Jun 14, 2014 at 11pm UK at ​Arena Amazonia, Manaus
England
1-2
Italy
Sturridge (37')
Sterling (90')
FT(HT: 1-1)
Marchisio (35'), Balotelli (50')

Live Commentary: England 1-2 Italy - as it happened

Italy's forward Mario Balotelli heads the ball to score a goal as England's goalkeeper Joe Hart (L) and England's defender Gary Cahill try to defend during a Group D football match between England and Italy at the Amazonia Arena in Manaus during the 2014
© Getty Images
Relive England's 2-1 defeat at the hands of Italy in their World Cup opener courtesy of Sports Mole's live coverage of the match.

England's World Cup campaign got off to a losing start in Manaus this evening as Italy ran out 2-1 winners at the Arena Amazonia.

The Azzurri took the lead through Claudio Marchisio shortly before half time, but England responded straight away when Daniel Sturridge finished off a slick counter-attack.

The winner came five minutes after the restart as Mario Balotelli rose highest at the back post to plant a header past former teammate Joe Hart.

You can read how an absorbing 90 minutes unfolded courtesy of Sports Mole's live minute-by-minute coverage below.


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9.30pmGood evening! Thank you very much for joining Sports Mole for tonight's Group D clash between England and Italy in Manaus. The waiting is very nearly over for both of these teams, and it is anybody's guess who will make the more positive start to what is a very tricky group. Before we get started with the build-up to this match in Manaus, let me bring you the latest from Uruguay vs. Costa Rica. Trust me, it makes interesting reading...

9.32pmCosta Rica were expected to be the whipping boys of this group - or at least to valiantly battle to zero points as Italy, England and Uruguay compete for the two qualification spots, but the Central Americans haven't read the script. They have scored twice in three minutes to come from behind and lead Uruguay 2-1, which is good news for both England and Italy. There are 20 minutes remaining in that match, and you can follow them with our live commentary.

9.34pmRight, enough about that. I will keep you updated with any major happenings from that match but, for now, we have even bigger matters to attend to. England and Italy finally get their World Cup campaigns underway this evening in a very intriguing encounter that sees two evenly-matched outfits look for an early advantage. There have been strong rumours of what both teams will look like, but they are yet to be officially confirmed. Until they are, let's start with a look at the Three Lions...

9.36pmFor once, expectation is at something of a low ebb for England coming into this tournament. Very few people genuinely believe that Roy Hodgson's men can make it all the way to the final, which could benefit a side that have looked under heavy pressure in their last few major tournaments. They face a very tough test in progressing from their group, and that will be as far as Hodgson is looking right now.

9.38pmThere was very little wrong with their route to Brazil, despite waiting until the final match of qualifying to book their ticket. They ended their campaign top of Group H in the European qualifying section, one point clear of Ukraine. They won six, drew four and crucially lost none of their 10 outings in qualifying, but England have something of a reputation for remaining unbeaten in the build-up to a tournament only to disappoint when it actually comes along.

9.40pmWhile playing the likes of San Marino home and away bolstered England's statistics, the are still plenty of positives to take from their qualifying campaign. Only Netherlands and Germany scored more than the 31 goals Roy Hodgson's side managed, while only Spain conceded fewer than England's four. It is also worth taking into account that Spain played two fewer games than England in the qualifying stage, making Hodgson's record even more impressive. Overall, only Holland had a better goal difference.

9.42pmAs far as the warm-up matches are concerned, it has been fairly uninspiring stuff for England. A comfortable 3-0 win over Peru at Wembley was not as impressive as the scoreline suggests, with the South Americans threatening on a number of occasions and enough signs that a better team would punish England. That was their final game on home soil before flying out to Miami, where they drew with both Ecuador and Honduras in two more unconvincing displays.

9.44pmThere were certainly positives to take from the matches - such as the emergence of Ross Barkley as a genuine threat on the international stage - but Hodgson will know as well as anybody that an improvement is needed tonight to get anything out of this game. The team will have been working hard on the training ground to iron out any errors, and we will find out if that has worked when we get underway in just over an hour.

