Luis Suarez's first goal Thursday was a delicate touch of class, a deft header nodded in with precision and purpose and placement. Suarez's second goal, however - the one that was a death blow for England - was something closer to a savage blast.
The combination was vintage Suarez, a pure attacker who perfectly embodies the Uruguayan notion of garra charrua - that is, a mixture of will, fight and an unyielding desire to win in whatever way is required. On a chilly night at Arena Corinthians, Suarez showed his deliberate jab and then, at just the right moment, his haymaker. (I have proved a point, says Luis Suarez)
The result was a 2-1 victory for Uruguay that left La Celeste rising and the Three Lions reeling. England is not mathematically eliminated after losing its opening two games, but could be Friday if Italy and Costa Rica play to a tie. Even if that does not happen, England will need outside help - in addition to a big win over Costa Rica - to advance. (England in trouble: Won't quit says coach Hodgson | Gerrard rues mistakes)
"Our chances are unbelievably slim," England manager Roy Hodgson said afterward. "We needed a result today, a draw or a victory, and we didn't get it." (British press slams 'sloppy England)
They did not, even after Wayne Rooney, the often-criticized English forward, finally scored his first World Cup goal in his 10th career game on the sport's biggest stage. That goal, which came in the 75th minute after a thrilling run and cross from Glen Johnson, seemed as if it ought to bring relief: for Rooney, who is 28 but surely feels much older after more than a decade of scrutiny from England fans; for Hodgson, whose player selection had come under fire and whose job status will most likely be up in the air if his team fails to advance; and for the fans, many of whom traveled to Brazil and who were hoping, finally, for more than just another underachievement. (Also read: Top five reasons for barrage of goals this World Cup)
Yet there was no relief. Instead, the reprieve lasted just 9 minutes with Suarez, again, pricking the balloon. In the first half, Suarez ruined 45 minutes of decent English possession, slipping in behind the defense and taking an inch-perfect cross from Edinson Cavani squarely on his forehead. Suarez did not hesitate once he made contact - he turned away before the ball was even beyond goalkeeper Joe Hart, firing two shots from his finger guns and sprinting toward the corner flag in jubilation.
That celebration, though, was nothing compared with the one that came later. Rooney and his teammates were abuzz after England's goal, perhaps even entertaining thoughts of snagging a late winner. Rather, it was Suarez again, taking advantage of an errant English header from his Liverpool teammate, Steven Gerrard, and sprinting in on goal.
He took one touch to steady himself and then unleashed a vicious shot that whistled past Hart and stretched the back of the net. This time, Suarez ran toward the side of the field and collapsed, face-first, in the grass as his giddy teammates piled on top of him.
"If this was a movie," said Uruguay coach Qscar Tabarez, "people probably could not have wished for a better result - at least in Uruguay." (Oscar Tabarez ecstatic)
The Uruguayans' path forward now is clear. Semifinalists in 2010, they will push for a victory against Italy on Tuesday and a return to the knockout rounds. The English, on the other hand, may not even be able to advance when they next take the field, and they will face many questions about the best form of attack.
Veterans like Rooney and Gerrard have been under siege from fans and the news media, and two mediocre performances have not helped. Younger players like Daniel Sturridge and Ross Barkley have shown potential and, if England is eliminated, calls for a sea change will surely increase.
Hodgson was not quite ready to confront those issues just yet, though he did acknowledge the gap in finishing quality Thursday. The difference was clear: Rooney had a legitimate chance to score four times during the game but capitalized on just one of them, his header off the crossbar from two yards away lingering as perhaps the most inexplicable miss.
Suarez had two quality chances and scored on both, first with his head and then, gloriously, with his right foot. There was no stumble in his step, no shake in his shot. There was only sheer power and a wicked charge that all but sent England back across the Atlantic.
"Two chances came his way," Hodgson said. "As the top player he is, he took both chances - and that's probably ended our chances of staying in the competition."
© 2014 New York Times News Service