England 1, Italy 2: Solid Display from Liverpool Contingent Despite Loss

Adam Pretty

Five Liverpool players see action against Italy, with Daniel Sturridge getting on the scoresheet and all acquitting themselves well before tiring in a 1-2 loss against Italy.

England 1: Sturridge 37'
Italy 2: Marchisio 35', Balotelli 50'

Five Liverpool players made Roy Hodgson's starting eleven, with Raheem Sterling forcing his way into the lineup along with Glen Johnson, Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson, and Daniel Sturridge. Sterling was included with--rather than at the expense of--Danny Welbeck and Wayne Rooney behind Sturridge up top, with Gerrard and Henderson partnering in central midfield and Johnson starting at right-back.

It was a positive start from an England (and Liverpool) perspective, as Sterling fired an effort from distance that most everyone thought was in, and minutes later Henderson had a crack of his own on the half-volley that was parried away by Salvatore Sirigu. Both would continue their positive play despite Italy taking increased control over the match; Sterling fired a low cross from the left that barely beat Welbeck in front of goal, while Henderson ticked play along and spread himself about the forward areas well. Just after the 20 minute mark, Sturridge narrowly missed a header on an open goal after a deflected Welbeck cross, and in a strange turn of events, England were on top and exciting.

They weren't able to convert any of their positive play into a goal, however, and in the 35th minute Claudio Marchisio gave the Italians the lead with a wonderfully-taken shot from range. Italy's corner routine worked to perfection, with Andrea Pirlo dummying to free Marchisio, whose low drive beat Joe Hart through a number of England bodies. Their lead would last less than two minutes, however, as Sterling played Rooney into space down the left, and the Manchester United striker--who, to that point, had been abysmal--played an inch-perfect cross to Daniel Sturridge centrally, who tapped in with his right foot to level the tie.

England would escape the first half at 1-1 after a goal-line clearance by Phil Jagielka and a blast off the post by Antonio Candreva, and to start the second they'd make what looked to be an important (and obvious) tactical switch as Wayne Rooney was dragged off the left flank. Italy were rampant in the first half, with Leighton Baines constantly left exposed by Rooney's lack of cover defensively.

So naturally Italy's second came down that same flank, with Candreva cutting back past a leaping Baines and curling a cross at the far post for Mario Balotelli. The Milan striker made no mistake with his header, beating a helpless Hart and putting the Italians back in front.

England's response came from the usual suspects, with Sturridge forcing the issue going forward and Sterling probing across the forward line. They had half-shouts for penalties on Welbeck and Gerrard, both of whom were taken down in the area, but neither were convincing despite strong appeals. Just after the hour mark Rooney dragged an effort wide, and Ross Barkley--who had come on for Welbeck--forced Sirigu into another save shortly after.

Hodgson opted to bring Henderson off for Jack Wilshere on 73 minutes because that's a thing you do when you're Roy Hodgson, and eight minutes later Sturridge was off as well, with Adam Lallana on in his place. England fell off a cliff in the closing stages, with little energy left and even less cohesion as they pushed for the equalizer. Italy played out the final minutes comfortably, and despite a solid showing from the Liverpool contingent--most notably Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling, before getting pushed wide--England start the World Cup with a 2-1 loss to Italy.

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