In the past, the English media have debated whether players representing their country cared as much as they do for their clubs. Their argument was strengthened when in 2008, the following quote appeared in Jamie Carragher’s autobiography:
“Defeats wearing an England shirt never hurt me in the same way as losing with my club. I wasn't caring or indifferent, I simply didn't put England's fortunes at the top of my priority list. Losing felt like a disappointment rather than a calamity. I was never in love with playing for England in the first place.”
Those who saw England’s players walk out of the Arena de Sao Paulo would say that the class of 2014 feel very different to Carragher. The frustrations and disappointment were all too evident, etched on the faces of every member of the 23-man squad and coaching staff, particularly those who had participated in the 2-1 defeat to Uruguay.
One such player was Gary Cahill, England's No5. The 28-year-old, who was playing Sunday League football until the age of 15, has had experience of dealing with painful defeats in the past, but told FIFA.com that his emotions upon leaving the stadium were particularly gut-wrenching.
“It’s one of the worst feelings I’ve had in my career,” he said. “But the only satisfaction we can give ourselves is that we gave 110 per cent, everything we had, in terms of our preparation and our training. But sometimes it’s just not quite good enough. Sometimes football is cruel.
“Again we played well – we gave a good account of ourselves – but we lost the game and got nothing from it. I’ve certainly been involved in games as a player where personally and collectively as a team, we’ve played a lot worse than that and got results. But I would rather play worse and get results, if I’m honest.”
Sporting praise for Suarez
Yet the Chelsea defender was sporting enough to credit the man who made the difference in the match, the sublime Luis Suarez, who capped his return from injury with both of Uruguay’s goals. The UEFA Champions League-winner has enjoyed many tussles with the striker from Salto in the past, but on this occasion the England man came off second-best.
“He was one of the best players in the Premier League last season and he’s a great finisher,” continued Cahill. “He took his first goal really well. I thought his second goal was very fortunate, sometimes you need that bit of luck in the game and it fell for them today.”
Reaching the Round of 16 is now out of England’s hands. They must hope that Italy get six points from their next two encounters against Costa Rica and Uruguay and that they can defeat Los Ticos in Belo Horizonte, the scene of the Three Lions’ lowest ebb at the 1950 World Cup when they failed to qualify from the group stage.
In the meantime, Cahill and the England crew will be crossing their fingers and cheering for Gli Azzurri in Recife, as an Italian win would make their preparations for their final Group D game all the more meaningful.
“At the moment, it’s so hard to take,” said Cahill. “It’s going to be four very hard days for us to swallow. On the flip side, we hope Italy perform very well in the next two games and we get a win in the last one. That’s all we can do at this moment.”