Italy's Marco Verratti, right, is challenged by England's Raheem Sterling, left, and Jordan Henderson, center, during the group D World Cup soccer match between England and Italy at the Arena da Amazonia in Manaus, Brazil, Saturday, June 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

At halftime: Marchisio, Sturridge leave Italy, England even – FOLLOW LIVE

Leave a comment

Story of the half:  Italy’s dominance of the ball doesn’t translate onto the scoresheet, with each team producing a goal in the half’s final 10 minutes. Whereas the Azzurri have had success building through the middle before playing wide right, England’s speed has proved as problematic as predicted, with two of the team’s three good first half chances resulting from Italy’s inability to keep up with the Three Lions’ attackers.

FOLLOW LIVE: Soccerly’s real-time match center

Goals:

35′ – Claudio Marchisio – After having success all half going down their right, Italy finally earns their first corner. A restart played short eventually makes its way to the top of the penalty area, where Marchisio rifles a low liner inside Joe Hart’s right post. Italy, 1-0.

37′ – Daniel Sturridge – Rooney turns the tables, getting behind right back Matteo Darmian and onto a long through ball from Raheem Sterling.  Perfectly floating a ball to the far post, the Manchester United star dropped his cross into Sturridge’s right foot, finding the Liverpool striker in stride for England’s opening goal. Tied, 1-1.

Other key moments:

5′ – Liverpool kicks playing their part – After a pass from the right found Raheem Sterling just outside the Italy penalty area, the Gabriel Paletta deflected a ball back to Jordan Henderson, who ran onto a one-timer that drew a dive from Salvatore Sirigu. The moment, however, was less about the quality of the chance than the people involved. After giving the crowd reason to gasp on a long shot minutes earlier, Sterling was again drawing the defense’s attention, while his Liverpool teammate had seized a chance to get forward.

12′ – England pinned – For the first time in the match, Italy is able to sustain possession in the final third. Most of the Azzurri’s attacks had seen them turn on the ball and toward goal, but this time, with Andrea Pirlo switching play 32 yards out, England set up behind the ball: four defenders; four midfielders; and Raheem Sterling above the arc.

There’s no pressure. No chances are being taken. They just wait for Italy to make their move – a benign play that concedes a goal kick. When Italy’s in control, this is how the match will play out.

22′ – An empty appeal – Play switched from England’s right finds Sterling on the opposite flank, with a perfectly trapped ball allowing the 19-year-old to put his next touch beyond Marco Verratti and toward the byline. Driving a ball into the six, Sterling nearly connects with Danny Welbeck, who is left appealing for a penalty as his move toward the ball finds the left shoulder of Paletta.

23′ – Barzagli saves Azzurri  Welbeck nearly has his revenge with England’s next movement, beating Paletta to go alone into the right of the box. His pass into the six was destined for Sturridge before a lunge for Andrea Barzagli saved Italy, with the ball eventually going out for a corner. It’s the first sign that England’s will give Italy problems.

33′ – Italy finds Balotelli – The Italians continue to find success down their right – behind Wayne Rooney, who’s been pushed wide by Sterling’s inclusion. This time, Darmian is able to find Mario Balotelli making a near-post run, only to see the Milan forward fail to get his try on goal. Moments later, down that same right side, Italy produced the corner that gave them their lead.

45+2′ – Jagielka prevents amazing – A through ball into the left of the area draws Joe Hart off his line, but Balotelli beats him to the ball, leaving the Manchester City goalkeeper helpless as the Italian midfield races into the box. Before they arrive, Balotelli defies his sharp angle and lofts a ball toward goal. If it wasn’t for Phil Jagielka collapsing back to his line, Italy would have gone into half-time up 2-1. Seconds later, as Antonio Candreva nailed Hart’s right upright, England was in survival mode.

Key players:

  • Salvatore Sirigu, Italy – The Paris-Saint Germain number one is making his first start for Italy since 2010. If England’s speed continues to prove problematic, he may need to stay perfect to preserve a result.
  • Andrea Pirlo, Italy – Of course. Everything is still flowing through him.
  • Leighton Baines and Wayne Rooney, England – At some point, Italy has to meet some resistance going down their right. What England’s speed is to Italy’s defense, Candreva and Darmian have been to England’s.
  • Cesare Prandelli, Italy (manager) – Is there a point where the Italy boss sacrifices Marco Verratti to get another attacker in the box? Verratti has been fine, but his inclusion means Balotelli’s alone when Italy penetrates down the right.

Question for the second half:

  • Will Manaus play its part? – Contrary to prematch suspicions, the pitch is fine and appears to be holding up well. The humidity, however, will test each sides fitness. With an 82 degree temperature complemented by 70 percent humidity, attrition could be a factor.

Klopp frowns at Pogba fee: “I am trying to build a team, a real team”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - MAY 13:  Jurgen Klopp the manager of Liverpool faces the media during the Liverpool UEFA Europa League Cup Final Media Day at Melwood Training Ground on May 13, 2016 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Jurgen Klopp isn’t pleased with the mega money transfer fees being used to “collect” players from around world football.

