Expectation had been low for Roy Hodgson?s England going into this World Cup and a 2-1 defeat by Italy confirmed fears that they lacked the experience to be considered serious contenders.
While the Italians relied on the usual blend of experience and youth, England fielded many of their so-called ?young lions? in the opening group match on Saturday night. There was nothing surprising in the Italian approach to the game, building slowly from the back and patiently waiting for the opportunity to strike.
Ultimately, the difference between the two sides was clinical finishing with England failing to make the most of their opportunities. Italy struck twice from only eight attempts on goal with Balotelli allowed enough space for an unchallenged header in the second period. England had a clear-cut chance to level the game for a second time but Wayne Rooney failed to hit the target.
Rooney, playing in a wide role on the left hand side, came in for most criticism after the game. It would probably have been far worse but for the cross that he supplied for Daniel Sturridge that cancelled out Marchisio?s opener. Rooney?s night was best summed up by a horribly sliced corner kick which took off at a right angle to his foot and disappeared into the bemused England fans.
The outstanding player for England was Raheem Sterling who attacked the Italian flanks throughout the game. The crosses were often disappointing although Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge both came close to getting on the end of them. In terms of endeavour, it was hard to fault England?s performance. Hodgson must now take stock before picking his side to face Uruguay in their next match on Thursday.
A recall for 36-year-old Frank Lampard seems likely with Rooney perhaps being moved to a more central role. Lampard?s experience and the additional goal threat that he provides could be vital against Uruguay. Henderson may be the man to sacrifice after fading out of the game against Italy. Anything less than a win will leave them with precious little chance of reaching the knockout phase.
Uruguay were stunned 3-1 by Costa Rica and also face elimination. They will almost certainly recall Luis Suarez to lead the attack in the hope that he can inspire a revival in their fortunes. Edinson Cavani?s penalty looked to have set them on their way to victory but they were rocked by two quick goals by Costa Rica who then broke to seal the game with a sublime third. The pressure is firmly on England and Uruguay so it is set up to be a thrilling encounter.