Sunday June 15 2014
How Italy swept away the doubts

Italy silenced critics in the best possible way against England, leaving Jeremy Lim optimistic about what lies ahead.

Doubt is traditional Italian fare served up before any tournament. Doubts about readiness. The selection. Tactics. Injuries. Focus, after late-night marriage proposals. But this Azzurri group, like the best of those that had gone before them, is fuelled by the doubt of those around them.

The tension before Italy’s curtain raiser against England had hung thick in the air. The Three Lions camp insisted they had their Group D rivals figured out, pronouncing they had devised a way to make the ethereal Andrea Pirlo look human. And then to compound matters, Gianluigi Buffon and Mattia De Sciglio chose the worst moments to pull up lame.

Instead of taking a dip, Italy’s preparations soared for the clash in Manaus. Riding their luck at times against their opponent’s effervescent attacking moves, they picked their moments to strike. There was a priceless relief when Claudio Marchisio opened the scoring from distance. An unwithheld outpouring of joy followed when Mario Balotelli rose highest to thump in what turned out to be the winner.

Because winning the encounter on penalties when the two nations met in Euro 2012 was too prosaic, this time Italy finished the job in 90 minutes. The woodwork struck by Antonio Candreva and Pirlo, along with Phil Jagielka’s magnificent goalline clearance on Balotelli, confirmed Italy’s superiority for the second competitive fixture in as many years.

It was the positive start Cesare Prandelli had desired. The Coach had emphasised the importance of announcing themselves in the right way. Not just to the rest of the competition or onlookers, but their inner sceptics as well. Victory may just have stirred a flicker of belief in them.

For the five survivors of the Nazionale’s disastrous group stage exit at South Africa 2010, the desire for restart was met with result. The others, untested on the world stage, basked in the watershed moment. Circumstances ensured they were tested by it throughout. Many emerged looking the part in their country’s shirt.

“Salvatore Sirigu did really well and he stepped up when needed after years of coming in as part of the group. Matteo Darmian, Marco Verratti, Ciro Immobile and even Mario Balotelli were all making their World Cup debuts and proved themselves to be up to the task,” Daniele De Rossi praised. He and Pirlo were totems at the centre of Italy’s best moves.

Prandelli had confirmed that everyone would have the chance to defend the national colours before the World Cup was over. Going by the England display, Italy boast a raft of options. Sirigu put on a masterclass in goal. Darmian and Candreva gave a small measure of the danger the team can create on the flank in every game, with Alessio Cerci, Antonio Cassano and Lorenzo Insigne also capable of supplying the type of thrust that has been missing in wide areas for years.

Special mention must be reserved for Balotelli, who received a dream World Cup debut in his home-away-from-home, Brazil. The enigmatic 23-year-old is evidently Italy’s most gifted striker. It’s just something that requires constant repetition. But now his 11th goal in 17 competitive games, matched by his constant desire, on Saturday has confirmed the newly-engaged man’s top credentials.

Whisper it softly, but with Super Mario finding form, the Azzurri can quietly be allowed to dream that football’s greatest prize may be fractionally closer.

Naturally, there’s room for improvement. Prandelli’s cumbersome defensive selections have fallen under scrutiny. Concentration dipped last night and Italy conceded right after going in front, exactly as had happened against Spain in the group stages of Euro 2012. When there’s the win, there’s optimism. Yet Prandelli’s men are also aware of how fast the winds can change, if they let go their favourable position in the group with a slip versus Costa Rica next.

But for now, Italy have experienced the magic of the World Cup, and glimpsed where four years of work plus meticulous planning could lead them to. And just for a moment, doubts have been allowed to subside.

Keep up to date with the latest news and action from Spain's Primera Division with Football Espana - from the team behind Football Italia.

