After that strong opening spell, the English became too slow in attack and very casual in their midfield play. They managed to keep many bodies behind the ball. Pirlo began to enjoy too much respect as he was afforded plenty of room to spray passes which increased the confidence of the Azzuri attacks.
A well-worked short corner-kick routine caught England without a man on the outside of the 18 area, giving an option to Italy to play two versus one. That short corner was rather played onwards to a rushing Pirlo who sold a dummy to Sturridge. Marchissio was not closed down as he thumped a first-time grass mower past Joe Hart who was obstructed by a forest of feet in front of him.
The response was rapid as the English midfield won the ball and quickly set up Sterling who spotted Wayne Rooney’s run on the left. Rooney complimented the perfect pass by a perfect cross which Sturridge half-volleyed home. The timing of the run of Liverpool’s striker was amazing, as was the composure to finish that excellent move with a first time shot while running at that pace.
The second half started well for England but quickly gave away the initiative to Italians who took that with both hands. The ‘offline’ mode in midfield saw Candrieva exploit the space on the right wing and then turn his man inside out and crossing a pinpoint ball for Mario Bolatelli who rose majestically to head down past the diving Hart.
England should have suffocated paly in midfield and have a man stop that run on the wing. The need to stop the cross cannot be over-emphasised. Super Mario also needed a tight leash all the time. He rose with little challenge and Joe Hart could have plucked that ball off the air or communicated with his defenders to watch for Mario as the cross was being manufactured.
Roy Hodgson’s troops raised their game once more, Rooney fluffing the best of that renaissance after a neat move that ended with him hurriedly dragging his shot past the near post from 10 yards out. To raise their game, Italy employed a very strong passing game, imposing their authority in all departments. In response, England did not let the sleeping dogs lay as they probed more, sometimes too desperately.
England had five players in the box for each corner-kick, all attacking the near post and the balls fell behind everybody on each occasion. It was the same with crosses as they fell to the blind-side without any attention from the wide men. There was enough reason for them to be hopeful in the next fixture against Uruguay who seemed disintegrated and demotivated by the loss to Costa Rica. There was however, too much respect to Pirlo who was left to belt out his thing in midfield.