Saturday, June 14, 2014

Italy Overcome England 2-1 with Balotelli Header

After Costa Rica's impressive 3-1 comeback against Uruguay, the pressure was on England and Italy as they faced off in Manaus. Both sides were hunting for a win, and it was England who came out with the right intensity, creating a couple of good early chances. However Italy soon took over with their languid possession, stifling England's quick tempo with Pirlo and Verratti in central midfield moving the ball with ease.

While the Azzurri took their time going forward, when things clicked they took the lead with a well worked set play from a corner. It was Pirlo's calm dummy which let the ball slip to Claudio Marchisio, who rifled a low shot into the bottom corner of Joe Hart's net. It was a great goal to give a patient Italy side the lead, but England's reaction came quickly. Not more than two minutes later a through ball on the left wing released Rooney to place a curled cross for Sturridge to tap in.

Even if England had sparked the majority of the action in the first half, they came out slow in the second. It was Tim Cahill who was caught napping five minutes into the half when Candreva's cross found Mario Balotelli with just enough space to head into the back of the net. For all of the early promise England showed, the Three Lions were once more left chasing the Italian's possession.

Marchisio's strike to give Italy the lead
As the half went on, England brought on Barkley and Lallana, hoping for an injection of creativity.  Ross Barkley had the best moment of the half for England with a low shot which forced Sirigu into a diving save. Italy continued in their collected possession, slowly wearing down England and the clock but not creating any notable chances. Both sides seemed to have switched off by the time the final whistle arrived: Italy were content with the lead and England unable to find any continuity without the ball.

Now, Costa Rica currently tops Group D with Italy just behind on goal difference. Meanwhile England and Uruguay are both without points, and will face each other on Thursday June 19th. Both sides will be desperate for a win in order to still have a chance of qualifying for the knockout stages. The real question which remains is whether Costa Rica will be able to get a positive result against Italy, and make a real case for reaching the knockout stages.

Can England pick themselves up after this loss and get a result against Uruguay? Are Costa Rica the true dark horses for this World Cup? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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