England suffered a 2-1 defeat against Italy in their opening game of the World Cup.
The result was disappointing, but there were some positives as well as negatives to take from the opening game defeat.
Italy’s ownership of the ball still has not expired. The Italians controlled the midfield through Andrea Pirlo, Daniele De Rossi and Marco Verratti.
The Azzurri are masters at keeping the ball, especially Pirlo. The likes of Claudio Marchisio and Antonio Candreva were also excellent.
Pirlo is still going strong dictating play from his deep-lying midfield position. His influence on the game was hard to ignore.
The Juventus midfielder constantly seemed to have time on the ball and his midfield colleagues were just as impressive.
The Azzurri made it difficult for the Three Lions to get hold of the ball. I would not be surprised if the ball was not still glued to Pirlo’s feet.
England did look a big threat to the Italian defence, when they were able to wrestle the ball off their opponents of course. However, at times the Three Lions players made some poor decisions. It was not always the younger players who were responsible for those poor decisions though.
Too many times England got into dangerous positions, but the final ball was poor or sliced over the bar on a number of occasions down the Three Lions right. Raheem Sterling, Wayne Rooney and Glen Johnson all sliced crosses horribly in a difficult part of the pitch and Rooney also sliced a corner kick.
The Italians exploited England down their right time and time again through the excellent Candreva and full-back Matteo Darmian. England left-back Leighton Baines was constantly confronted with two on one situations, as he was offered by little back-up.
Italy’s second goal came from a cross from Italy’s right, which Mario Balotelli headed past England keeper Joe Hart. Candreva took on the beleaguered Baines and found the former-Manchester City striker.
Baines had a poor game, but to be fair to the Everton full-back his performance was not all his fault. It was obvious to anybody watching that England had a problem down their left side. Despite switching players around the Three Lions boss Roy Hodgson could not find an answer to the situation and it ended u[ costing them dearly.
This is England’s Wayne Rooney’s third World Cup finals and the Manchester United striker was once again disappointing. The 28-year-old may have produced a superb assist for Daniel Sturridge’s equaliser, but for the rest of the game he was poor.
Two incidents typified Rooney’s performance. The United striker was put through on-goal by a clever through pass by Baines, but the striker could only fire wide of goal from inside the penalty area. The other incident was a rather frustrating one for England.
Three Lions starlet Ross Barkley looked bright when he came on. The Everton youngster produced one particularly good solo run, driving at the Italian defence, only for Rooney to almost tackle his young colleague and balloon an effort over the bar. That summed up Rooney’s night in one incident.
He was played on the left wing for much of the game, but he never seemed like he was able to do the job properly, which lead to Baines being exposed on a consistent basis.
Right that is the negatives out the way, now to the positives. The selection of Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling on the right side of England’s attack was a justified one. The youngster looked threatening every time he picked up the ball and was very lively for the first hour of the game.
His combination play with fellow attackers Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge was a particularly pleasing facet of the game. England was far more dynamic in attack than in previous tournaments and seem like they could cause problems to opposition defences.
Welbeck worked hard for the team and at times threatened the Italian defence. Sturridge produced a very confident performance. Apart from his goal, Sturridge was always looking for the ball and giving the midfield an out ball.
If Sterling, Welbeck and Sturridge produce similar displays in the other two group games, then England still have a decent chance of making the knockout stages.
As Italy tends to do, they turned up when it mattered. They had been unconvincing in their warm-up games, but when the tournament kicked-off they produced a very good display and probably just about deserved the victory.
However, there was enough promise in the Three Lions front line to suggest that they could defeat both Uruguay and Costa Rica in their remaining games to make it to the knockout stages. If certain players continue to underperform though, the Three Lions could be heading home early from Brazil.
The England squad has a lot of potential and they are still very much in this tournament. The likes of Sterling, Barkley and Sturridge offer England fans hope that the Three Lions can still progress from the group, despite the opening game defeat.
Can England still make the World Cup knockout stages?