9.46pmUPDATE: If I can tear you away from the England build-up briefly, I have some further good news! Costa Rica have now scored a third goal to complete a remarkable turnaround and surely beat Uruguay now. That has really turned this group on its head and puts even more emphasis on getting a positive result in Manaus.

9.48pmBack to England, who come into this tournament unbeaten in four matches including their victory over Denmark back in March. What's more, they have only lost one match away from home since their comprehensive 4-1 defeat at the hands of Germany in the last World Cup, four years ago. They have also been beaten on penalties in that time - by Italy, no less (more on that later) - but in normal time only Sweden have triumphed against Roy Hodgson's men away from Wembley.

9.50pmThat run includes a match that could stand them in good stead for this tournament as they faced Brazil in Brazil just over a year ago. The signs were good in that match as the two sides played out a 2-2 draw, with the hosts needing an 83rd-minute goal from Paulingo to rescue the draw. Manaus will pose very different tests to the Three Lions than that match in Rio did, but it is handy that they are familiar with conditions around this time of year in Brazil.

9.52pmHodgson was very keen to avoid Manaus in the World Cup draw, with the heat and humidity posing big problems for both sides. The stadium is no less than 1,777 miles away from the team's base in Rio, although travelling will be less of a problem for England than it will be for the other teams, all of whom have longer to go when taking into account all three group games. Still, the size of the country means that the amount of time spent flying to different destinations is not ideal.

9.54pmHodgson does have World Cup experience under his belt having taken Switzerland to the finals in 1994 - incidentally the last time the tournament was held in the Americas. However, bringing England to the biggest event in football is a different story entirely, and there is a lot of intrigue surrounding his approach to this match in particular. The reports, which we expect to be officially confirmed with the handing in of the team sheets in less than 10 minutes, suggest that he has gone positive, which will come as a pleasant surprise to many.

9.56pmUPDATE: It is now full time and Costa Rica have pulled off arguably the shock of the tournament so far (Netherlands?) by beating Uruguay 3-1. The South Americans' evening went from bad to worse at the end as Pereira was sent off late on, meaning that he will now be suspended for the match against England on Thursday.

9.58pmEngland have a number of pacey wingers to call upon tonight, and it is down the flanks that they are likely to have the biggest impact against a stubborn Italian defence. They scored almost half of their goals in qualifying with moves from wide positions, while the Azzurri conceded more than two thirds of their goals from the wings. A chink in the armour of the notoriously-defensive Italians, perhaps?

10pmBREAKING TEAM NEWS: The confirmed team news is in for England, and the reports were right. Sterling gets the nod ahead of Adam Lallana, with the fit-again Danny Welbeck also included. Henderson partners Gerrard in midfield, while Sturridge leads the line. Full team news to come...

10.02pmENGLAND STARTING XI: Hart; Johnson, Cahill, Jagielka, Baines; Henderson, Gerrard; Rooney, Sterling, Welbeck; Sturridge

10.04pmITALY STARTING XI: Sirigu; Chiellini, Darmian, Barzagli, Paletta; Candreva, Marchisio, De Rossi, Pirlo, Verratti; Balotelli

10.06pmSo, what can we make of those starting lineups? Well, the most notable inclusion for England is Raheem Sterling, who is still inexperienced at this level and had very little time to impress during the warm-up matches. However, the youngster was superb for Liverpool last season as they almost ended their long wait for a league title, while reports have suggested that he has been consistently excellent in training for Brazil in the last few weeks. It is very much an inclusion on merit for the Liverpool man.

10.08pmIt is a very positive move from Hodgson, and for a manager with something of a reputation for being cautious, he deserves praise for that. The next question is where Sterling will play along the three just behind Sturridge. The early reports that he would be in the team also suggested that he would play directly behind his Liverpool teammate in the role usually occupied by Wayne Rooney. That would likely see Rooney move out to the left - where he played against Ecuador - while Welbeck would start on the right. All three are fairly interchangeable, however, so I wouldn't expect those to be rigid positions.

10.10pmThe rest of the team is as expected, with the only slight doubt behind the front four surrounding whether Henderson or Wilshere would start alongside Gerrard. Henderson was always the favourite, however, given his understanding with his Liverpool teammate and his incredible natural fitness, which could prove vital in the energy-sapping conditions of Manaus. The back five has been fairly certain for a while now, although Glen Johnson didn't impress in the warm-up matches and may feel that his position is not under threat without another natural right-back in the squad.