The Liverpool boss says he doesn’t know how much he’s allowed to spend on one player, as no move he’s made has really required that sort of question.

[ MORE: Ten best transfers so far ]

He sees club football as a means of assembling a team with critical pieces, not buying and then building around a player.

And Klopp said he would do it differently even if he had the green light to spend absurd amounts of dough.

From The Daily Mail:

“If you bring one player in for £100m and he gets injured, then it all goes through the chimney,’ he said.

“The day that this is football, I’m not in a job anymore, because the game is about playing together.”

“If I spend money, it is because I am trying to build a team, a real team. Barcelona did it. You can win championships, you can win titles, but there is a manner in which you want it.”

Klopp has spent a lot of money, but he’s spaced it out in picking up six players for around 2/3 of the Pogba fee this summer (Granted two were on free transfers).

That said, he didn’t exactly take over a club lacking star power that required loads and loads of buys. Klopp is at a different standard in answering to the media and public right now. While that’s pretty well-deserved, the way he’s getting credit for the price tags on assets he’s sold is kind of hilarious.

Either way, we are loving Klopp in the Premier League. Bring on the season.

Ten most noteworthy transfers of the summer (so far)

BORDEAUX, FRANCE - JULY 02:  Mats Hummels of Germany runs with the ball during the UEFA EURO 2016 quarter final match between Germany and Italy at Stade Matmut Atlantique on July 2, 2016 in Bordeaux, France.  (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)
Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images
Leave a comment

As Paul Pogba’s return to Manchester United moves closer, where will it rank on the list of the most promising moves of the summer?

Putting cost aside given the giant budgets of world football, Pogba’s move will probably top the proverbial pops once completed.

[ MORE: Guzan finds new PL home ]

Yet this summer has been an incredible one for transfers, with so many Premier League teams leading the way in business, that names like Sadio Mane, Michy Batshuayi, Nico Gaitan, and Nolito miss out list (and they are just the tip of the iceberg).

Here’s our Top Ten so far

10. Mario Gotze, Bayern Munich –> Borussia Dortmund

Will a return “home” do the trick for the World Cup clinching attacker?

9. Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Borussia Dortmund –> Manchester United

The Armenian attacker was somewhat unheralded. No more.

8. Andre Schurrle, Wolfsburg –> Borussia Dortmund

BVB reaps the rewards from a still questionable Chelsea decision.

7. Granit Xhaka, Borussia Monchengladbach –> Arsenal

The big money man is a perfect fit for how Arsene Wenger likes to play.

6. Gonzalo Higuain, Napoli –> Juventus

Whether his big season was an aberration or not, that’s a lot of dough.

(AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
(AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

5. Ilkay Gundogan, Borussia Dortmund –> Manchester City

His possession game should be a jewel in Pep Guardiola’s crown.

4. Miralem Pjanic, Roma –> Juventus

One of the best in the world could even be an improvement over Pogba.

3. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paris Saint-Germain –> Manchester United

Let’s hope he doesn’t read this and see he’s not No. 1 (and soon to be No. 4)

2. Mats Hummels, Borussia Dortmund –> Bayern Munich

Technically announced a while ago, but Bayern is almost unfair. Enjoy, Carlo.

  1. N'Golo Kante, Leicester City –> Chelsea

An absolute beast, and a player that will seamlessly slide into Antonio Conte’s plans as a center piece.

PHOTO: Drogba enjoyed scoring on Arsenal, Cech in MLS All Star Game

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 01:  Didier Drogba and Petr Cech of Chelsea pose with the trophy after the Capital One Cup Final match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley Stadium on March 1, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Didier Drogba got to score against an old rival and a former teammate, and this pleases him greatly.

The Ivorian legend and Montreal Impact striker scored the lone MLS goal as the All Stars fell to Arsenal 2-1 on Thursday at Avaya Stadium in San Jose.

But that goal went behind former Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech, who was Drogba’s goalkeeper from 2004-2012 and 2014-15 at Stamford Bridge.

[ MORE: Man City plays tennis on Great Wall ]

Both players joined Chelsea in July 2004, and Cech used Twitter to post this photo from a post-match meet-up.

Drogba looks happy.

WATCH: Man City’s Aguero, Nasri play soccer tennis atop Great Wall of China

Leave a comment

Manchester City stars Samir Nasri and Sergio Aguero have both been under pressure in recent weeks for being out of shape, at least according to Pep Guardiola’s pizza-free standards.

One way to help fix that is better fitness, though we’re doubting that soccer tennis atop the Great Wall of China is necessarily going to tip the scales (pun absolutely, 100 percent intended).

[ MORE: Guzan finds new PL home ]

Nasri and James Horsfield of Man City took on teammates Aguero and Kelechi Iheanacho in the match, which resulted in a half-dozen balls sent over the wall.

Games like this, sometimes even more than actual matches, remind many of us how far we are from the magical touch and control of elite players.