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The despondency etched across Joe Hart’s face was borne out by the England goalkeeper’s carefully selected sentences as the prospect of a hasty elimination from the FIFA World Cup™ loomed following a painful 2-1 defeat against Uruguay in Sao Paulo.
It could all have been so much different. With a quarter of an hour remaining on the clock of their second Group D encounter – a crucial one in every sense – the travelling Three Lions supporters found full voice. They had just watched Wayne Rooney find the target at this stage for the first time in his career, restoring parity in the match and faith among the fans.
But a late Luis Suarez blast pushed Roy Hodgson’s team towards the precipice, and players and followers alike watched with hands clasped to faces on Friday as another surprise victory for Costa Rica, 1-0 over the Italians, confirmed that Steven Gerrard and Co, plus those who made the long journey across the Atlantic, would be heading home at quick speed.
They do so with a statistic looming over their head; not since Sweden 1958 have England reached a FIFA World Cup and been eliminated before the knockout rounds got underway. If Hart’s reaction is anything to go by, the feeling is a raw one for all concerned. Yet the Manchester City man was focused more on sending a message to the country’s people.
We’ve given everything, there’s nothing more we can give apart from resultsJoe Hart, England goalkeeper
The 27-year-old told FIFA.com: “To get all the way to Brazil to come and support us, I can’t thank people enough. I’d like to think I’d do the same if I wasn’t in this team.
“I love my country and I love playing for my country – I’m very proud to represent and be on the pitch for those people that have made the trip and the people back home. I understand not everyone can make it out here. We’ve given everything, there’s nothing more we can give apart from results.”
Two instances of technical perfection from the returning Suarez – a well-known foe in the English Premier League – sent the Brazuca ball flying beyond his outstretched palms, simultaneously resurrecting the South Americans’ hopes while destroying those of Hodgson’s charges.
Sent out by their coach with a remit to continue the promising attacking fervour with which they had previously threatened Italy, Hart believed his team held the upper hand over the two-time FIFA World Cup winners. When the dust had settled, however, the ‘keeper was forced to contemplate the challenge of moving on.
“I felt we were in the driving seat the whole game, even being one goal down,” he added. “We scored with plenty of time to go, we had Uruguay’s backs to the wall. They were defending deep and they’ve got their goal from a long boot. They have not prised us open. It’s incredibly frustrating, but we’ve got to move on.
“It’s a quiet dressing room as you can imagine – a frustrated dressing room. We have played two technically good games, but it doesn’t matter about your technique if you don’t win. We’ve lost two games we felt we could have won, and we haven’t.”