As always, match data from Stats Zone and Squawka.
Toothless, overrated, tactically predictable side meets counter-attacking side happy to concede possession and defend, knowing full well they have one of the most ruthless strikers in the world. And it went pretty much how you'd expect it to.
There's a new addition to the match infographics: the passing network, ripped off from a few places, but I remember seeing Will from The Tomkins Times doing it first for Liverpool on his blog. I will *probably* keep this up for Liverpool next season, but fair warning, it takes about as long as the rest of the graphic, and Liverpool usually complete about 100 more passes than England did yesterday. Although it will be easier doing it for just one team rather than both.
Anyway. Hodgson's game plan is remarkably clear, and unsurprising. Center-backs pass to midfielders or fullbacks, midfielders pass to fullbacks, fullbacks pass to wingers, attack breaks down on the flanks. Only once did it work, with England attacking at pace, in transition, for Rooney's goal. Although with better finishing (*glares at the hairy mutant potato in the #10 kit*), it could have worked better. Still, look at all those Uruguay tackles and interceptions on the flanks. And look at Alvaro Pereira's average position compared to Caceres. Caceres is as much a center-back as fullback, Pereira's more known for getting forward, but it was the latter who sat deep yesterday, fully aware of Sterling's threat and determined to nullify it. 23.7% of England's completed passes came in the attacking third, compared to 34.5% for Uruguay.
Meanwhile, there's Uruguay's passing network. No mucking about. Get the ball to Suarez, or get the ball to Lodeiro or maybe Cavani, who'll get the ball to Suarez. Counter-attacking football, to the letter. Liverpool fans have seen this movie before, the better version of this movie. Worth noting: England completed more than twice as many passes than Uruguay, but Uruguay's two strikers completed twice as many passes to each other as Sturridge and Rooney did.
In matches where Liverpool have much more possession, Suarez and Sturridge exchange around 12 passes, sometimes more, sometimes slightly less. When they have less possession, focusing on the counter-attack, it's usually right around six. Sturridge and Rooney completed three yesterday. Three! And that's with the majority of possession! There's the "but they don't play together often!" excuse, but England's club teammates didn't fare much better. Rooney and Welbeck exchanged all of one pass, Sterling and Sturridge two passes, Gerrard and Henderson four passes. It's like they didn't even know each other. Of course, I blame Hodgson.
The midfielders were almost as egregious as the strikers. Four passes between the two central midfielders, four passes from either Henderson or Gerrard to Rooney, Rooney often passing it back out wide to the wingers or fullbacks. Incidentally, England completed four of 21 open play crosses, with three of four leading to a chance (all three from the left).
Against Italy, Sterling was England's most dangerous player, with the added bonus of a much more balanced midfield. Rooney accommodated centrally nullified both of those facets, to the detriment of both midfield and attack. But he scored, took the second-most shots, and created two chances! Yeah, and he should have finished at least two more shots and created more chances. Meanwhile, both wingers did next to nothing, Sterling because of Pereira's tight-marking, Welbeck because he's Welbeck.
After a reasonably heartening performance against Italy, if in a losing effort, we got the full Hodgson against Uruguay, without even the determined deep flat back four. Lots of possession, unable to do a damned thing with it. Uruguay knew exactly how to nullify it. And had Luis Suarez.