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Baines makes case for the defence

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20 Jun 2014 11:16:59

Baines makes case for the defence

England's defensive frailties have left them on the brink of an early World Cup exit, although left-back Leighton Baines believes it would be harsh to pin the blame on the backline.

Like the defeat to Italy in their Group D opener, Roy Hodgson's side showed flashes of brilliance on the attack only to be undone at the other end.

Both matches ended in 2-1 defeats, this time thanks to a Luis Suarez brace, meaning only an Italy win against Costa Rica will keep alive England's slim hopes of reaching the knockout stages.

The inquest will be put off while a slither of hope remains, but if and when the Three Lions' exit is confirmed the defence is sure to come under fire given their struggles at the back in both matches.

Baines was asked if he thought the defence was the weaker part of the unit after the latest loss, to which the left-back responded: "Not particularly.

"I don't think we have given up too many chances in the two games, but when we have, we have been punished.

"The tournament has been a bit like that. There have been a lot of goals so far and we'll have to look at it in the next couple of days."

The first goal in Sao Paulo was certainly preventable, with Edinson Cavani only able to lay on an exquisite chipped assist after being afforded space to find Suarez, who lost his man to head home.

A draw looked to be on the cards when Wayne Rooney levelled with 15 minutes remaining, only for Steven Gerrard to inadvertently head into the path of his Liverpool team-mate to finish the match.

"We got ourselves back in the game and got a bit of momentum going," Baines said.

"With that momentum it felt like we may have been able to go and win it ourselves but we were punished in the end. It is just disappointing.

"It was difficult. I thought we were probably the better team over the course of the whole game but we have been punished by good goals.

"Suarez is a top player. He didn't put himself about as much as he normally would but looked like he was always waiting for that moment, that opportunity to pounce, and he did.

"You are at the top level of the game and it is small margins - we haven't been outplayed in any of the games, we have just come up short maybe."

The fact no side have ever progressed after losing their first two games suggests England's final match against Costa Rica will be for nothing but pride.

Baines and his team-mates will be looking at how to keep them at bay in the coming days and, despite the prospect of an early exit, the left-back believes Hodgson's side are making improvements.

"I've got to say it does feel like we are moving forward but you have got to find ways to win games," he said. "We've not been able to do that and ultimately that could be costly.

"I think there is experience out there on the pitch, we created a few chances as well but we have probably just got to reassess over the next couple of days."


PA

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