Another 2-1 defeat. Another miserable night for England fans… but for the eternal optimist with Three Lions on their shirt – it’s not quite over yet for Stevie Gerrard’s plucky young team.
Losing to Uruguay means that England no longer have their destiny in their own hands – but it doesn’t make it impossible for the team to still qualify for the knock-out stages of the World Cup (and then presumably be knocked out on penalties).
Yes, we will need more than a helping hand from our friends in Italy… and we’ll need to thump Costa Rica (the team who thumped Uruguay)… but hey, we didn’t win in 1966 without a bit of belief, right?
All England eyes now must turn to the Arena Pernambuco, Recife, where at 5pm tonight Italy play Costa Rica (the game’s on BBC1 if you want to cheer the Azzurri). Only one result will do for England – and Italian win. This would leave England at the bottom of Group D with 0 points, behind Costa Rica and Uruguay, both on 3 points – and with Italy leading with 6 points. If Italy draw with Costa Rica, or lose to Costa Rica – England are out of World Cup 2014, and the final game against Costa Rica becomes an exhibition match for Rooney et al.
Presuming the Italians win today against Costa Rica – all four teams (including England) will remain in contention as the final group D games take place simultaneously at 5pm on Tuesday.
In the Italy versus Uruguay game, England will need Italy to win in order to keep it mathematically possible for them to progress. If Italy fail to take all three points in this game, it doesn’t matter what England do, they’ll be out.
But if Italy do win AND England beat Costa Rica… there’s a good chance that the Three Lions might go through. This result would put Italy on 9 points as group winners, but leave the other three teams all with 3 points. The group would then be decided by goal difference.
Now then. Because Uruguay lost their opening game by two goals but both England’s losses were by a single goal, if England beat Costa Rica and Uruguay lose to Italy – which is what has to happen, remember – England will finish above Uruguay on goal difference, whatever the winning margins are.
That leaves Costa Rica.
We know Costa Rica have to lose both their remaining games, including the one against England next Tuesday, but for England to go through the Costa Ricans must lose EITHER of them by two clear goals. So that’s specifically the thing to cheer for as Italy play Costa Rica: victory for the Azzurri by two or more.
England can still qualify for the knock-out stages. All we need is for Italy and England to both beat Costa Rica (one of them by two goals), and for Italy to beat Uruguay.
And then it’ll be just like this all over again…