England fans will be waking up this morning to find that the three lions fell to the swords of the Italians in Manaus last night. But what can we take from the game?
The first half performance. England came out of the blocks quickly, and gave Italy an early scare through Raheem Sterling’s long range effort which I must admit, I thought was in! The first 15 minutes of the game England exploited the pace of the front men and found themselves in good goal scoring positions quickly. We had good chances when using Sterling to have got ourselves ahead in the first 20 minutes, and if we continue to do that against Uruguay and Costa Rica, we might be able to sneak an early goal and control the game early.
Team spirit. Our reaction to going a goal down was spot on. The team didn’t panic, they got the ball and ran at Italy. Sterling again using his turn of pace to feed Rooney to set up Sturridge was a slick and determined move. England will see that if they get Rooney in the right positions he has the quality to deliver the right kind of service for the front men. Sturridge more often than not, will be in the right position ready to pounce.
Counter attacking. When exploiting the pace in the team like I said before, we looked threatening. Italy’s defence isn’t the quickest, and neither is Uruguay’s. Getting the ball into the opposition’s areas quickly will prove a good way to score when you know Sterling can beat a man, and Welbeck and Sturridge have the pace to keep up with the move.
Raheem Sterling. Really impressed against Italy, who at times didn’t know how to handle him. He perhaps played too many minutes and inevitably went down with cramp with 20 minutes to go, and faded from the game ever since. The right treatment of this young fella will spell good things for England in the games to come. He’s certainly made a case to play ahead of Lallana next game.
Danny Welbeck’s endeavour to win the ball back. It was refreshing to see him chasing back to pressure the Italian’s whilst off the ball, and more often than not he won the ball back to start an England attack off again. He was a tad unlucky not to convert Sterling’s first half cross, but if he keeps getting in the right positions he’ll grab at least one in this tournament.
Tired second half. The longer we chased the game, the more jaded our players became. Attacks became slower, passing back and from side to side, with players not attacking the Italians like they did in the first half. Hopefully this won’t be a sign of what’s to come, surely our players aren’t still tired from club season?
Not alert at set pieces. England will know that they need to be switched on for a variety of set piece ideas from now on. They clearly didn’t expect the short corner from Italy, and Marchisio was not closed down as quick as he should have been to block his goal scoring shot. A word of warning to England, they need to keep switched on as teams won’t give them a reprieve at set pieces from now on.
Rooney should not play on the left. Although his assist came from the left wing, he’s at his most ineffective when on the wings. He clearly was not enjoying the defensive work he had to put in, and became selfish at times when he got frustrated from not having the ball enough, and lashing shots at goal when there were better options on. England will get the best out of him in that number 10 role where Sterling was deployed. He can dictate the game from a central position, and either shoot or distribute.
Baines looked uncomfortable. Far too often Baines was beaten by Candreva, and strayed from his left back position when there was no cover or no forward options in front of him. I’m all for him trying to attack, but he needs to do this when he’s got support. Next game against Uruguay he will have to be switched on against the likes of Cavani and Stuani who at the minute are Uruguay’s most potent threats while Suarez is out.
Where was Lambert? If you need a goal, Lambert can find one. Getting him on for the last 15 minutes would have added a more physical dimensions to England’s play where crosses could have been put in for him to challenge for. Lallana in midfield didn’t have enough time to really get himself into the game, and the repositioning of Rooney up top isn’t a threatening one to a tall and physical Italian defence. A Lambert introduction over Lallana shows more attacking intent in my opinion.
All in all, it was a valiant effort by England who set out to execute a high energy game plan that in the first half, seemed to be working. If we’d of been more clinical in front of goal and stamped out set pieces, we could have been ahead going into the break which changes the emphasis of the game. A deeper defensive line could have perhaps kept out a not overly inspiring Italian side that for most of the first half, were just pumping it long to Balotelli.
It was the rate at which England deteriorated second half that is of most concern to me. They didn’t expect to be chasing the game again so quickly, and energy levels just burned out. Hopefully the next 5 days gives the players a chance to recuperate and go again for what is now a more important test against Uruguay. It’s just as much in our hands as any others at this point, with Costa Rica now appearing the surprising team to beat.
Only a win will do England, no pressure there then.