England suffered a 2-1 defeat to Italy in their opening group match of the World Cup. However, the sadness of defeat was tinged with optimism as the English put on a spirited, attacking performance.
- 1. Hodgson put his faith in the exuberance of youth.
By putting Jordan Henderson, Daniel Sturridge and particularly Raheem Sterling all in the starting eleven, Hodgson signalled his intent. They didn’t disappoint, especially the excellent Sterling who caused Italy constant problems with his direct runs.
The only slight negative was the absence of Adam Lallana, otherwise the team was pretty much as we’d hoped (see our suggestions here).
- 2. England had their chances.
England put in an unusually positive performance for a major tournament, following the general trend at this World Cup. They ended up registering 18 shots to Italy’s 13. They also won 9 corners to Italy’s 2, and completed 12 successful dribbles to Italy’s 4.
However, there is a another way of looking at these statistics. England took a fair number of hopeful long shots. If you only count efforts in the penalty area, Italy had 6 to England’s 4 and hit the woodwork twice.
- 3. Italy had a lot of success attacking England’s left hand side.
England’s left back, Leighton Baines, did not have a good game and probably wasn’t helped by having an out of position Rooney in front of him.
Below is an average position map of the Italy players during the game. Candreva and Darmian, on Italy’s right, got very far forward and wide (6 and 4). Compare this with Marquisio and Chiellini, on the left (8 and 3).
The winning goal came from a cross from Candreva. Hodgson must make adjustments to protect this side, not playing Rooney on the left of midfield would be a good start.
- 4. Rooney gave another laboured performance in a major tournament, apart from the assist for the goal.
To be fair to Rooney, he was being played out of position on the left. Hodgson should either make him the number 10 or drop him. If I was the manager, I would be inclined to give Barkley or Lallana a chance in his place, although it would take a very brave decision from Hodgson to leave out England’s most high profile player.
- 5. Italy’s patience won out in the end.
As expected, Italy had more of the possession (56%). Despite his age, Andrea Pirlo controlled the game from the centre of midfield. He had 117 touches and completed 108 passes, the most on either team. Compare this to England’s best: 82 touches for Johnson and 67 passes for Steven Gerrard.
The difference in styles was further evident in the team passing statistics. Italy only hit 8 crosses and 38 long balls, to England’s 25 crosses and 53 long balls. However the Italians made more short passes, 591 to 432.
England had some success pressing Italy high up the field, especially early on, but it wasn’t enough to knock Italy’s playmaker off his stride.
- 6. England can still qualify.
Despite what the UEFA rankings say, Italy were always going to be the hardest opponents in the group. It’s just a shame England had to play them first. Uruguay clearly aren’t the team they were four years ago, as their shaky defensive performance in their loss to Costa Rica proved. If England can’t beat two relatively poor sides, they don’t deserve to progress. On this showing they still have a great chance.
Discuss it with me on Twitter: @ABPSpurs
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