Football Comment: Three Lions only require a subtle change in approach to tactics that ruffled Italy

Trevor Steven
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IT SHOULD be a case of more of the same, with a subtle adjustment when Roy Hodgson issues instructions to his England team for tonight’s match against Uruguay.

They need the same attitude and the same style of play that proved effective against a strong Italy side on Saturday, and that means an emphasis on movement and speed.

England should take the game to Uruguay, and keep the tempo high in any way they can, taking quick throw-ins and running into space at every opportunity. Raheem Sterling and, to a degree, Danny Welbeck do that well, and that’s why they stand out.

It doesn’t matter too much whether Sterling or Wayne Rooney is selected in the central position behind striker Daniel Sturridge, because the fluidity of the front four means both take up dangerous positions.

The only difference it should make is to which area they are responsible for covering when England lose the ball, and any international player should be able to adjust to that.

It’s on the defensive side, though, that England’s strategy needs a tweak. The back four is not great, so it is crucial that the midfield does not leave too much space in front of the defence.

That means Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson not getting too detached from the men they should be screening, allowing Luis Suarez to pick up the ball in that gap and run at Gary Cahill or Phil Jagielka. Let the others get forward.

It also means everyone dropping off at the right times, and if they’re going to press Uruguay, then press them – hassle them into keeping their heads down, not looking up and picking a pass.

Uruguay will be without injured captain and centre-back Diego Lugano, and that has pros and cons for England. It’s likely that Lugano’s replacement will be quicker than the old-fashioned centre-back, but the team will miss his leadership, ability to read the game and organisation.

Trevor Steven is a former England international who played at two World Cups and two European Championships.


■ Caps and goals galore
Uruguay’s 23 players have amassed 143 goals between them, the fourth highest of all 32 World Cup teams. Germany have 219, Spain 217 and England just 113. They are also among the most experienced squads, with a total of 1,132 caps, second only to Spain. Uruguay’s starting line-up against Costa Rica had 738 caps between them, 112 more than the entire England squad.

■ Shaky defence?
Uruguay conceded 25 goals in qualifying for the World Cup – the same number they scored. Of those goals, 64 per cent came from central areas, indicating that there will be gaps for Wayne Rooney to exploit if he plays at No10.

■ Set-piece threat
A third of Uruguay’s goals in qualifying came from set-plays, so given England’s lack of concentration to allow Italy to score from a corner on Saturday, manager Roy Hodgson should be ensuring that his players do not switch off at those critical moments.

Research by Nassos Stylianou