UK & World News

  • 15 June 2014, 9:01

World Cup: England Stronger Despite Defeat

At least this time England joined the party.

Defeat against Italy in steamy Manaus leaves Roy Hodgson's team seriously up against it if they are to reach the knockout phase.

They were far too uncertain defensively in their opening match to allow much optimism about a prolonged stay at the World Cup.

But there was plenty to enjoy in their attacking performance, plenty to give opposition coaches pause for thought.

Think back four years to the last World Cup in South Africa.

A stumbling 1-1 draw against the USA, a goal-less yawn-fest against Algeria and an uninspiring 1-0 victory over Slovenia qualified Fabio Capello's tired men for a 4-1 thrashing by Germany in the last 16.

This time, England's skilful young forwards Raheem Sterling, Danny Welbeck and goalscorer Daniel Sturridge led the way as Italy's wily defenders were made to dig deep in their collective locker to preserve their lead.

Given their head by manager Roy Hodgson, those three were always a threat, playing fast, incisive, confident football.

Substitutes Ross Barkley and Adam Lallana were cut from the same cloth. The ball was rarely given away cheaply - another pleasant improvement on the 2010 World Cup.

Captain Steven Gerrard also made the comparison with England's last big tournament performance, at the 2012 European Championship, when they were embarrassingly outplayed by Italy, who knocked them out on penalties.

"We were criticised two years ago for being toothless," said the Liverpool player.

"Anyone watching that game tonight could see we were trying to create."

They did create, but failed to take their chances with the clinical efficiency shown by Mario Balotelli in scoring the winning goal for Italy.

"Our final ball was disappointing and we are better than that," Hodgson said,

"But this is a first World Cup for two thirds of the team and it is something we will improve upon."

England fans will hope and expect that Hodgson will stick by his young guns in the coming matches.

"We are still not out of this competition," said Gerrard.

They will be unless they can find more of an end product against Uruguay on Thursday, but don't rule that out - especially if Wayne Rooney can finally score at the World Cup finals.

He's taking a lot of flak after an uncertain display on the left and missing England's best chance.

Hodgson has opened the case for the defence already: "I think it is harsh to say he didn't look comfortable on the left. I thought he did quite well and he set up our goal."

Stand by for five days of debate about whether Rooney should be in the starting eleven in Sao Paulo.

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