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.
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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.
- 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.