SAO PAULO – England's World Cup demise was all but sealed on Thursday as a familiar face – Luis Suarez of Uruguay – inflicted the Three Lions' second straight defeat of the tournament.
Suarez shed tears of emotion on the bench after being replaced late and was carried aloft by his colleagues following what was a truly superb World Cup performance in Uruguay's 2-1 victory at Arena de Sao Paulo.
Only a freak combination of results can save England now after Suarez, the controversial Liverpool forward, scored both Uruguay goals in the 39th and 85th minutes.
"His teammates really love him. We all love him," Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez said of Suarez, who was in a wheelchair recovering from a knee injury two weeks ago. "Because he's a wonderful person and a very important player for our team."
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Suarez is the man that many England fans, not to mention a fair few of its players, love to hate thanks to his brilliant play and controversial antics. He came into the tournament under an injury cloud and missed Uruguay's opening defeat to Costa Rica, but there was no way he wanted to miss this one.
The goals, a header just before halftime and a powerful strike five minutes from normal time, weren't his greatest or most spectacular, but they were among the most important of his career, keeping Uruguay firmly in the hunt to get out of the devilishly tricky Group D.
"I thought we controlled Suarez well in general play," England coach Roy Hodgson said. "He did very well to get away on the back post on the first goal. But for long periods we kept him very quiet.
"Two chances came his way. And as a top player, he took both."
For England, the end is near and although it is not mathematically out of the World Cup it would take an unlikely combination of results for it to stand any chance of progressing. The Three Lions need at least a win against Costa Rica and two victories by Italy. However, England will be eliminated if Italy and Costa Rica tie on Friday.
"Our chances are unbelievably slim," Hodgson said. "Italy will have to win its next two matches by a good number of goals. But to be sure to continue we needed a result today. We didn't get it."
The Three Lions looked to have been given fresh life with 15 minutes left when Wayne Rooney scored his first goal of the tournament, tapping home from close range after a fine run and pass from Glen Johnson.
Suarez's header from an excellent Edinson Cavani cross had ensured the South American side would be ahead at halftime. He still had pace in his legs late in the second half when a hopeful ball forward allowed him to sprint past the static England backline but there was still work to be done as he advanced on goal.
Suarez was undeterred. He kept his head down, pulled back his right foot and smashed the ball past Joe Hart to break England's hearts.
"If this was a movie, people would probably not have wished for a better result," Tabarez said. "At least for Uruguay.
"We have been able to prove that we still can fight that we are alive. But please remember that we have not qualified yet for the net phase. However we get some fresh air and we feel more self-confident."
When England, as seems certain, heads home in less than a week's time, it will have much to rue and reflect on – missed chances, like the handful Rooney missed here, tactical naivete and, in the end, a team that just wasn't good enough.
Suarez might be the one crying, but Uruguay still has hope.
Hodgson was asked to give his state of the England national team if it does indeed go out of the tournament.
"I don't know. I don't know what you want me to say," Hodgson said. "In both games we showed some elements of playing good football. We are a team that is making progress. But results decide everything and both results have been negative."
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