Have your say...
Italy may have broken a record for passing, but most of that was in their own half. England were the one's who were in Italy's half most of the game.
on the 19th June, 2014 at 3:50am
Who is this Jenkins guy and why does he think we need Sturridge while claiming this is the worst England team in "15-20 years?" Why do we want players from such an apparently awful team?
on the 17th June, 2014 at 4:56pm
@ Pirlo 21 emm did you see Chiellini's positioning? Lets face it Italy were torn apart for that goal. There were weaknesses down the right hand side of defence and in the centre. I'm not sure blaming one player is much use.
on the 17th June, 2014 at 2:34pm
Losing your legendary World Cup winning goalkeeper & captain & having to reshuffle the defence would, & has, caused many teams to crumble under the pressure. Italy take it all in their stride & just get on with it. Sirigu was excellent & dealt with everything professionally in a safety first manner. Gigi obviously prepared him with his calmness. Paletta is a good no-nonsense defender, who was after all making his competitive debut, & proved in the Spain friendly he can succeed at this level.
on the 17th June, 2014 at 2:34pm
I think Sturridge's Goal was Paletta's Mistake.... :-o He should have marked Sturridge. He was no were near when Sturridge Scored..
on the 17th June, 2014 at 3:38am
Ok MA NON ne sono sicuro che corrispondono ai ragazzi stavano guardando ma questa è stata una notevole vittoria. Da quello che ho visto Inghilterra sono una vera mano piena per ogni team e effettivamente meritato un pareggio. Se possiamo vincere contro questo attacco quindi non abbiamo nulla da temere da un qualsiasi team!
on the 16th June, 2014 at 7:46pm
@maldini heir
I think wev all mafe valid points. Theres afew ppl on here who have shared similar views regarding the game and balotelli.
I think it was a well taken goal by balo he didnt get sent off so thats positive, but as a lone striker you need to get into scoring chances in the box- harts fumble is 1 notable opportunity- but balo was no where to be seen which for a lone striker to be outside the box is alittle stupid.
darmien, candreva, marchisio and sirigu were brilliant- as was pirlo.
on the 16th June, 2014 at 5:28pm
on the 16th June, 2014 at 5:06pm
The only reason people think England looked good was because they have not played this positive since Euro 96 and it was surprise. Whilst the players are not as good as the Beckham era, they are now more of a team.

Italy, do what we always do - enough to win a game. We are unlikely to do a 'Holland', it's not our style.

The best news is that we have not yet shown our cards. De Sciglio on the left will balance this team.

Well done Prandelli welcome back England.
on the 16th June, 2014 at 1:36pm
Are you guys so sure to have Chiellini back at the center back? He had been given many chances before and did not perform well. He even let Luxembourg scored!

Paletta only got three matches and let two goals, one by Spain and another by England. See the difference! Just give Barzagli - Paletta another chance and this pair doesnt work then it is time for change.
on the 16th June, 2014 at 12:58pm
A good performance from Itay. But they can do better. A better side may cause more damage. Palotta is decent but def not a starter. Impressed with Darmian and Candreva. Chiellin needs to play alongside Barzagli. De Rossi was very impressive as was Verratti. Looks like Balo is starting to mature but he needs to work on his movement up front. At times he seemd out of tune with the rest of the team.
on the 16th June, 2014 at 9:11am
Some people are sad! Italy won, England lost. Balotelli scored winner... job done! One chance... one goal. The perfect striking accuracy of 100% and yet... not good enough lol
on the 16th June, 2014 at 9:00am
It was a great game to watch. England were very good, although very sloppy at the end. They are fast, run well, but lacking a certain sophistication, which I think Italy demonstrated.

Very unhappy with Chiellini on the leftback...he went forward a lot, lost the ball, and put the team in dangerous counter attacking situations. THis game could have been a draw...thanks to Sirigu.

If Buffo doesn't recover, I'm not worried. I actually think we might be better off with Sirigu right now.
on the 16th June, 2014 at 7:45am

You're a joke man. Balo was decisive. Even when he scores you guys complain. I've lived in italy for years and it's sad to see the hatred towards him. Any other player you would be fine with but balo, no that a different story. It's 2014, stop hating and enjoy the win. Sad, just plain sad
on the 16th June, 2014 at 12:18am
what everyone is forgetting is that players economy of movement. very accurate passing and tight groups in the middle and at the back with just balo up front. very clever stuff from the coach. he let the brits drive themselves into the ground and cramp up.
this is a long tournament in very hot and humid conditions and Prandelli knows this. it will come down to the fittest, smartest team to win this as much as talent.
i think we have a very good shot at this.
on the 15th June, 2014 at 11:00pm
Football italia is there anything you can do about Jenkins posts? They read like the ramblings of a mad man. Balo. Crap. Goals. Don't care. Daniel sturridge for Italy. We need players who'll run. Cassano. Why's everyone talking about balo? Balo. Balo. Balo. That header was easy. The goal doesn't count. Immobile runs. Run run run. Worked for England. Balo crap. Lazy. Boring. Balo. Balo. Balo. Whys everyone talking about balo? I promise that's the last time I'll respond to Jenkins or mm!!!
on the 15th June, 2014 at 10:14pm
Lol@"worst english team in 20 years."
Jenkins youre funny.
England has never been so dangerous upfront with Welbeck, Sturridge, Rooney, and Sterling. They have more pace upfront than anyone in this world cup.....fact.

Paletta was a nervous wreck and constantly got burned by Englands speed.
We need Mattia back so Giorgio can go back to his natural position.

