For the first time in modern history England has entered a world cup without any hype. When they faced Italy on Saturday they weren’t the favourites. Alarmingly for Italy, 1st choice keeper Buffon was declared unfit on the eve of the match and was replaced by Sirigu. That wasn’t the only drama before kickoff – Manaus has been one of the most controversial sites this World Cup: exceedingly high humidity and patchy areas of the pitch that was reportedly painted green as a cover up. I expected a defensive game from Italy, but both sides impressed me; there was plenty of action in this one.
The three lions got off to a roaring start. They played positive football, attacking wide and controlling the midfield. Sterling had an early chance, but shot just wide, to the side netting infact. A few moments later Henderson had a go with a similar end result. I thought it won’t be long before they score. But the first goal came from Italy. A corner saw Andrea Pirlo play a dummy, letting the ball run to Claudio Marchisio who thumped a far range shot that sliced through four defenders plus Joe Hart to find the back of the net. Moments later on the other side, Sterling, having a brilliant game, made a brilliant run down the left to release Wayne Rooney, who set up Daniel Sturridge beautifully to level the score.
Amid England celebrations, their physiotherapist Gary Lewin got a little too excited and ended up being stretchered off with a twisted ankle. Just before half time Mario Balotelli had an excellent chance when he pulled Joe Hart off his line, but the England goalie was luckily saved by Phil Jagielka who cleared Balotelli’s goal bound chip.
England’s impressive start was undone in the second half, their confidence seemed to dip and they were rather sloppy defensively. The Italians ran havoc down the right, the English couldn’t cope. In the 50thminute Candreva’s cross found Balotelli who this time headed it past Hart. Pirlo almost made it 3-1 in stoppage time with his free kick finding the cross bar, Joe Hart’s frustrated reaction can be seen here