Player: Fraser Forster/Joe Hart
Match: England vs Italy
Stadium: Arena Amazônia, Manaus
Result: England 1-2 Italy
Goal Scorers: Marchisio ’34 (ITA), Sturridge ’36 (ENG), Balotelli ’50 (ITA)
England’s World Cup campaign started in defeat as Claudio Marchisio and Mario Balotelli gave Group D rivals, Italy, a win in Manaus.
England started the game confidently as they seemed to take every chance they got and attacked the Italian goal right from kick-off, Joe Hart must of thought he was going to have it easy. As the game progressed, both teams started to pick up the pace as it went end-to-end but the Italians kept the majority of the possession and the England players put their laces through the ball at every chance that was given to them. Eventually, Claudio Marchisio opened the scoring on the 34th minute with a low 25-yard shot that was assisted by Marco Verrati from the corner. It was a good strike, however, it could have been saved. I’ve seen Fraser Forster stop better shots against Europe’s elite. The Italians were leading their opponents for no more than two minutes as England managed to catch Italy on the counter-attack. Wayne Rooney found himself with possession of the ball down the left flank, he then put a fine cross into the box where Daniel Sturridge met the ball from the close-range and equalised for England with his right boot.
Moments later, Mario Balotelli came face-to-face with his former colleague, Joe Hart. The City ‘keeper committed himself and rushed out to stop Balotelli, however, the Italian took advantage of the open net and lobbed the ball over the England stopper where he was well and truly beaten. The ball was an inch from crossing the line then, out of nowhere, Phil Jagielka headed Balotelli’s lobbed shot off the line and bailed England’s #1 out of trouble. But the AC Milan striker finally got his chance in the second half when he put Italy 2-1 up in the 50th minute with a close-ranged header.
Later in the match, Rooney spurned a good chance as he dragged a shot wide before Andrea Pirlo’s late free-kick hit the bar.
The game seemed to cool dramatically as pace slowed down and players started getting cramps. To the relief of the young, tired England players, the final whistle blew and a very entertaining second group D game was over.
Costa Rica are top of Group D after a surprise 3-1 win over Uruguay.
Joe Hart’s match rating: 3/5