Roy Hodgson down, not quite out

Reaction: England’s manager left scrambling for answers as Oscar Tabarez compares Suarez role to movie

Roy Hodgson weighs up his options against Uruguay. Photograph: Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

Roy Hodgson weighs up his options against Uruguay. Photograph: Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

Fri, Jun 20, 2014, 00:03

Like Roy Hodgson, Oscar Tabarez comes across as a genuinely nice guy in his press conferences but the Uruguayan has a strange way of talking out of the side of his mouth, like an old-fashioned comedian delivering a comic aside, that somehow managed to make him look rather smug as he discussed last night’s defeat of England. Given his opposite’s demeanour, in any case, you wouldn’t have had to have heard the result to know whose side won and lost.

Tabarez, as it happens, wasn’t being arrogant at all and although he did take a little of the credit for the way his side stopped England in their tracks. “After losing to Costa Rica, we tried to look at where England were strongest, so as to try and limit their play,” he said. The 67-year-old gave more of it to Luis Suarez, though, suggesting the night had been like a movie in which the striker had clambered out of his wheelchair to play a starring role.

Gary Cahill was still somehow talking about the positives that might be taken from England’s second straight defeat although perhaps the surprisingly upbeat tone of the questioning from an English TV interviewer was leaving him with little option. “We’ve put in two good performances,” observed the Chelsea defender a little self-consciously, “and now hopefully we can win our last game and see where we go from there”.

Joe Hart looked a little more in touch with the realities of the situation with the England goalkeeper clearly upset as he was asked about the fans who had travelled so far to see what now looks almost certain to be a very short campaign. “We’ve given everything, though,” he said. “We couldn’t have given anything more; except the results.”

Both are likely to still be around regardless while Hodgson, of course, knows the score in relation to his own position. In the old days the lingering mathematical possibility of England making it to the knock out stages might have spared him the full force of the media’s ire until next week, at which point a favourable combination of results might have spared him ... well, until the week after.

These days, though, there tends to be a race to go for the jugular and the 66-year-old looked at times last night as if he was conjuring up images of animals or vegetables that might soon have his face on them in print. He sounded personally defeated and a little lost for words but the questioning was generally tactful, at least until the end when a Uruguayan let the moment get the better of him.

“We are more than disappointed,” he said, “we’re devastated. “We believed we could do enough to get a result in this game and having worked so hard to get back to 1-1 I believed we would go on to win the game or at least draw. So to concede the second goal is an unbelievable blow. I don’t really know what to say at this time. I thought we would go on possibly to win the game and certainly I didn’t think we would lose the game at that point.”

Asked about Luis Suarez, the man who had scored both goals and, it seemed, energised one entire team while unnerving another, he said that he had been “a bit quieter than we are used to seeing him”, which begged the question, how might have his players have coped if the striker had not been returning from serious injury. That went unasked, though, at least in the official press conference, in which the main English dailies took little part.

He would want to have come up with some stronger answers for his meeting with them because circumspection generally plays poorly. “Where does it leave us? I don’t know; I mean I don’t quite know what you want me to say. I think in both of the games we’ve shown some elements of playing some good football, I think we’ve shown signs of being a team that’s making progress but results decide everything and both results have been negative,” is unlikely somehow to yield a favourable headline.

More significantly, he needs a positive result next Tuesday; the problem is he looks entirely like a man who knows even that may well not be enough.

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