CAPTAIN Steven Gerrard thinks England’s dynamic attack is more than capable of ripping Uruguay’s brittle defence apart when the two teams meet in Sao Paulo on Thursday.
England face an uphill struggle to qualify for the knockout stages of the World Cup after they lost to Italy in their opening Group D in Manaus.
Accompanying England at the bottom of the group are Uruguay, who succumbed to a surprise defeat to Costa Rica on Saturday afternoon.
The unheralded Central American side were expected to be the punch bags of Group D, but they put on a ruthless display of attacking football to beat Uruguay 3-1.
Gerrard was stunned by the comprehensive nature of Costa Rica’s win and he hopes the likes of Raheem Sterling, Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck will be able to wreak havoc against the South American nation on Thursday.
“I was shocked by the result. I expected Uruguay to beat Costa Rica,” the England captain said.
“They (Uruguay) have really good firepower up front, but we saw on Saturday that they are certainly beatable.
“They concede goals and if we attack like we did against Italy we will cause Uruguay big, big problems.”
Gerrard knows all about Uruguay’s capabilities at the other end of the pitch.
Paris St Germain striker Edinson Cavani led the line against Costa Rica as Luis Suarez sat out the game with a knee injury, but Gerrard thinks his Liverpool team-mate will play in Sao Paulo.
“I’m not sure where Suarez is up to injury-wise, I haven’t heard from him, but I expect him to play some part because he’s been so quiet,” Gerrard said.
England must learn lessons from their own defensive shortcomings against Italy if they are to keep Suarez at bay, according to Gerrard.
“The key is to look back on what’s happened, see what we got right but also see where we went wrong,” he said.
“We conceded two goals and we have to look at them. They created problems for us on our left side on a few occasions and we will have to look at that.”
Gerrard said his costly slip against Chelsea in the Premier League drove him mad for a few weeks, but he knows he and his England team-mates cannot afford to dwell on missing their opportunity to beat Italy.
As captain, Gerrard will take on the responsibility of lifting the players himself.
“I’ve got to try to pick these lads up and we go against Uruguay,” Gerrard said.
“We’ve got to dust ourselves down as quickly as possible and bounce back. We’ve got two big games and if we take six points we are going through.”
It is easy to see why Gerrard is so optimistic about England emerging from their group.
Their attacking play against Italy was electric at times. Sturridge, who took his goal well, constantly kept Italy’s defence busy and Welbeck justified his selection with another energetic display.
But the most eye-catching performance of the night for England came from Sterling.
The Liverpool teenager was making just his third start, but he had England and Italy fans on the edge of their seats all night thanks to his quick thinking and his even quicker feet.
“He is fearless. That’s the way he plays. That’s his character,” Gerrard said of his Liverpool team-mate.
“He doesn’t worry about opponents. He just goes out and does the best he can and, for his first start in a major tournament, there were flashes of positivity.
“He’s a big player for the future. The manager showed bravery putting the young lads in, giving them a good go, and that’s the future of this England team – all the young talent in the dressing room.”
Match-winner Balotelli, who was named the game’s best player by FIFA, tweeted: “A great thank you to my team-mates and let’s continue like this.”
The 23-year-old was far from a certainty to start but was chosen by Italy coach Cesare Prandelli ahead of Serie A’s top scorer Ciro Immobile.
Italy next face Costa Rica on Friday in Recife.
Prandelli said: “Mario played a great game against England, but I’ve told him that he can give a lot more considering his extraordinary potential.”
England: Hart, Johnson, Cahill, Jagielka, Baines, Gerrard, Henderson (Wilshere 73), Sterling, Rooney, Welbeck (Barkley 61), Sturridge (Lallana 79). Unused substitutes: Foster, Lampard, Smalling, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jones, Milner, Lambert, Shaw, Forster.
Italy: Sirigu, Darmian, Paletta, Barzagli, Chiellini, Verratti (Thiago Motta 57), Pirlo, De Rossi, Candreva (Parolo 79), Balotelli (Immobile 73), Marchisio. Unused substitutes: Buffon, De Sciglio, Abate, Cassano, Cerci, Aquilani, Bonucci, Insigne, Perin.
Referee: B Kuipers (Holland).