England vs. Uruguay, 2014 World Cup preview: Three Lions favorites against aging Celeste

Despite their fear of major tournaments, the Three Lions have enough talent to win Thursday.

SB Nation's 2014 World Cup Bracket'

Uruguay 2, England 1: Three lions pushed to the brink of elimination.

England and Uruguay both started their World Cup campaigns with defeats; the Three Lions going down to Italy, and La Celeste rather more surprisingly going down to minnows Costa Rica. For England, then, their meeting with Óscar Tabárez's side is a must-not-lose, while Uruguay know that anything other than a win against Roy Hodgson's men would likely condemn them to elimination at the first hurdle.

On paper, England really ought to be able to win the match. Hodgson has brought a talented young team to the World Cup, and they showed well going forward in their narrow defeat to Italy. While they were rather less secure at the back, Uruguay aren't anywhere near as fierce as the Italians, and will instead look to sit deep and counter-attack rather than seize the initiative. However, England have a history of fluffing their lines at major tournaments, and they may well do so again.

Team news

The dissection of the Three Lions' defeat to Italy in the English press has largely focused on Hodgson's deployment of Wayne Rooney out in an unfamiliar role on the left of midfield. Despite creating England's only goal in the 2-1 loss, the general consensus seems to be that the experiment failed, with Rooney's tracking of Italy right-back Matteo Darmian playing a key role in Italy's dominance. For this match, expect to see Rooney shifted inside, with Danny Welbeck on the left and Raheem Sterling the right.

Uruguay will certainly be without their starting right-back Maxi Pereira after he was sent off for inexcusably kicking out at Costa Rica's Joel Campbell in the opening game, as well as injured centre-back Diego Lugano. Porto's versatile fullback Jorge Fucile and Liverpool's Sebastián Coates will likely come in. However, the big question is over the fitness of Uruguay's undoubted star Luis Suárez, who didn't come off the bench in the defeat to Costa Rica after knee surgery. However, he'll almost certainly put in an appearance here, and would likely come in for Diego Forlán up front.

Projected lineups (left to right)

England (4-2-3-1): Joe Hart; Leighton Baines, Phil Jagielka, Gary Cahill, Glen Johnson; Jordan Henderson, Steven Gerrard; Danny Welbeck, Wayne Rooney, Raheem Sterling; Daniel Sturridge.

Uruguay (4-4-2)Fernando Muslera; Martín Cáceres, Diego Godín, Sebastián Coates, Jorge Fucile; Cristian Rodríguez, Walter Gargano, Egidio Arévalo Ríos, Christian Stuani; Luís Suárez, Edinson Cavani.

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Key matchups

England's wingers vs. Uruguay's fullbacks - Uruguay have a couple of world class strikers up front, though they're extremely flimsy across their back four. That includes their fullbacks Martín Cáceres and Maxi Pereira's likely replacement Jorge Fucile, who could struggle against England's pacey, direct wingers. Expect Danny Welbeck and Raheem Sterling to cause problems out wide, particularly if they're given space on the counter-attack.

England's possession vs. Uruguay's deep defensive line - Uruguay are horribly lacking in creativity in their midfield, with neither of their central players, Walter Gargano and Egidio Arévalo Ríos, particularly adept at passing. Gargano is a little more mobile than the older Ríos, but expect both to mostly sit deep and protect their back line, looking to deny Wayne Rooney space between the lines. That means England will have to work hard to find room, and make runs to try and drag them out of position.

England's defence vs. Uruguay's direct passing- Unless Nicolás Lodeiro comes into the side, Uruguay lack a real playmaker in the centre of the pitch, meaning they rely on long balls up to their strikers and a high workrate from their wingers to take the ball into the final third of the pitch. If England can deal with these threats, they'll be able to shut down what is a pretty average team. They should look to press Uruguay's central midfielders hard and hurry their passes, safe in the knowledge they should always have a spare man in the centre.

Prediction

Uruguay's opening defeat to Costa Rica appeared to be further evidence that they're no longer anywhere near as formidable as they were when they won the Copa América back in 2011. Overall England are the better of the two sides, and despite their major tournament phobia, they really ought to be able to win.  2-1 England.

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