England down after Italy defeat – but certainly not out


England‘s 2-1 defeat to Italy in their Group D opener on Saturday means the Three Lions’ World Cup campaign got off to the worst possible start but the manner of the loss means there is plenty of room for optimism that they can still go far in the tournament. When Roy Hodgson‘s side were knocked out by the Azzurri on penalties in Euro 2012, no-one could have made a case then that they were unlucky to lose but, two years on, and many pundits and fans are right to suggest England should have at least claimed a draw in Manaus.
It was a performance brimming with potential and offered plenty of positives, with Hodgson’s bold decision to start with Liverpool youngster Raheem Sterling being the stand-out success on the night. Sterling began brilliantly and almost scored with a long-range effort inside the first few minutes, while he was regularly willing to take the game to the Italians, running at the defence and asking plenty of questions. While the winger’s display was a big positive to take, the fact England ultimately ended up on the losing side means there is little room for error now when they go up against Uruguay on Thursday. Their shock 3-1 defeat to Costa Rica will have been noted by the England camp, who must believe that if they take the form they showed against Italy into the next game, that much-needed victory should be well within their grasp.
Daniel Sturridge again proved his credentials at international level with a well-taken goal to equalise but the form of Wayne Rooney remains puzzling. The Manchester United star did well to set up Sturridge for the goal but, aside from a shot he dragged wide in the second half, he remained on the periphery of the action as he operated out wide. Rooney is clearly not happy with being played out of position and believes he should be the main central striker but Sturridge’s goal means he will continue in that role for now, with calls for Rooney to be dropped growing louder. It remains Hodgson’s biggest headache ahead of the Uruguay showdown and, while he is expected to keep faith with much of the side from the opener, there is an argument to be made that if you’re going to play Rooney out of position then you may as well not select him at all.

Other members of the squad, like Adam Lallana, Ross Barkley and James Milner, look better equipped to operate out wide than him at the moment and may well be able to offer more of a threat going forward in a creative sense overall as England know they will need to take the game to the South Americans. The defence looked generally tight for most of the evening against Italy, with Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka coping with the threat of Mario Balotelli for much of the game. Sadly, they let the former Man City man get free for the winner but after Italy had gone in front they offered very little attacking threat and England’s defence coped without any later alarms.

With Luis Suarez expected to return for Uruguay on Thursday, the back four will again have to be on their toes throughout the whole game to keep the Liverpool man quiet but, apart from him and his strike partner Edinson Cavani, Uruguay look a very ordinary side. England may have been beaten by Italy but the manner of the defeat means there is a real belief they can turn things around and kick-start their campaign in Brazil with all three points next up.
Image – Wikipedia

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