Sunday, 15 June 2014

A Little Too Green Behind The Ears

FIFA World Cup, 1st Round, Group D: Manus; England 1, Italy 2

Most of the English based media had been calling for England to turn it’s back on the “Golden Generation”…  er…  generation and promote the young players coming through.  The downside to that was that when you come up against a side with the experience of Italy, that experience can bring the game down to small margins.

Take for example Leighton Baines.  He might have been a better performer at Premier League level over the past coupe of years than Ashley Cole, but at times tonight his inexperience at the highest level showed.  Of course this argument doesn’t excuse the rank rotten performance of Rooney, but still England put in a decent performance that was streets ahead of their performances four years ago.

Picking the correct formation helped, one of life’s great mysteries four years ago was how Capello went with 4-4-2.  Only having two in the middle of the park, it could be argued, contributed to England only picking up 2 points from their first two games in 2010.  Having been here before (with Switzerland in 1994), Hodgson knew that 4-4-2 just wouldn’t be helpful.

The game itself was a surprisingly open affair.  The suspicion was that, with Uruguay’s surprise 3-1 loss to Costa Rica earlier on, both sides would play for the draw.  Far from it as both sides went to try and get an advantage in this group.  England’s best player was Liverpool’s Sterling, playing behind Sturrage.  He left a calling card as early as the 4th minute as he beat two players before shooting just wide.

In the first half, it looked like England had the better chances, though Italy dominated possession.  Italy did make the breakthrough with 10 minutes to go before half time.  A corner was pulled back to the edge of the box to Veratti, who cut back further.  Pirlo let the ball pass him, through his legs, where it found Marchisio in acres of space.  He had time to set himself up and then drilled in from about 25 yards.

England did not have to wait very long to draw back on to level terms.  Italy attack broke down, and England went on the counter.  Sterling’s pass found Rooney who ran down the Italy right before crossing to Sturrage who scored with a half volley.  It was a deserved goal for England, though it was the only point in the whole match where the Italy defence was out of position.  When England attacked throughout the second half, they found Italy resolute.

The same could not be said of England.  Playing out from the back, the ball came out to Candreva, who easily beat Baines and sent in a cross for Balotelli (above) to head in at the back post to make it 2-1.  Cahill & Johnson were pulled out of position by the Italians & that gave Balotelli time to get himself into position.  England then pushed forward for another leveller.  They had a claim for a penalty on the hour when Gerrard was balked by Palletta, while Gerard had a free kick go just over the bar late on.

While England can be pleased, for the most part, about the performance and the decision making of their manager though not the result.  Italy have given themselves a great chance of getting out of this group with this win, their first finals win since winning the World Cup in 2006.  Prehaps it should not be surprising that their defence looks like the most organised of the tournament so far.  One of the aspects of this tournament so far has been the high amount of goals.  The climate plays a part, but also there are question marks about the defensive sides of most of the main contenders.  If their defence is a consistent as it was tonight, Italy might well be a serious player in the knock out stages.

For all the good points to come out of this match, England still lost.  With Uruguay also losing, their match on Thursday has become an awful lot bigger and will now be seen as a World Cup eliminator with the loser effectively out of the competition. If England lose on Thursday, no one is going to remember anything about positives from this match.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent posting mate! I was happy to see how the positive play displayed by England - refreshing indeed! But I think Italy had a good combination of youth and experience. The game vs Uruguay is going to be a cracker