Balotelli is not lazy, he doesnt have the futbol IQ to pick out good runs. But he is far more technical quality at #9 weve had in 30 yrs
on the 15th June, 2014 at 9:59pm
What a great win against England and yet people still knock. To be honest Giorgio caused more problems for Johnson than Johnson cause him on that side. Though Balo off the ball movement could be better but with the ball at his feet he bring other into the match or draws a foul. He scored had a second cleared of the line. Paletta performed a 6/7 out of 10. Average but job done. Some supporters should stop wining an back Gli Azzuri.
on the 15th June, 2014 at 9:06pm
I thought we looked good, great precise passing but have to be honest, our flow of play is quite slow. I would like to see us push forward a bit more. Other than that, I think we did well. I will say however, Paletta is to slow. He was exposed by his matchup in this game.
on the 15th June, 2014 at 9:06pm
Enough with Balotelli. He needs to start RUNNING and talking less on Twitter after only 1 game.

This England side are one of the weakest we've seen in 15-20 years. We are not a team of bumbling clowns who are at the service of some kind of phenomenal star player. We would be just as efficient or more if Immobile had been in Balo's place.

What is he waiting for with respect to Cassano-Immobile?
I hope we win this thing anyway.

Forza Cazzoni...
on the 15th June, 2014 at 8:47pm
Fair point but the two are completely different types of forwards, and Balo hasn't got any REAL pace even if he wasn't so lazy. It'd be like trying to compare Inzaghi with Baggio; Inzaghi never left the six yard box but even if he wanted to he couldn't dribble to save his life anyway. Im not defending Balotelli's laziness, its just not a fair comparison.
on the 15th June, 2014 at 8:43pm
Stop criticising players and manager! We won! Paletta had a decent game and covered. Italy broke a record for passing. England could've equalised but they didn't. Italy could've scored 4 but they didn't! But we won! End of. Just looked back on some highlights. Some of pirlo's passes were unbelievable. And balo's touches. The ball was hit in at him and he killed it dead. His hold up play was incredible. Loving the verratti, pirlo and de Rossi combo in midfield and that first goal. Wow
on the 15th June, 2014 at 8:34pm
Take a step back and look at the bigger picture; Paletta lined up in his first competitive game, not to mention its the WC, he's faced with the type of pacey, direct forwards he only sees once in a blue moon in serie a. The guy was racked with nerves, if he gets another chance he'll improve immediately. However, Chiellini cant play left back, so Paletta may be dropped anyhow. If the defence improves we can do well. FORZA ITALIA!!!
on the 15th June, 2014 at 6:22pm
And the worship of the Teacher's Pet Balotelli continues!

Can we trade Balotelli for Sturridge?
Who looked more dangerous and the more powerful striker last night? Balotelli, or Daniel Sturridge?

One of them ran like a bull and struck TERROR into our defense, the other jogged around and waited 70 minutes for the perfect pass to his shiny forehead.

Our problems are not just in defense, but also up front. Enough said.
on the 15th June, 2014 at 5:37pm
I agree the defence was very suspect. I feel the De Sciglio injury had the biggest impact to the team (more so than Buffon or Montolivo) as Chiellini looked out of place in the LB role, although he did make some very good runs. This was likely due to the team having limited opportunity to practise their set up with the personnel used for the England game.
on the 15th June, 2014 at 1:59pm
Contrary to most people here, I think that Paletta has the potential to be the current Italy's best central defender. Remember the friendly game against Spain early this year, Paletta performed superbly, one of the main reasons why Italy did not get butchered by the reigning WC home team. Perhaps, this is also why Prandelli selects him.

Chiellini and Bonucci had been given many chances and yet they failed constantly. Hope Prandelli will give Barzagli - Paletta pair at least another chance.
on the 15th June, 2014 at 1:49pm
The only problem with Italy's squad right now is defensive organization. Chiellini looked very uncomfortable at left back yesterday, even if he's played that position before. Paletta is a good center back, but might not be starting material.

Otherwise, Italy has a great squad and a greater coach. There's no reason they shouldn't do well.
on the 15th June, 2014 at 1:11pm
As per usual, the biggest worry for me are the games against opponents that we're supposed to beat. These are the games that Italy have traditionally come unstuck in, and not important openers like vs England. What is undoubted is the desperate need to get Chiellini back in the middle next to Barzagli. I thought Paletta was awful. Why Prandelli picked him ahead of Bonucci I will never understand. Despite the superior technical ability, we nearly allowed england in by defending poorly.
on the 15th June, 2014 at 12:25pm
I would say.. let's keep our feet on the ground. Yes, last night's win was great.. especially after italy's failure in the last WC. Yes, it's always fun to beat England.


first, our defense was awful. CP needs to figure out something. Bonucci is not a solution in 4 men defense, he's as awful as paletta.

second, that's just England. They never learned from their mistake. Beat them is fun, but does not mean all italy's opponents will be like them.

So, let's keep our feet on the ground.
on the 15th June, 2014 at 12:20pm

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