring a sensational brace on his return from injury to send England spinning towards their earliest World Cup exit in 56 years.
The teams played out an exciting match in Sao Paolo, and the anticipated participation of Suarez, which had been a key talking point before the game, proved to be the difference in the end. One must bear in mind that Uruguay were utterly disappointing against Costa Rica while England put up a good show during their loss to Italy.
Suarez, of course, didn’t feature in that 1-3 loss to Costa Rica and he was one of five changes in Oscar Tabarez’s line-up for the England game. You could see the positive impact it had on the team, which looked fresher, more aggressive and went on to register a deserved win. England, to me, were too slow in their build-up play. There were no fast-switches; defensively, Phil Jagielka was the weak link and, most importantly, captain Steven Gerrard looked well past his prime.
Argentina and Germany will both play on Saturday, and I expect them to defeat Iran and Ghana, respectively. Argentina's 5-3-2 formation against Bosnia generated plenty of debate but, regardless of the system, what I found very surprising was their attitude in defending. Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain and Leo Messi hardly helped out defensively. You expect better than that at this level. I’m sure coach Alejandra Sabella will go in with the system that gives Messi the necessary freedom to showcase his magnificent qualities.
Germany, who had begun their 2010 campaign with a 4-0 win over Australia, produced an identical performance against Portugal. Funnily enough, that German side went on to lose 0-1 to Serbia in their next match. However, I don't see Ghana upsetting Germany on Saturday. The Germans may have hogged the spotlight with their resounding win over Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal, but I’m sure they won’t get caught up in all the noise. There’s also talk of them peaking early. But Germany’s record shows they know how to approach big tournaments. The DFB (German federation), as well as the coaching staff, are experienced enough.