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England vs. Italy: Final score 1-2, Three Lions humbled in the jungle

Italy were too good for England in a hot and humid Manaus, with Claudio Marchisio and Mario Balotelli scoring for the Azzurri either side of Daniel Sturridge's goal.

SB Nation's 2014 World Cup Bracket'

England's new look side suffered many of the same problems as they were not quite good enough to get the better of Italy in a primal, humid game in Manaus.

A defensive, cagey game had been predicted, but both sides went seeking the win, and Italy struck first with an excellent goal from Antonio Candreva, before Daniel Sturridge equalised almost immediately for England.

Mario Balotelli and Candreva came close to scoring again for the Azzurri before half-time, but Super Mario got his country in front shortly into the second half, and England's onslaught for most of the remainder of the game could not break through a steely Italy team that played with typical resolve and know-how to shut down Roy Hodgson's new-look side.

The game got off to a lively start, with both sides coming close to scoring early on. First Raheem Sterling had England fans celebrating when they thought his 30-yard effort had gone in, although in reality it struck the side-netting. Balotelli let fly with an effort from 20 yards which whistled over the crossbar, before Danny Welbeck was involved in almost providing a tap-in for Sturridge after Andrea Barzagli had deflected the ball across goal.

Yet it was Italy who took first blood, with a well-worked short corner being dummied by Pirlo for Marchisio, who smashed an excellent low 24-yard strike through the legs of Gary Cahill and into the net to send Italy into the lead.

England weren't long in finding an equaliser, however - England's gameplan worked and Italy were caught for pace on the counter-attack, with Rooney sending in a superb cross from the left for Sturridge to tap in at the far post.

There was a bizarre scene in the follow-up to England's goal when Gary Lewin, the England physio, rushed off the bench to celebrate and collapsed to the ground and began banging the turf, before being stretchered off with a dislocated ankle. Lewin is also the Arsenal physio - sometimes the jokes write themselves.

Despite the heat and humidity in Manaus, the game ebbed and flowed from end to end with both teams displaying attacking intent and - yes, even from England - a certain swagger. Italy could have made it 2-1 before half-time through Balotelli after he took the ball away from Joe Hart and the goal to leave the Manchester City man on the floor. After recovering, Hart bizarrely chose to stay out of his goal, and Balotelli's chip was goalbound before Phil Jagielka cleared off the line. Just afterwards, Antonio Candreva too went close, hitting the near post after tricking his way inside from the left.

Italy started the second half the strongest, however, and it was no surprise when they retook the lead. Even less surprising was the goalscorer, Balotelli, who headed in Candreva's wonderful cross after the winger beat Leighton Baines with ease to leave England chasing the game once again.

Roy Hodgson reacted by throwing on Ross Barkley for Welbeck, and the youngster almost immediately warmed the palms of Sirigu with a dribble and strike from the left. England were desperately pressing for an equaliser, and had their next best opportunity with a free kick in Baines' territory outside the area, but the Everton left-back couldn't find the target. Italy almost killed the game off into injury-time when Pirlo hit a sumptuous free-kick, but his effort crashed off the bar.

England had all of the ball for the last twenty-five minutes or so, but there was the sense that Italy were perfectly content for them to have it. For all Hodgson has chosen to inject his side with youth, this was a classic England performance, their goal from a cross from a pacy break down the wing, while they were mostly chasing shadows in midfield when Italy chose to spread the play. When Italy opted to defend and allowed England to have the ball, there was little the Three Lions could do with it.

Uruguay's defeat earlier will mean that England will not smart too much from this defeat. But how crucial that game against them looks now - and Costa Rica do not appear to be the whipping boys that had been predicted either. Group D is still wide open, but for now, Italy are supreme favourites to finish first.

England: Hart, Johnson, Jagielka, Cahill, Baines, Gerrard, Henderson (Wilshere 73'), Welbeck (Barkley 61'), Sterling, Rooney, Sturridge (Lallana 80').

Goals: Sturridge 37'

Italy: Sirigu, Chiellini, Barzagli, Palletta, Darmian, De Rossi, Marchisio, Verratti (Motta 57'), Pirlo, Balotelli (Immobile 73'), Candreva (Parolo 79').

Goals: Marchisio 35', Balotelli 50'