Having thought the matter over, England did not lose their first two games in the football World Cup because a single player made the difference: Pirlo for Italy and Suarez for Uruguay. It is true that in England’s last game, Suarez, bête-noire genius of the English Premier League, scored both of Uruguay’s goals; and since England only scored one, by the foot of Rooney, who was out of sorts but still the best we’ve got, then there is a logic that says Suarez made the difference. But if he had not scored and England had won the game by Rooney’s single goal, we would have to argue that the difference between the two teams was one man: Rooney. This is a nonsensical vicious circle.
No, the reason England lost the game and are out of the tournament – the Azzurri miracle was not forthcoming; they lost to Costa Rica 0-1 – is a whole lot simpler. They just aren’t quite good enough to get beyond the group stages of the World Cup.
Sure, the English are good enough to win their qualification group, though only just, and they can beat teams like Moldova and San Marino quite convincingly. But Moldova and San Marino, no offence, are hardly powerhouses of the game. Plucky, well-dressed, sure – but not very good at football. Sad as this is to say, and we could perhaps debate how sad it really is, England, when it comes to football, just aren’t that great. They’re OK, but not great; they’re better than they were two years ago, but still not that great.