Roy Hodgson has insisted he would not resign despite conceding that England’s chances of emerging from Group D and into the knockout phase of the World Cup are “unbelievably slim” after a devastating late defeat by Uruguay.
Luis Suárez, who had been pictured leaving hospital in a wheelchair after surgery on his left knee just 28 days before this contest, was carried from the turf at the end on his team-mates’ shoulders after scoring the goals that left England without a point at the foot of their section, and potentially facing elimination as early as Friday. While the Liverpool striker claimed he was eagerly waiting to see what his critics made of his match-winning display, England are braced to endure their briefest appearance at a World Cup since 1954.
Hodgson and his players were distraught at the final whistle, with only Italy wins in their remaining two fixtures and a success by two clear goals against Costa Rica next week enough to take England through.
The manager, asked if he would now consider his position after two years in charge, having seen his team beaten by the same 2-1 scoreline by Italy on Saturday, said: “No. I don’t have any intention to resign. I’ve been really happy with the way the players have responded to the work we’ve tried to do. I’m bitterly disappointed, of course, but I don’t feel I need to resign, no. On the other hand, and if the Football Association think I’m not the right man to do the job, that will be their decision and not mine.
“Our chances are unbelievably slim now. It will depend on Italy winning their next two matches by a good number of goals, and us beating Costa Rica by the requisite number of goals too. To be in with a chance of continuing we really needed a result this evening – a draw or a victory – and we didn’t get it. I think in both the games we’ve shown some elements of playing good football, and shown we are a team that’s making progress. But results decide everything and both results have been negative.” It is understood there is little appetite within the FA for a change, with Hodgson contracted through to Euro 2016 in France.
Suárez still aspires to make a prolonged impact in Brazil and the 27-year-old, only semi-fit after keyhole surgery in Montevideo on 22 May, had his own personal motivation to excel here given his perception that he was harshly dealt with by the FA over his infamous clashes with Patrice Evra and Branislav Ivanovic.
“I’d dreamt of this,” he said. “I’m enjoying this moment because of everything I suffered, the criticism I received. Before the game too many people in England laughed about my attitude over the last few years. This is a very good time for me. I want to see what they think now.”
At the end the Uruguayan consoled his club captain, Steven Gerrard, who had inadvertently flicked on Fernando Muslera’s punt downfield before Suárez’s winner five minutes from time. “I told him to keep going,” added Suárez. “He’s the best player I’ve played with on the pitch. This is an unlucky moment for him. I don’t like it when he hurts like this. I said: ‘Keep going, forget this game, you’re one of the best.’ But it’s an amazing moment for me. Maybe a few days ago I thought this wouldn’t be possible.”
Gerrard expressed the sense of desolation in the England camp after a performance that rarely matched the vibrant attacking display in defeat by the Azzurri. “It’s a really tough moment for everyone in the dressing room but we need to be professional, keep fighting and pray for a scoreline to go for us,” said the captain. “I need to park that hurt and the feeling I have got and see what happens over the next four or five days, but if you go out in the group stage it will be a very personal low for myself and the team and I am sure everyone will feel very similar.
“When we got the equaliser today we just needed to be a bit cleverer, a bit more cute and a bit more difficult to beat. But they were weak at the back and they were there for the taking. Once we got the equaliser we tried to use the initiative to get the second, but football is cruel at this level. You can’t give world-class players chances like that. Everyone in the dressing room knows Luis Suárez inside out. We know what he’s about. He’s had two chances in the game and he’s taken them both really well. That just goes to show. He hasn’t played for five weeks and yet he comes back and is still as deadly as ever.”
There remains the prospect, should Italy fail to beat Costa Rica on Friday to confirm England’s elimination, that senior players such as Gerrard may be rested in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday, meaning this could have been the 113th and last cap of the 34-year-old’s career.
“The manager will have to wait and see what happens on Friday before deciding what he is going to do,” said Gerrard. “If there’s nothing to play for then I don’t know if he’ll play a completely different team. But it’s very tough at this moment. It’s not the moment to discuss my future now. Let’s see what happens over the next four or five days and we’ll talk again.”