Lack of familiarity was no excuse. In fact, England was well acquainted with Uruguay's Luis Suarez. He led the English Premier League in goals this past season, and five of the forward's Liverpool teammates played against him Thursday at the World Cup.
Yet Suarez went 2 for 2 on attempts while ignored both times by the Brits' back line in a 2-1 Uruguay triumph that put England on the brink of elimination.
Suarez, who underwent knee surgery nearly a month ago, was withheld from Uruguay's opener against lightly regarded Costa Rica to allow him more recovery time. The move backfired with a 3-1 upset, and Suarez's level of fitness was a major variable against England.
Conserving energy throughout, Suarez sneaked between two defenders, neither of whom closed on him, to retrieve a gorgeous feed from Edinson Cavani and scored on a header in the 39th minute.
Come the 84th minute, with the match even, Suarez was neglected again as he sped past the England defense for an unfettered shot that found the net.
In between, Wayne Rooney lifted a boulder off his shoulder, as well as the gloom that was settling over his country, with a tap-in goal — his first in 29 career World Cup shots.
Rooney had missed early on a direct free kick that curled a bit wide, a straight-on missile that went right at the keeper and a header taken inches from the goal line that caught the intersection of the crossbar and right post.
When Glen Johnson sent a seeing-eye roller across the goal mouth in the 75th minute, Rooney tracked it down for an easy score that temporarily silenced his legion of critics.
Uruguay might have had to play a man down for the last hour-plus if not for an oversight by referee Carlos Velasco Carballo. The Spaniard already had waved a yellow card at defender Diego Godin. A subsequent forearm shiver into a British player could have warranted another, but the deed went unpunished.
Only with an unlikely combination of results can England forge ahead to the Sweet 16. Uruguay figures to need a draw, at worst, against Italy to move forward.