Burnley-born Northern Ireland international Oliver Norwood believes England have nothing to fear ahead of their second World Cup Group D fixture versus Uruguay.
The 23-year-old played off Inverness Caledonian Thistle striker Billy McKay in a 1-0 defeat to La Celeste in Montevideo’s Estadio Centenario last month, with Uruguay’s Christian Stuani scoring the only goal of the game in the 62nd minute.
“It was the best experience I’ve had internationally, alongside the Portugal game,” said the Huddersfield Town midfielder. “It’s not every day that you get to go to South America to play the top teams that’ll be involved in the World Cup. It was tough but very enjoyable. I felt we had the better against Uruguay. The Chile game was a great experience as well.”
And coach Oscar Tabarez made just two changes for the surprise 3-1 loss to Costa Rica at Estadio Governador on Saturday with Diego Godin replacing Sebastian Coates at the heart of defence while Stuani stepped in for Southampton’s Gaston Ramirez in a 4-4-2 formation.
PSG forward Edinson Cavani gave Uruguay the lead with a 24th minute spot kick, but Joel Campbell, Oscar Duarte and Marcos Urena hit back for Los Ticos after the break. Full-back Maximiliano Pereira also saw red in defeat, forcing him out of Thursday’s clash with England in Sao Paulo while question marks still hover over Luis Suarez’s fitness.
Prior to the Three Lions’ 2-1 loss to Italy in the suffocating Amazonian heat and humidity of Manaus at the weekend, Norwood said: “I think they rely heavily on Luis Suarez so if he’s not fit for the World Cup then I can’t see England struggling against them.
“They weren’t great, they defend so deep and England can exploit that with the quality that they have at the top end of the pitch. I think England can really hurt Uruguay.”
Norwood, who scored a stunning volley against the Clarets as the Terriers inflicted a 2-1 reverse on Sean Dyche’s men at the Galpharm Stadium in November, added: “Uruguay’s strikers are the main threat. They’ve still got Diego Forlan as well, who we’d forgotten about, but he was brilliant. Going forward they are very strong but defensively I think England can cause them real problems.
“Diego Lugano, who was at West Brom, defends on the edge of the 18-yard box regardless so the space between midfield and the defence is there for England to exploit. It’s massive and with the quality that England have I’m sure they’ll exploit that.”
Defeat for either side would ultimately end their World Cup dreams, but Norwood is backing England’s youngsters to prevail and spearhead the nation’s progression to the second round of the tournament.
“As a young player I’d like to see the young lads play,” he said. “It’s good to see the younger generation coming through now. It’d be exciting if they played the likes of Sturridge, Stirling, Lallana, Shaw, Barkley.
“They’ve got to get out of that group. We’re still a massive footballing nation, despite little expectation from the fans, so they’ve got to be looking at advancing.
“It would be a huge failure if they didn’t. The media haven’t played up their chances this year like they have done in the past so hopefully England will surprise a few people.”