A disappointing but not unexpected result in Manaus has left England’s hopes of group qualification looking somewhat precarious.
After a highly spirited performance, England will find themselves hard done by to finish the game without a point to show for their efforts.
England started so promisingly with early long range efforts from Sterling and Henderson, the former cruelly rippling the side netting in a manner that sent many England fans into a state of mistaken euphoria.
Antonio Candreva, who caused England’s left hand side no end of problems, forced Joe Hart into a less than convincing save from distance twenty minutes in. The Lazio man kept Leighton Baines constantly busy, who in truth could have done with more protection from his winger Rooney.
Shortly after, the first clear cut chance of the match fell to England. Welbeck beat his man on the right before sliding a low cross towards Sturridge who was ready to pounce in the centre, only for Andrea Barzagli to get a crucial touch, flicking the ball just inches away from the Liverpool striker.
The tempo dropped around the half hour mark, with both sides keeping the ball well when in possession and Pirlo looking increasingly threatening when allowed space.
England will be disappointed to have conceded in such a manner, but it was a well worked corner routine which put the Italians in front on 35 minutes. A clever dummy from Pirlo on the edge of the box allowed Marchisio to drill home from 25 yards. His low shot slotting through the legs of both Rooney and Cahill before finding the bottom left hand corner.
Just two minutes later however, England found themselves level. It was the perfect response, with an incisive counter attack allowing Rooney space on the left to play a perfectly weighted cross to Sturridge who still had a lot to do, but England’s number 9 made it look easy, converting coolly on the half-volley.
A nervous moment just before half time saw Joe Hart rush out to close down Mario Balotelli, who’s smart chip required a vital goal line header from Jagielka to see England in level at half time.
After the break Welbeck switched sides with Rooney to try and sure up England’s left hand side. It was to little effect however as once again Candreva had the better of Baines and supplied one of many superb crosses over Gary Cahill, leaving who else but Balotelli to nod in at the back post.
How England needed another quick response, but the Italians had learnt from their earlier mistake and bought on Motta for Veratti to sure up their midfield and suffocate the game.
Despite this, the best chance of the match fell to Wayne Rooney who picked up Baines’ excellent pass before cutting inside and fooling Sirigu who went the wrong way, but his shot rolled agonisingly wide leaving Roy Hodgson with his head in his hands.
In the last twenty minutes however, as England tried desperately to create chances, there were only free-kick efforts from specialists Baines and Pirlo to speak of. Pirlo’s strike was by far the more promising as he wickedly whipped the ball from right to left, only for it to plant the crossbar and fly over, leaving Joe Hart motionless and the crowd awestruck.
All in all, Italy probably deserved their victory but England will rue that Rooney miss which would have made their position in the group look far more promising. That said, with Uruguay’s shock loss against Costa Rica, England will fancy themselves to come out victorious in their next match if they can put in a similar performance, even if talisman Luis Suarez returns for the game.
England player ratings:
Hart : 6
A few nervous moments but generally solid. Couldn’t do much for either goal.
Baines : 5
Had a very tough afternoon against Candreva who was allowed to cross all too often. Did provide a good pass for Rooney’s chance.
Johnson : 6
Showed good attacking intent and generally solid, but perhaps should have been covering for Italy’s second.
Jagielka : 7
The best of our back four, looked assured and confident. Impressive.
Cahill : 6
Generally solid but caught out for Italy’s winner.
Gerrard : 6
A quiet night by his high standards, and wasn’t involved much going forward but kept the ball well on the whole.
Henderson : 6
Promising early on, with some good runs and a decent effort. Faded before being substituted.
Sterling : 8
Adventurous and dangerous for large parts of the match. Had a few great dribbles and put in some decent balls, also hit an excellent strike just wide.
Rooney : 5
Very quiet for much of the game. Didn’t provide adequate cover for Baines to help quell the threat of Candreva and Darmian. Missed the chance of the match but provided a sublime ball for Sturridge’s leveller.
Welbeck : 7
Never stopped running and showed his importance by winning the ball back on numerous occasions. Criticised for lacking drive going forward and taking easy options, but almost found Sturridge early on to put England in front.
Sturridge : 8
Found him self in good positions on a few occasions, had some good link up play with both Welbeck and Sterling and put away a superb finish for England’s equaliser. He should take a lot of confidence from that performance.
Subs: Barkley : 7 (on for Welbeck ’61) Showed promise, looking fearless and threatening going forward.
Wilshere : 5 (on for Henderson ’73) Looked to make things happen but gave away possession too easily.
Lallana : 6 (On for Sturridge ’79) Not given much time to make an impact, but looked good when he got the ball.