World Cup Group D
England 1-2 Italy
Marchisio 35, Balotelli 50
England were defeated but not disgraced in their World Cup opener by Italy as poor finishing cost the Three Lions a share of the spoils.
Amongst England supporters expectations were not high for this tournament as Roy Hodgson chose a squad for the future full of youthful exuberance and attacking flair.
But the youngsters, Raheem Sterling in particular, caused problems for the Italian rearguard but disappointing finishing and a poor final pass sent them tumbling to a 2-1 defeat,
The opening minutes looked promising for England as Sterling, Jordan Henderson and Danny Welbeck all went close, but gradually Italy gained control, yet for all Italian's possession it was their opponents who created the better chances on the counter attack.
However, England's weakness was down the left hand side with Leighton Baines exposed as Wayne Rooney failed to provide the necessary cover. Yet Italy took the lead from a well rehearsed set piece from a corner.
The ball was pulled back to the edge of the box where Andrea Pirlo let it go through his legs to the unmarked Claudio Marchisio. With England slow to close the player down Marchisio drove the ball through a crowd of players and past Joe Hart.
But within two minutes the Three Lions had deservedly levelled with a sweeping move and emphatic finish
But if England looked impressive on the break it was in defence that the questions were being asked. Again problems came down the right leading to a Mario Balotelli chip being headed off the line by Phil Jagielka, then moments later Antonio Candreva fired against the foot of the post on the stroke of half-time.
Inevitably England were made to pay for failing to cut out the danger on their left hand side as Candreva, shortly after the restart, crossed to the far post for Balotelli to head home past his former Manchester City colleague Joe Hart.
England dug deep and pushed Italy back on the defensive and Rooney missed a good opportunity to restore parity but too often promising situations were wasted through the final delivey.
Pirlo almost sealed the win as the game entered stoppage time but his swerving, dipping free kick hit the cross bar with Hart immobile.
The stats show England had 18 attempts on goal , but only five were on target. Clinical finishing is the difference at this level.
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