Italy back to winning ways as they defeat England 2-1
by Nick D
Jun 14, 2014 7:55 PM EDT
England and Italy faced off in the hot and humid conditions of Manaus for their opening match of the World Cup. England were coming into the tournament with a lot to prove after so many previous disappointments. A fresh squad with only five players having previously represented their country at the world's biggest stage. Italy also had a lot of fresh faces and are looking to replay the success they had in Germany 2006, where the Azzurri lifted the trophy for the fourth time. A major blow to Italy was also the late exclusion of Buffon who ruled himself out after twisting his ankle in training the day beforeA big clash with two strong teams that both believe they have a chance to lift the trophy in July.
England and Italy both teams with high aspirations for this World Cup
England started the stronger of the two as they pushed the Italians deep into their own half. Raheem Sterling, the 19 year old Liverpool forward, was already getting himself into dangerous positions and had the defenders struggling to keep up with his pace. Welbeck and Sturridge too were making a nuisance of themselves up front and not giving the defenders anytime to rest. The shots on target were limited by both sides as the defenders quickly closed down any space. England would try their luck from distance but the shots failed to find the target. After the initial pressure by England the Azzurri settled down and started to enjoy some possession of their own. As they were only playing Balotelli up front on his own, they had to ensure that their midfield was there to offer support or have their left and right backs had venture forward down the wings. England on the other hand were playing three forwards and only had three backs. So when Johnson would go forward Gerrard, Henderson and Lampard all needed to ensure they had his position covered incase Italy broke on the counter. The game slowed slightly as the humid conditions were forcing the players to pace themselves so they don't burn out too early. This worked in favour of the Italians and they started to push a few more players forward. The gamble would pay off as Italy would take control of the match as they took the lead in the 35th minute. The corner was played short to Verratti, who then saw the run being made by both Pirlo and Marchisio towards the top of the box. He played the ball there and Pirlo would dummy it and let it go to Marchisio who was unmarked. The Italian midfielder took a touch and then blasted a thunderous low shot from about 30 yards out into the bottom left corner.
Marchisio would fire in a thunderous shot from distance to give Italy the lead in the 34th minute
The goal was the wake up call that England needed to fuel the players to spring into action. And spring they did! Only minutes later England broke down the left wing with Rooney beating the defenders and getting space to play the cross. With only two defenders near the centre of the box Rooney picked out Daniel Sturridge who steered the ball into the net. England back on level terms and still 10 minutes left to play in the half. As the halftime approached Italy would have one more effort deep in stoppage time as Balotelli broke down the left side of the box. Hart ran out but was too slow to get to the ball first and found himself in no mans land. Balotelli would then cleverly chip the ball over and it was destined for the back of the net. Though Jagielka scrambled back and managed to head the ball off the line and out into touch. Halftime and both sides still locked together on level ground.
Sturridge would draw England level in the 37th minute as Italy failed to cover their lines after taking the lead
The second half kicked off and both sides started to play more attacking football as they searched for the winning goal. Italy once again would come out on top as they caught England napping down the right side. Candreva found the space well and with a quick look up he spotted Balotelli near the back post and perfectly picked out the big striker who headed home to give Italy the lead once again. England once again found themselves chasing the game.
Balotelli would get the lead back for the Italians in the 50th minute as Italy now lead 2-1
England started to push forward with numbers again and Hodgson decided it was time to change it up with a substitution. Welbeck would make way for the Everton youngster Ross Barkley to make his World Cup debut. His impact was felt as Rooney had the perfect opportunity to score his first goal in the World Cup. He timed his run perfectly to stay onside as Jagielka thread the ball to him. He took a touch and then turned and fired only to put the ball wide of the post. Then it was the substitute Barkley's turn to try and bring England level. He made a good run down the left side and into the box. He then took on the defender and made space for the shot across towards the far post. Sirigu though did well as the Buffon's replacement dove well blocked the shot. England then kept the pressure on as they won a few corners in a row. They played on short and found Johnson lurking outside the box. The Liverpool player would rifle off a low shot only to see it go the wrong side of the post. Lucky for Italy as the keeper didn't have time to move and a few inches to the left and England would have had their equaliser. The minutes ticked over and time was running out for England, while for the Italians, both on and off the pitch, it must have felt like it was slowing down. Italy defended well for the remainder of the game and managed to hold on for the 2-1 victory and more importantly the precious three points.