By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Italy edged past England 2-1 in an entertaining affair at the Arena Amazônia in Manaus this evening (June 14th). A second half header from Mario Balotelli was enough to separate the sides in a game where both teams went for the jugular in trying playing conditions.
Defensive errors cost England dearly and they now go into their next two games needing a minimum of four points to stand any chance of qualifying for the last sixteen. Glen Johnson and Gary Cahill lost Milan forward Balotelli for a split second, and the game was lost.
Raheem Sterling was excellent for England, his pace a constant threat to the Italian defense throughout the first half. Jordan Henderson also forced Italian goalkeeper Sirigu into action as England grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck.
Italy had chances of their own, and went ahead after 35 minutes. Andrea Pirlo dummied a corner played to him on the edge of the area. The ball ran to Claudio Marchisio, who had the time and space to take a touch before rifling the ball into the bottom right-hand corner.
England’s response was instant. Wayne Rooney’s beautifully measured left-sided cross was met on the half volley by Daniel Sturridge for his first World Cup goal. Italy threatened twice in the closing stages of the first half, but England clung grimly to the 1-1 scoreline.
It took Italy less than five minutes of the restart to regain the lead. Antonio Candreva was afforded far too much space down the right flank to pick out a cross. He curled in a tantalizing cross and Balotelli appeared behind Cahill to nonchalantly head the winner.
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