SAO PAULO: Luis Suarez scored twice as Uruguay sent England spinning towards their earliest World Cup exit in 56 years on Thursday with a 2-1 victory.
Liverpool striker Suarez grabbed the second of two opportunistic goals in the 85th minute of a tense Group D battle in Sao Paulo after Wayne Rooney had looked to have rescued a point for England with a 75th-minute equaliser.
The defeat leaves England, beaten 2-1 by Italy in their opening match, needing a miracle if they are to reach the second round of a World Cup, something they have not failed to do since 1958.
“We are more then disappointed, we’re devastated,” England manager Roy Hodgson said after the loss, describing his side’s chances of remaining in the tournament as “unbelievably slim.”
“To be sure of continuing we needed a result today, a draw or a victory, and we didn’t get it,” he added.
Suarez — named English football’s player of the year after a superb season for Liverpool — had been a doubt for the World Cup after undergoing knee surgery in May.
However the 27-year-old returned to haunt an England side containing five of his Liverpool team-mates.
“Yes, I dreamed of this,” Suarez said. “It was something I imagined many times, but I had to calm myself down.”
With both teams knowing that a defeat would likely prove fatal to their chances of progressing to the last 16, the game started cautiously.
But England’s inability to retain possession looked likely to gift Uruguay an opening, and so it proved.
Loose play from England captain Steven Gerrard saw Uruguay break swiftly, with Nicolas Lodeiro releasing Edinson Cavani down the left.
The Paris Saint-Germain striker delayed his cross to perfection, leaving Suarez, who had ghosted clear of Phil Jagielka, to head back past wrong-footed England goalkeeper Joe Hart.
With England struggling to break Uruguay down for much of the second half, Suarez’s opener looked to be enough.
But 15 minutes from time Rooney tapped in his 40th international goal, and his first at a World Cup, after a low Glen Johnson cross to reignite their challenge.
England had looked the likelier to score thereafter, but five minutes from time the ball broke to Suarez off Gerrard and the striker raced clear.
The Liverpool man glanced up and then unleashed a ferocious shot into the roof of the net.
Uruguay’s victory leaves England needing Italy to beat both Costa Rica on Friday and the Uruguayans next Tuesday.
England would then need to beat Costa Rica in their final game to have any chance of qualifying on goal difference.
Earlier Thursday, Colombia maintained South America’s strong start to the tournament with a 2-1 win over Ivory Coast, which saw them guaranteed a place in the last 16 from Group C.
A day after Chile eliminated defending champions Spain, Colombia produced another fine attacking display to down the powerful Ivorians in a free-flowing contest at Brasilia’s National Stadium.
Second-half goals from Monaco starlet James Rodriguez and Juan Quintero fired Colombia into the lead before Roma striker Gervinho pulled one back for the Ivorians to set up a tense finish.
Colombia, making their first appearance at the World Cup since 1998, sealed their second round berth later Thursday after Japan and Greece played out a dour 0-0 draw in Natal.
The result means Japan and Greece must win their final matches against Colombia and Ivory Coast respectively to have any chance of going through.
Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni was unhappy at his side’s inability to make Greece pay following the dismissal of their captain Konstantinos Katsouranis on 38 minutes.
“We’re not happy at this stage of the tournament. We pushed hard to win the game. We do have one match to play, but right now I’m not happy at all,” Zaccheroni said.
“We had a lot of possession, had a lot of chances, and we didn’t capitalise on them.”