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The striker scored the winning goal for the Azzurri and the coach was happy with how his players returned to winning ways for the first time in nine months

Cesare Prandelli showered Mario Balotelli with praise after the striker scored the winning goal in Italy's 2-1 win over England on Saturday.

The AC Milan forward made the difference in his side's first match of the World Cup, heading in at the back post in the second half, after Daniel Sturridge had equalised following Claudio Marchisio's opener.

Prandelli was delighted that hard work in training ahead of the tournament had given his team the edge fitness-wise over the Three Lions but admitted that domination over Roy Hodgson's men was hard to keep up.

"It's a shame that it was impossible to maintain the intensity we showed at times," the Azzurri coach told Rai Sport. "The team suffered in the heat, but we maintained supremacy in midfield.

"We worked well in training for the World Cup and we saw in the second half that England players were the ones who had cramp, not us, and this means that our work has paid off.

"Balotelli gave all he could give. Everyone gave their best."

Italy next clash with Group D leaders Costa Rica on Friday before facing Uruguay - who are currently bottom of the four-team table - on June 24.