England and Italy finally met after months of anticipation for this Group D clash. Although England lost 2-1, the mood among England fans is much more optimistic than of tournaments past. Yes, they lost and qualifying from the group will be extra difficult now, BUT Roy Hodgson can take refreshing encouragement from the way his players performed. England probably played the best game they have so far under Hodgson, the quality in the final third needs to improve, but at times they played flowing, direct, vibrant attacking football – It has been a long time since an England fan has been able to say that.
Below is my opinion on each England player’s performance, on a scale of 1 – 10.
Joe Hart – Goalkeeper – 5/10
Had a relatively quiet night, probably couldn’t have done better for either goal. Has been prone to an error this season, and showed this a couple of times in the game. Almost at fault for another goal.
Glen Johnson – Defender – 5/10
Has been poor defensively for Liverpool this season and looked uncomfortable on a few occasions. Was not as exposed as Baines, but had more help on the right side from Welbeck. Decent going forward in patches.
Leighton Baines – Defender 4/10
Is it too late to ask Ashley Cole to come to Brazil? Baine’s struggled in this game, and was targeted by Italy’s attacks. Not helped at all by having Rooney as the left sided midfielder, Rooney did not track back on a number of occasions and left Baine’s isolated in a 2 v 1 situation far too many times. Turned far too easily for the cross for the second goal.
Gary Cahill – Defender 5/10
Should have done better for Balotelli’s header, and also was out of place for the set piece routine for the first goal. Struggled at times with Balotelli’s movement.
Phil Jagielka – Defender 6/10
Slightly better performance than Cahill, looked more assured playing the ball out of defense and when also when covering Baines defensively. Never looked entirely comfortable though and redeemed by a fantastic header off the line to deny Balotelli.
Steven Gerrard – Midfielder 6/10
Anonymous at times, although was often the start of many attacks as is expected. Gerrard and Henderson as a midfield two looked quite linear during this game and Gerrard was caught out defensively on a few occasions.
Jordan Henderson – Midfielder 5/10
Has looked pedestrian in the games played next to Gerrard as his midfield bodyguard, does provide energy and movement although never got into the game to provide any attacking impotence. Also did not provide enough defensive cover. England will need more dynamism beside Gerrard in the next game to be successful.
Raheem Sterling – Midfielder 8/10
Confident, quick, skillful and a constant danger to the opposition defense. Played better when through the middle and deserved his place in the side. He almost single handedly made England look like they can be an attacking force. Is everything that this new, vibrant England should be. A few errant crosses in the second half when playing on the right, but tiredness was always going to be a factor. England’s best player.
Danny Welbeck – Forward 7/10
Worked very hard out in the humid conditions, provided decent link up play and also tracked back as and when required. Much more involved than Rooney playing on the right side, a favorite of Hodgson and showed enough to justify his inclusion over Adam Lallana.
Wayne Rooney – Forward 5/10
Other than the inch perfect cross for Sturridge’s goal, Rooney never really got into the swing of the game. Rooney is by trade a striker, and playing on the left for most of the game, was not consistently completing his defensive duties, leaving Baines isolated on numerous occasions. A poor performance tonight – there will be talk of Rooney being dropped for the next game, and after tonight’s performance, I am inclined to agree.
Daniel Sturridge – Forward 7/10
Worked hard and took his goal well. Lead the line and looked comfortable doing it, played some nice football with the other forwards, particularly Sterling. Sturridge is 100% England’s best choice for the number 9 position at this tournament.
Ross Barkley – 6/10
Came on to try and provide some power and add a spark to the game. Showed some lively touches and immediately had an attempt on goal after coming on. Generally looked like he wanted to be involved. Hopefully will be seen a lot more at this tournament.
Jack Wilshere – 4/10
The less said the better, showed why he should not be in the squad and is only at the tournament on name and not merit. Is not the player he used to be. Made mistakes and generally looked abject when he came on.
Adam Lallana – 5/10
Not really enough time to make a difference, although ran confidently at the Italian defense on a couple of occasions. Is an interesting option for England going into the next two games, although will struggle to break into the starting eleven.