Another clash of giants resulted in a very enjoyable match, as Italy beat England 2-1 with an opening goal from Claudio Marchisio and a winner from Mario Balotelli, while Daniel Sturridge scored an equalizer that lasted until midway through the second half.
Italy now seem like the favorites to finish first in Group D, while England are now in the same situation as Uruguay, although there’s not too much to be discouraged about from their opening match. They struggle with moving the ball and rely too much on the speed of their front four, but they defended well for most of the match and don’t look like a team that was outplayed or by far the inferior team.
England, relying on five players from Liverpool, started with an attacking foursome that included Daniel Sturridge, Danny Welbeck, Raheem Sterling and Wayne Rooney. Their pace gave them some opportunities early on in the first half, but Italy’s possession and quality helped them dominate and eventually score in the 34th minute, as a nice play off a corner kick left Claudio Marchisio outside the box and with a clever shot gave Italy the lead.
England reacted immediately, as Wayne Rooney made the most of Matteo Darmian leaving too much space behind him, as Rooney provided a beautiful cross to Daniel Sturridge, providing his famous celebration with the equalizer that sent us into the halftime break in a 1-1 draw. The teams handled the heat and humidity well for the first 45 minutes, but after Mario Balotelli connected with a cross from Antonio Candreva to give Italy the 2-1, the pace dropped as the conditions started getting to the teams and especially the England players.
Ross Barkley came on for the weak Danny Welbeck and immediatly sparked something into the English team. They managed to get some saves out of Salvatore Sirigu, but the backup Italian goalkeeper was in the right place at the right time for every long range shot England took at him. Eventually, corners and crosses were all they could conjure, and the Italian defense handled the small moments of pressure very well.
Group D is still very much open with Italy and Costa Rica taking the lead, but as we saw from both opening matches, there are no easy matches in this group, even more than expected. England didn’t play badly, Italy weren’t that dominant. This win gives the Italians a very big advantage for the next two matches, but in the way this World Cup is developing, there should be a few more twists and turns.