ctfc.com World Cup reporter Tom Blackburn reports on England's World Cup defeat in the Amazon.
England opened their 2014 FIFA World Cup campaign with a 2-1 loss to Italy in Manaus and will no doubt feel they could have taken a point from the match.
Mario Balotelli’s header five minutes into the second half was ultimately the difference between the two sides, following a first half that saw Claudio Marchisio open the scoring with a powerful strike before England quickly replied when Daniel Sturridge latched onto Wayne Rooney’s cross.
England’s defensive display let them down in high humidity at the Arena Amazonia, and although Italy had more possession it was Roy Hodgson’s team that created more chances.
Marchisio opened the scoring in the 35th minute when he received the ball, subsequent to Andrea Pirlo’s dummied shot from a corner and struck it from outside the area.
Hope of a victory was renewed when England replied in the 37th minute. Wayne Rooney, playing in an unorthodox position on the left flank, found some space behind the Italian defence and crossed to Sturridge on the back post who made no mistake in drawing the team’s level.
England bizarrely had to stretcher off their team physio, Gary Lewin who dislocated his knee as he celebrated the goal on the side of the pitch.
Neither team could take the lead before half time, but Italy did have a chance that Balotelli worked well, beating Joe Hart though Phil Jagielka was back and cleared it from the line.
Italy took the lead in the 50th minute when Baines was unable to prevent Antionio Candreva crossing from the right-side. Balotelli lost Gary Cahill in the box and rose to head the ball into the England net.
England pushed for an equaliser and attempted to reshuffle with Hodgson bringing on Barkley and Lallana, however despite chances they were unable to find a goal.
Raheem Sterling looked dangerous for the duration of the game and was many peoples man of the match, nonetheless this will come as little consolation to the young Liverpool player.
Rooney had England’s best chance to score when he received a Leighton Baines through ball and cut inside the Italian defence, but his shot went past the post.
In the final few moments it was Italy who went closest to scoring, when a swirling Pirlo free-kick left Hart stranded and fortunate to see the strike only hit the bar.
England now face a fight to progress from Group D, although Uruguay’s shock loss to Costa Rica means they will feel their fate is still in their hands.
Despite the result, manager Hodgson is confident of progression: “It was undoubtedly the best I have seen us play, as a team, in my time with them.
“It’s tough to accept we lost. But I’ve got great confidence we can do well enough in the next games to qualify.”
The squad now head back to Rio de Janeiro where Hodgson can ponder potential changes in tactics and selection before their next match against Uruguay in Sao Paulo and where they will be desperate to bounce back.
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