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England v Uruguay – World Cup tactical preview

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Though one was more of a shock than the other, both England and Uruguay opened up their World Cup 2014 campaigns with defeat on Saturday, leaving both teams needing victory to have any chance of progressing through the group stage. The bookies favour England for this tie, best priced at 6/5 with Bet365 whilst Uruguay are best priced at 27/10 with Unibet. The draw is available at 5/2 with Skybet.


England need to learn from Saturday.


It was clear to all those watching that England’s left hand side was the issue against Italy, with good work on the left from the Italians winning the corner from which they scored the first, and Candreva beating Baines to cross in to Balotelli for the Italian winner. However, whilst Wayne Rooney (and to a lesser extent, Leighton Baines) were heavily criticised for this issue, they were just part of a wider issue.




Candreva was, in my mind, the man of the match, but it was a trio of him, right back Darmian and Claudio Marchisio who really gave England issues. Whilst Candreva started on the right hand side, he often drifted centrally, which is where the problems really began. He came into the space between Gerrard and the back line, which allowed Darmian to push very high up the pitch out on the wide right (as can be seen from the map above). Gerrard didn’t pick up the movement in the middle, Wayne Rooney didn’t track Darmian because he often only saw one man in England’s left back position but Leighton Baines didn’t feel confident to fully commit to marking either Candreva or Darmian. Though Candreva decides to shoot on this occaision, it shows the issue perfectly. Gerrard isn’t close enough to the drifting Candreva, Baines has been dragged out of position and Darmian has the whole of the wing to himself.




England will have to realise this issue and correct it before Thursday’s clash against Uruguay, because this is exactly the kind of space that Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani will look to exploit. Was it Rooney’s fault for not tracking Darmian on Saturday? Was it Baines’ fault for not communicating that he was overloaded? Was it Gerrard’s fault for leaving space behind him, or even Hodgson’s fault for not identifying the issue and swapping Gerrard and Henderson to try and plug the gap? All of these are potential explanations, what we know for sure is that this will have to change before Thursday if England hope to defend better.

Both teams to score and England to win, available at 15/4 with Coral.

Uruguay couldn’t find answers, broken down on the counter.


It was probably the biggest upset of the tournament so far, but it would be harsh on Costa Rica to say that they didn’t deserve their victory on Saturday. Uruguay had very few ideas despite making 100 more passes than Costa Rica, whilst Costa Rica looked to hit Uruguay hard on the break, utilising the wide positions as best they could – with right back Cristian Gamboa looking particularly impressive on the day. This could well play into England’s hands, as their swift counter attacking movements are perhaps the strongest aspect of their game. 




Furthermore, Uruguay looked dire from set pieces and crosses, which Costa Rica looked to exploit from very earlier on. This again could help England, with two of their five goals in the warm up games coming from set piece play. With Maxi Pereira now suspended after a reckless kick out on Saturday, England’s left flank should be important. Leighton Baines’ crossing ability should be utilised and whoever is on the left wing will have a vital role in England’s potential success.

England -1 handicap available at 16/5 with Coral.

Their weakness from set plays was important in their opening game, and whilst England had obviously tried to target the back post against Italy from corners, targeting the centre back pairing of Godin and Lugano as well as keeper Muslera’s crossing ability will be important. Uruguay looked impotent in attack, and with Luis Suarez lacking match fitness, this may well continue. But more important was their defensive fragility, both on the break and from set plays, which could see England run rampant against the South Americans on Thursday.

First goalscorer Gary Cahill is available at 40/1 with Ladbrokes.



Jordan is a University of Southampton graduate who produces blogs and betting previews for Howtobet4free as well as running the popular @howtobet4free_ Twitter account on matchdays.

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