In the end it proved to be a vintage Roy Hodgson performance despite the fact that England managed to impress for significant portions of the first half. The former Liverpool manager made a number of misguided personnel selections and tactical choices, ultimately nullifying any threat England managed to put together rather than making Italy do it for him. One thing he managed to get right, however, was the inclusion of Raheem Sterling, who was at the heart of the Three Lions' attacking threat before Hodgson got in the way.
Sterling started the night centrally, operating just behind club teammate Daniel Sturridge in a role the 19-year-old had become increasingly familiar with during Liverpool's run-in. And, given the freedom to float throughout the forward areas, he excelled, making a number of surging runs and playing a part in some intricate build-up. His early shot signaled his intentions and fooled nearly everyone into thinking it was a goal; from 25 yards out he unleashed an arrowed drive at Salvatore Sirigu's goal, and the direction of the strike along with the camera angle made it look as though the ball had nestled itself in the top corner.
His pass to play in Wayne Rooney down the left to start the move for England's only goal was inch-perfect, and before tiring significantly in the second half--and getting shunted wide into a less effective role by his manager--he was his nation's best. There's still a good chance for England to advance, and if they do, it'll likely be with Raheem Sterling playing a significant part.
Video by MostarLFC