England 1 Italy 2
Arena Amazonia, Manaus
England's world cup got off to a losing start against Italy, but there were some encouraging signs in the 2-1 defeat that was arguably somewhat harsh?
Once, for a second time, the Italian's had a lead they did what they do so well and so often defended in numbers and held onto what they did to put the pressure on the Uruguay game, for both sides, to fever pitch.
Hodgson was brave, he went with the in-form Sterling but surprisingly seemed to give him the 'no.10' role; this was a competitive England debut for him. It was he that looked like he had given us the opening goal after just 3-minutes. A first chance to 'run with the ball' created an opening from range with it rippling the net, but it was the wrong side of it.
Another chance, in a positive opening, saw Henderson try his luck soon after. Sirigu, in for the injured Buffon, saving well.
We might have 'got away with one' with Pirlo claiming a penalty in a real end to end opening 10-minutes.
Italy gave us another chance when they gave the ball away to Welbeck but he did not make the most of his chance with Hart forced into his first save, of sorts, as he kept out Candreva.
A penalty appeal of our own had Welbeck asking for one having been blocked out, it was not a penalty though and rightly not given with a goal certain to come from Sturridge had Welbeck been able too get a pull back to him after a positive run. This was cleared away in the nick of time for a corner.
From that corner Rooney almost got onto the end of it to force another, Sirigu claimed it.
Italy had dropped off but were always looking likely to get in down the right, our left, and this is where most the problems came for most of the night. Pirlo was, as always, pulling the strings but Marchisio caused problems.
Balotelli came close to getting on the end of once chance before Marchisio opened the scoring on 35-minutes.
England 0 Italy 1
Marchisio hit a fine effort from outside the box, getting onto the end of a short ball that was dummied by Pirlo, but the defence should have got to him quicker and never given him the time he had.
We had to level, and quickly. We did within 2-minutes!
Sterling again caused problems on the ball sliding in a fine ball to Rooney who in turn delivered an equally, if not different, type of cross to Sturridge who met it on the half volley to draw us level.
England 1 Italy 1
Darmain, breaking forward again as he had so often, could not put a finish to match his run but Italy did go close twice before the break, both in injury-time.
Firstly Pirlo put in Balotelli, Hart came to met him and while he was still off his line he looked to chip the goalie but Jagielka got back to cover well and head off the line. From that resulting corner Candreva had a chance, going near post with Hart beaten but not the post.
A positive start, again, from England came to the 2nd half.
Sturridge forced Sirigu into another save, well more of a parry really, but with no one following up the chance past before the defensive frailties were exposed again.
Pirlo was able to easily get a break going from the back and Candreva allowed to get a cross in too easily that saw Johnson out of position and Cahill left flat footed with Balotelli making no mistake at the far post as he headed home.
England 1 Italy 2
Once more we almost levelled instantly, again from Sturridge. The Liverpool mans mazy dribble could not quite see him beat that last man and work a shooting chance.
A third England penalty appeal, Welbeck had already asked for a second, was the best shout of the lot when Gerrard went to ground after a clumsy challenge as he went on one of his trademark runs into the box.
Things still looked positive for England, we just needed a clear-cut chance...
Barkley was someone that I was hoping would be involved and he was on come the hour, coming on for Welbeck. This change was made after Balotelli almost got in again and Sturridge had fired wide.
It might have been an 'unfavoured position' but it was fair to say that Rooney, once again sadly, did not have one of his better days but came within a whisker of drawing us level again. Having gone into the central role due to Sturridge going off he had given the Italian goalie 'the eyes' he then went near post but just pulled it wide - hit the target and it was two-two.
That was the 'clear-cut' chance we were looking for!
Another positive England counter-attack saw Barkley force Sirigu into yet another save as he looked to curl into the far corner.
It was a patient approach by England, as Italy literally dropped off, that saw it turn into an 'attack verses defence' training type scenario with one instance of patient passing drawing a rash challenge and that gave Baines a chance from a freekick that Sirigu turned away.
Rooney's night was basically summed up by a corner that ballooned straight out of play for a goal kick as time ticked away.
I do not think so, but I think I would leave him out against Uruguay - we seem to be 'accommodating' him to he plays, think we could be better off if someone else came in...
Lallana was another that was turned to and his quick feet brought us another freekick within range but this time Gerrard was not quite able to get the ball up and down quick enough and it was over.
Barkley, in typical fashion, went on one of his runs as he looked to create something for himself, or someone else - that was until Rooney took the ball off his feet to have a go himself, which caused no problems.
As we pushed for an equaliser gaps would appear at the back and one break brought them a freekick in injury-time. Incredible swerve as Pirlo cut across this left Hart stranded as it cannoned back off the bar.
Cahill got back well to cover as Italy threatened another breakaway goal but that was that, Italy had won and we now face a 'make or break' game with Uruguay.
I think we can take plenty of positives from this game as we attacked well but defensively we looked vulnerable. Get the final pass right and take the chances that we have and looking at how Uruguay played before our game I think we can, and will, get something against the South Americans on Thursday.
Beaten and left down, but definitely not out!
Vital England on:
Vital England on: