SAO PAULO

Heavyweights England and Uruguay must resurrect their World Cup hopes or face the prospect of an early flight home when they collide in a crunch Group D fixture on Thursday. Opening defeats to Italy and Costa Rica respectively have left both countries in danger of elimination with little room for error in their last two pool games.

Defeat in Sao Paulo would surely spell doom for either Roy Hodgson's new-look England or two-time winners Uruguay, who were unimpressive in their 3-1 loss to Costa Rica. Both countries have question marks over their strikers with calls in British media to either drop talisman Wayne Rooney, or move him from the left to his preferred central role. For Uruguay, Liverpool's Luis Suarez, this season's Premier League top-scorer with 31 goals, is set to make his return from keyhole surgery on his the meniscus in his left knee last month.

Rooney set up England's goal but missed a chance to equalise during Saturday's 2-1 loss to Italy, in a subdued display which had many critics questioning his place. The Manchester United forward, 28, is still to score at a World Cup and when he was spotted training with the reserves on Monday, speculation rose that he had been axed. Rooney complained "sometimes (I) wonder what the press are getting at" on his Facebook page, while Frank Lampard hit out at the obsession with his team-mate. "A fixation with one player can become, rather than a debate, a bit of an agenda," he said. "So I do think we need to drop the agenda and look at the team, whoever plays."

The whirlwind surrounding Rooney has dominated the build-up for youthful England, who won praise for their bold approach against Italy, exemplified by Raheem Sterling. However, defensive fragility could return to haunt them with problems down the left, while centre-half Gary Cahill was out-jumped by Mario Balotelli when heading the winner.

Uruguay have their own worries at the back after their defence was repeatedly rattled by Costa Rican strikers Joel Campbell and Bryan Ruiz. They will also be missing Benfica defender Maxi Pereira, who was sent off for a foul on Campbell in the tail-end of Saturday's game. But England will be wary of a strike force pairing Edinson Cavani with the lethal Suarez, even if he won't be fully match-fit. The build-up has not been short of hyperbole with Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez calling it a "final" and captain Diego Lugano describing it as "life and death". England's Daniel Sturridge, who was on target with a sweet first-time finish against Italy, said it would be "do or die" in Sao Paulo. "I'm prepared to do anything, and I'm talking anything. I'm being serious. It's do or die," he told reporters.

Colombia wary of Ivory Coast speed and power

Colombia are planning to rely on a possession game to combat the speed and power of Ivory Coast when the two sides meet in Brasilia. It is a Group C match in which there is everything to gain for two sides who began their World Cup campaigns with victories.

Colombia midfielder Fredy Guarin says the South Americans will look to bypass the physical advantages of the Elephants by making the ball do the work. The Inter Milan player said Colombia were "ready" and "looking forward" to the match against opponents who are "powerful and very fast".

"They're a very physically strong team who fight for every ball and will rely on their physicality to try to beat us, but with our football, our passing and control of the ball we can have success," said the 27-year-old. "To beat them we have a plan and we mustn't have any doubts about that plan. We have to be very intelligent, always keep the game under control, don't give the ball away and take a breather with the ball, but above all have confidence in what we're doing." A victory for either side would potentially secure their passage into the last 16 but although he didn't say as much, Guarin suggested Colombia would be happy to settle simply for a clean sheet.

The physical approach Ivory Coast are likely to bring could include the presence of Didier Drogba up front after his game-changing entry off the substitutes' bench against Japan. Wilfried Bony had a disappointing game on his own up front and after the game Elephants coach Sabri Lamouchi, the former France midfielder, paid tribute to his veteran forward for his impact. "His appearance changed the game. He brought in two or three players (to mark him) and the team created favourable situations," said Lamouchi. He also had praise for midfielder Yaya Toure, who was another far from his best, although he has been struggling with a hamstring injury recently.

Japan, Greece face moment of truth

Japan and Greece face a high-stakes World Cup shoot-out after opening match defeats which have left their participation in the tournament hanging by a thread. Japan's English-based defender Maya Yoshida believes it will be crucial for the Blue Samurai to score first against the Greeks. "Of course we lost the first match so at the moment we're very disappointed but we still have two games to go," said Yoshida.

But Yoshida was adamant the Asian giants had not given up hope of progressing to the knockout rounds for only the third time in their history. "Greece lost as well. They have good defenders and tactics," said Yoshida. "They have a good orientation defensively so if we get the first goal they have to come forward so we will have a chance to take more initiative."

Greece's national team manager Fernando Santos meanwhile believes he has pinpointed Japanese vulnerabilities after scrutinising their performance against the Ivorians. "We watched them play against Ivory Coast," Santos said. "We selected interesting information and we will inform our players during the next days. We have already watched Japan in the past and we know their advantages and disadvantages. We will be ready."