Italy did what Italy do, that is just enough to win, in beating England in their opening World Cup group game but the pundits just turn a blind eye.
Well Roy and England did spring some surprises in Manaus starting with the manager picking Sterling to start, this of course tempered by him dropping Lallana. Roy gives with one hand and takes with the other.
Which also meant like all other England managers since Sir Alf in ’66 he was crowbarring in his star player. Rooney, out left where yet again it didn’t work. One pundit, Lineker, brought it up asking would it be better to play a player in his actual position rather than shifting and fudging. Of course this was shot down by the brains of Britain, Alan Shearer and Rio Ferdinand.
But he played the cross for the goal and with his wrong foot! Wrong foot, tells you everything you need to know about England players. Yes he did play the cross, it was a good cross but a player who has been playing professionally since he was about 16 should be able to put a cross in like that.
It was the only decent thing he did all night. The rest amounted to one missed sitter and one corner that could rank as the worst ever seen in the professional game, never mind just World Cup finals.
That cross of course led to the other surprise England sprung. Scoring a goal in these finals. Didn’t think they’d do it. Certainly one positive.
It was a good move starting from Sterling’s pass to Rooney and Sturridge’s finish – again wrong foot. It came very shortly after England again conceded from a set piece. Shearer talks as if this a new phenomenon, yet I’ve been blogging about such things since Svennis’ days.
As the ball passed four white shirts, before Hart, on it’s way to the back of the net pretty much summed up England’s midfield throughout the game.
We kept hearing how England now knew how to play against Pirlo after Euro 2012. Yet time and time again, Pirlo picked up the ball in acres of space, under absolutely no pressure, where he then passed an easy ball to another Italian player who was in acres of space under absolutely no pressure without any interference from Gerrard and Henderson. This wasn’t mentioned once on the BBC.
England’s middle pair just disappeared every time Pirlo had the ball. But isn’t Gerrard meant to be this great shielding midfielder? It was just so, so easy for Italy’s number 21.
If Andrea Pirlo was English he’d have fewer caps than Carlton Palmer.
Yet Baines get’s all the blame. While Gerrard did nothing to stop attacks, Baines was left trying to cover two Italian players. One just inside him, one outside him, with no Rooney covering back, and certainly no help coming from either Henderson or Gerrard. The ridiculous shouting that Cole should have been picked were as predictable as they were stupid.
The Italians kept trying down the left – it was a good job they didn’t have the same going down the right as Johnson was again there for the taking but Chiellini is more of a stopper than a wing-back. The crosses were crap but you knew once they’d get a decent one across Balotelli would be there to finish off. While England players squandered chances the ex Citeh player had one and took it.
At that point the Italians knew they’d done enough – they weren’t going to be caught out twice. The pundits banged on about the positives from the second half as England had the ball. But Italy just dropped back, two banks of five, and let them have it. Yes there was chances but Italy were in cruise control.
While pointing out the positives there was mentions of all these chances while conveniently forgetting Balotelli had a chance cleared off the line, the English post was hit and Pirlo’s late free-kick had beaten Hart all ends up as it swerved onto the bar.
Ah but Gerrard should have had a penalty. Imagine if it had been at the other end they’d be saying it was shoulder to shoulder and his inept touch meant he’d lost the ball.
The positive was Sterling, along with a small bit of Barkley, along with the Uruguayans earlier in the day, when they lost 3-1 to Costa Rica. Can Uruguay be so bad again? Well they actually look equally matched to England in a number of areas. The midfield pair offer nothing creative, the forwards miss chances and the back line is there for the taking. Which could be good for England in the next game, especially if Suarez isn’t fit but doesn’t bode well for the final group game against Costa Rica.
And after all is it a positive to give England hope?