Mario Balotelli's second-half goal earned the Italians a well-deserved 2-1 win over a young England side and we look at three key lessons from the gameCOMMENT
By Bhas Kunju | Chief Editor, Goal Singapore
At the start of the World Cup Group C seemed to have the clearest path paved out for the participating teams and the outcomes almost seemed written in stone - Italy were to falter, Costa Rica were going to be the fodder, Uruguay would be the group favourites and England were going to deliver at last. But this entertaining World Cup just keeps on delivering more surprises.
|Celebrate with caution|
|First up, England are probably going to be in need of a new physio, after Gary Lewin was stretchered off with a dislocated ankle. Lewin had injured himself while celebrating Daniel Sturridge's equaliser in the first-half. The most obvious thing to state is, the exertion came in vain, as apart from the well-worked goal, England had a forgettable night resulting in a just defeat.|
|England still play it safe
|Despite boasting England's second youngest squad at the World Cup and a relatively adventurous selection, when the time came for effective action, Roy Hodgson settled for safety. Two of the more disappointing players on the team, Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard, were left on the field until the final whistle, and when badly needing a push for goal, the England manager sent in three midfielders, including two to replace forwards Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck. The one thing that Hodgson got right was introducing Ross Barkley. Although the Everton man too had come on for a striker, his flair in the final third along with Raheem Sterling's steely determined runs down the right caused more trouble for Italy than all of England's attacking line-up in the second-half combined.|
|Wayne Rooney's well-placed cross that led to Sturridge's equaliser looked to signal a brilliant World Cup ahead for the 28-year-old who is still in search of his first goal in the competition at his third outing. But that 37th minute assist was the only highlight of the Manchester United forward. Everything else about Rooney spelt abject.
From completely slicing a corner-kick out of touch, an unbelievable sight at this level of competition, to throwing away England's best chance at a second equaliser. Leighton Baines played Rooney into space inside the penalty box and the forward looked odds on to find the back of the net. Instead, Salvatore Sirigu, Buffon's late replacement in goal, was not even troubled with the final effort from Rooney. In fact, apart from the goal conceded, Sirigu had little else to worry about in the second-half.
Rooney wasn't alone though. Steven Gerrard who was supposed to lead the charge for England barely even did enough to register himself in the game. The England captain looked bothered, rushed and out of place, in stark contrast to his Italian counterpart who not only was instrumental in the brilliantly worked winning goal, but also hit the crossbar late in injury time and was a picture of calm and composure.
Unlike a 38-game league season, the World Cup is make or break in just three short games. Whatever Hodgson decides he has to do it quick.