The action in Group D certainly lived up to expectations today, with both Costa Rica-Uruguay and Italy-England being lively, entertaining games. Italy has now put themselves in the best position to qualify top with their win over England. Uruguay will have their work cut out, and will need some help, but the England loss certainly helps the Uruguayans. Costa Rica may have surprised Uruguay on this day, but Italy and England will be entirely different beasts. CONCACAF, however, has made a dream start.
England-Italy was a particularly interesting game, one worthy of all the billing it received. Despite the loss of Riccardo Montolivo before the tournament, the Italian midfield dominated. Andrea Pirlo was his usual self, Danielle De Rossi and Marco Verratti were solid defensively, Claudio Marchisio provided a stunning strike, and Antonio Candreva was the man of the match on the right. One would have expected England to press higher against Pirlo and company, but the Italians were allowed a lot of time on the ball at times. England seemed content to sit back and wait to release their pace on the counter attack.
England to me look four years away from a serious run in the World Cup. At times, they were electric going forward today, with incredible pace from the young guns. However, their relative experience saw them fail to track back at times, or in Wayne Rooney’s case, he seemed to lack the desire, leaving Leighton Baines exposed on the left, where Italy’s second goal came from. They have a ton of young talent, as evidenced by the three young midfielders who came on and added a directness to England’s play. But despite the flare, this probably won’t be their year. However, they have a serious future in international soccer in the next World Cup cycle.
The one area England seems to lack the necessary talent in Brazil is central defense. While Cahill and Jagielka are solid most of the time and very capable defenders, both are susceptible to critical lapses. Tonight, it was Cahill who let them down. Mario Balotelli’s goal was relatively simple, simply drifting off the back of Cahill to head in a simple cross. The Chelsea defender also missed a chance to redeem himself going forward, when he failed to connect on a header at the near post on a corner. For England to get out of the group, they’ll need Cahill to be better in the air.
On a side note, I found myself caught off guard seeing Jack Wilshere come on the pitch in the second half. I know he made a brief cameo against Hull, and had been deemed fit long ago, but it still felt odd watching the Arsenal #10 fit again. Looking at him run freely for once made me realize how limited he was this year, even when he was playing. At times this season, we saw glimpses of the Jack Wilshere everyone fell in love with before his injury. But it was only glimpses. Seeing him back out in the England #7 shirt made me hopeful that one day Jack might be back to his best. I feel for him, because he has had such hard luck, but time is running out unfortunately for him to prove his reliability.
I’ll have my thoughts on Japan-Ivory Coast and my next set of predictions at 7:00 am tomorrow. Thanks for reading and please share your thoughts.