And we all come crashing back to reality with a thump. After a rousing, encouraging 2-1 defeat for England against Italy, the score line was replicated against Uruguay in a far more sobering fashion.
The gusto and enthusiasm of the first group game had been replaced with a nervous tension, which in turn lead to sloppiness and poor descisions. Particularly in the final attacking third.
Sterling had far less of an impact on the game and there was no real link up play between the previously potent Sterling, Sturridge and Welbeck.
Rooney had another solid performance and finally broke the World Cup voodoo hanging over him
with his equaliser in the second half. But the front four never really showed enough to really trouble the Uruguay goal. The fluidity and pace of the group opener was gone and the first 60 minutes was a reminder of the muted England we all know and love.
A lot of this was due to a decent Uruguay who were set up well. They pressed with tempo in there own half and this forced England into numerous errors and sloppy play. Uruguay never let England find a rhythm until late on the game.
Instead of trying to draw a high tempo defence and make runs in behind, England seemed to labour at working a way through. Often looking to the flanks for balls into the box but the delivery was never up to standard. An the longer the game progressed, the sense of inevitability grew.
Rooney’s goal did bring a glimmer of optimism but sticking to the script, Suarez put us firmly back in our place.
Despite the defeat and the now inevitable exit form the tournament, there are still positives to taken from Hodgeson’s England. The introduction of new blood in the squad and moving away from two banks of four are all steps in the right direction and are all thanks to Hodgeson. I’ve been openly critical of him but pleased that, despite the apparent failure of the tournament, he’s proving me wrong and steering the national side in a positive direction.
We can only hope now that knee jerk reactions are quelled and he’s given more time to turn England into a team with an identity. Only then will we see real success.