England were widely criticised after their Euro 2012 exit despite shutting out Italy for over two hours before bowing out on penalties. Despite being beaten in Manaus, Roy Hodgson's youngsters ensured a more upbeat response to their efforts two years on...
It wasn’t the most of convincing performances from the England goalkeeper, although he didn’t have a great deal to do. There was little Hart could have done to prevent either Italy goal but he only made two other saves in the match and one of those saw him spill Antonio Candreva’s long-range shot. His handling was impeccable from crosses but he was also completely outmanoeuvred by Andrea Pirlo’s late free-kick. Let’s hope the midfield maestro's apparent ability to bewitch England’s No.1 hasn’t dented his confidence once more.
Key stat: Joe Hart conceded two goals from Italy’s four shots on target
The form of England’s right-back has been a subject of debate in recent weeks and if an early handball call had gone against Johnson then a nation would have collectively been groaning his name, but there was plenty of positives to go with the occasional sloppy play. He dealt with Giorgio Chiellini well in the first half and got forward with purpose at times – particularly when putting in a low cross in the second half that should have been put away. However, could he have provided more cover to Gary Cahill for Mario Balotelli’s winner?
Key stat: Glen Johnson made the joint-most tackles (3) of any England player
In a sense, Cahill’s performance summed up England’s night. It was a confident and assured effort for much of the contest and yet he found himself caught out for a moment and punished. Balotelli’s movement did for the Chelsea centre-back but he was otherwise impressive – most notably when coming up with a last-ditch tackle to deny Ciro Immobile on the break late on. A cramp problem midway through the second half suggests Cahill was playing at the limit of his capabilities.
Key stat: No England player made more clearances (3) than Gary Cahill
The pick of England’s back four, Jagielka was impressive on his tournament debut for England. A composed header back to Hart in the first half was evidence of his mind-set and his use of the ball was tidy throughout. Indeed, he misplaced just one of his 47 passes on the night. Of course, the highlight of his performance was the spectacular goal-line clearance to deny Balotelli a goal in the latter stages of the first period.
Key stat: Phil Jagielka had the best pass completion rate (98%) of any England starter
Welcome to the big stage. Baines established himself as England’s first-choice left-back ahead of Ashley Cole some time ago now, but this was the night that the enormity of that task became clear. Asked questions by the positioning of Candreva and Matteo Darmian, he didn’t always find the answers and was sold far too easily for the cross that led directly to the winning goal. While the defensive concerns remain, he tested Salvatore Sirigu with a fine free-kick and his clever pass to set up Rooney might have seen him earn an assist late on. Baines surely personifies the emphasis England are now placing on attack over defence.
Key stat: Leighton Baines made more interceptions (2) than any other England player.
The demands of his midfield role called upon Gerrard to curb his attacking instincts and maintain concentration in those central areas. In that respect it was a difficult game for the captain as Italy’s attacking midfielders regularly found themselves in pockets of space behind him. When he did get hold of the ball, there was evidence of his trademark passing range but he couldn’t unlock the Italy defence and his best hope of a breakthrough came with an unconvincing penalty shout. Seemed to tire late on and with no obvious replacement in the squad will need to be nurtured now.
Key stat: Steven Gerrard completed more passes (62) than any other England player.
Henderson began the game showing real ambition and he fired off a well-struck shot at Sirigu’s goal in the early exchanges. However, this wasn’t an evening for the Liverpool midfielder to be the hero, such were the defensive demands of his position. Outnumbered in midfield, he showed willing and used the ball effectively before being sacrificed in favour of the more probing Wilshere.
Key stat: Jordan Henderson made more passes (50) than all but one of his team-mates despite being substituted in the 73rd minute.
This was a performance likely to divide opinion once more with his backers pointing to the brilliantly executed left-foot cross to set up Sturridge’s goal, while his detractors might prefer to focus on his struggles to help Baines down the left flank. That assist was Rooney’s first at a World Cup but after nine appearances on the biggest stage his wait for a goal continues. It is to be hoped that the opportunity he dragged wide when well-placed late on will not define his time in Brazil.
Key stat: Wayne Rooney created more chances (3) than any other player on the pitch.
What a way to introduce yourself. Making his competitive debut as England's No.10 in their World Cup opener, the teenager would have been entitled to feel the pressure. Instead he promptly went on a delightful dribble before crashing a shot into the side-netting that had pub-goers up and down the country jumping in premature joy. This was a performance of confidence and verve with end product to go with it – as shown by his threaded pass through to Rooney that led to England’s goal. Restricted to the right in the latter stages he looked the man most likely all evening and there’ll be many already looking forward to his next appearance.
Key stat: No player on the pitch put in more crosses (7) than Raheem Sterling.
The focus of so much debate over his place in the side, Welbeck showed just why Hodgson thinks so much of him in the early stages. Finding good positions in the channel he kept the ball well, won it back with intent and when he drove forwards into the box he almost set up Sturridge for the opening goal. However, familiar failings remain an issue and Welbeck might have shown greater attacking instinct to latch onto Johnson’s cross after the break and there’s still a sense in which he’s not using his physical gifts quite as he might. He was subbed in favour of Barkley on the hour.
Key stat: Despite playing only an hour, no England player made more tackles (3) than Danny Welbeck.
What’s clear is that for all the things England might lack in this tournament they do have a genuine goalscorer. Sturridge succeeded in carrying his club form onto the World Cup stage with a well-taken goal to cancel out Claudio Marchisio’s opener. He oozed confidence throughout, testing Sirigu in the second half and later curling an effort wide of his post. Sturridge’s general play was that of a player at the peak of his powers with his hold-up play a useful asset so it was a pity to see him hobble off late on just as England were pressing for an equaliser.
Key stat: Daniel Sturridge scored (1) on his World Cup debut.
Adam Lallana looked comfortable on the ball in his brief outing, while Jack Wilshere endured a more mixed time of it as he attempted to conjure something against the crowded Italian defence. However, much of the talk is likely to surround the man Hodgson turned to first. Ross Barkley looked at ease at this level and might have found the equaliser with one effort as he jinked past his markers. His horror when robbed of the ball by Rooney as he primed to shoot summed up the ambitions of the youngster and the calls for him to feature more are now likely to grow.
Key stat: Ross Barkley had a pass completion rate of 100% from his 17 passes.