Chelsea’s England representation followed our Spaniards in tasting defeat in their World Cup opener but it was a much closer game than the night before, Roy Hodgson’s side slipping to a 2-1 defeat against the Italians.
Gary Cahill played the full match in the heart of a defence that was pressured sporadically but after Mario Balotelli restored his side’s lead early in the second half, Italy were able to restrict England to mostly set-piece efforts.
It was a balanced first half, reflected in the 1-1 scoreline at the interval. England had the best early efforts with PSG’s Salvatore Sirigu saving from Jordan Henderson, Gianluigi Buffon missing between the Italian posts due to injury, and Danny Welbeck shooting wide.
Italy responded with a shot by Antonio Candreva that Joe Hart spilled but went safe, before two testing England delivers threatened to break the deadlock midway through the half, a Raheem Sterling cross drilled just in front of Welbeck and the Man United man almost serving up a similar opportunity for Daniel Sturridge, but Gabriel Paletta made a crucial intervention.
England were undone from a corner on 34 minutes, played low and deep, dummied by Andrea Pirlo and finished by Juventus’s Claudio Marchesio with a long-range low shot into the bottom corner.
England’s high-quality equaliser came in a flash, less than two minutes later and on the counter-attack, Sturridge with a far-post right-foot finish from Wayne Rooney’s cross, a Sterling ball having opened up the Italians.
Late in the half the England defence was troubled more than at any other time in the game with Phil Jagielka forced to head off the line by Balotteli and Candreva striking a post.
Balotteli had better fortune soon after the restart. Italy found space down the England left, the most vulnerable area throughout, and a well-flighted cross was headed in at the far post by the former Man City striker with Cahill left outnumbered.
Rooney in space shot wide just past the hour, a good chance not taken, and Cahill made a characteristic block from a shot to set England on the break, leading to a save from substitute Ross Barkley.
Fears that the conditions in the Amazon region would significantly affect the game were proving largely unfounded but the closest England came to a second equaliser were a saved free-kick from Leighton Baines and one fired over by Steven Gerrard.
Pirlo went closer, hitting the bar with a swerving deadball strike. The World Cup saw the best of Cahill inside stoppage time with a last-man tackle on Ciro Immobile but time ran out for him and his England team-mates. Frank Lampard remained on the bench with Hodgson introducing Jack Wilshere and Adam Lallana in addition to Barkley as his substitutes.
Next up for England are a Uruguay side smarting from a shock 3-1 defeat by Costa Rica earlier in the day. To add to the Uruguayan problems, Luis Suarez was not fit to start and was an unused sub despite his side trailing for over an hour, and experienced defender Maxi Pereira was sent off late on and will be suspended for Thursday’s game.
Sunday will be the first day of this World Cup with no Chelsea involvement but we return in numbers on Monday with Germany, Nigeria and Ghana all kicking off their campaigns in separate matches.