10.12pmOne notable absentee for England, aside from Lallana, is Ross Barkley. The Everton youngster brought a breath of fresh air to the team whenever he featured in the warm-up matches, leading to a scramble for him to start this match. I think it is the right call from Hodgson to leave him out, however, as possession and keeping the ball will be pivotal in this match. Barkley is a very positive player, but his ball retention and decision-marking isn't quite up to scratch yet. He would be better utilised as a sub, in my opinion.

10.14pmAs for Italy, the one name that stands out from the crowd is that of Andrea Pirlo, the man who pulled all the strings when Italy eliminated England from Euro 2012. The Juventus maestro made more passes than the entire England midfield and covered more ground than an England player on that night, so Hodgson cannot let him have a similar impact on proceedings tonight. If Prilo runs the game again, England will get tired very quickly, and that is when holes will start to appear.

10.16pmAnother name that eyes will be automatically drawn to is Mario Balotelli, the mercurial striker that can be a his side's most potent weapon or their worst enemy depending on what mood he is in. Although the England backline - particularly Hart - will be fairly familiar with the now-AC Milan man, there is always an element of unpredictability about him. He has 12 goals in 20 appearances for Italy and, though not at his best for Milan last season, still managed to notch 14 goals in 30 games at club level.

10.18pmConspicuous by his absence is Gianluigi Buffon, whose familiar presence between the sticks will not be felt today after he limped out of training with an ankle injury yesterday. While an injury to a player should never be celebrated, it is certainly good news for England that they won't be coming up against a goalkeeper widely regarded as one of the best in history. Sirigu is an apt replacement, however, and he will be full of confidence following a successful season with PSG.

10.20pmDe Rossi and Verratti will also be dangerous players for Italy this evening, but they are missing De Sciglio as well as Buffon. The first-choice left-back is struggling with a calf injury, and his absence means that Chiellini has had to move over to the left, while Paletta comes into the middle alongside Barzagli. England will look to take full advantage of that reshuffling of the defence.

10.22pmOne man who hasn't made the starting XI for Italy, despite being fit, is Ciro Immobile. He can feel a little aggrieved at that considering he was the top scorer in Serie A last season and netted a hat-trick in the Azzurri's last outing - a 5-3 win over Brazilian club side Fluminense. That match provided their first victory of 2013 following what has been a far-from-ideal build-up to the World Cup for Cesare Prandelli's men.

10.24pmWhile looking too far into friendly matches preceding a tournament is a dangerous game, there can be no ignoring Italy's poor form. They have not beaten a fellow international team since September last year - a run that stretches back seven matches. Granted, they have only been beaten once in that time - and that by Spain - but they have also only managed draws against the likes of Armenia, Ireland and minnows Luxembourg.

10.26pmThey qualified for Brazil at a canter, with their place on the plane guaranteed long before England secured theirs on the final day of qualifying. However, they two teams ended with an identical record in terms of results, with six wins and four draws apiece. Italy weren't quite as impressive when it came to scoring goals, however, while their trademark defence also leaked nine goals in their 10 outings. That ratio of 0.9 goals conceded during qualifying is one of the worst of the teams who made the final, while only Germany conceded more out of the group winners from the European section. No group winner had a worse goal difference than Italy's +10 (England's was +27).

10.28pmBalotelli was their top scorer during qualifying, although his tally of five goals included two penalties and was two less than England's top scorer, Wayne Rooney, managed. Rooney also scored the first goal of a game five times, which was more than any other player in the European qualifiers. In what is expected to be a tight game tonight, that first goal could well be crucial. It is worth noting, however, that while Balotelli impressed during Euro 2012, Rooney is yet to score a goal in the World Cup. This will be his ninth appearance.

10.30pmItaly did get a useful dress rehearsal for this World Cup with their participation in the Confederations Cup in Brazil last year. They finished third in that tournament, beating Uruguay on penalties in the third-placed playoff having previous been knocked out at the semi-finals by Spain, also via a shootout.

10.32pmWhile this is a very different England side to recent times, with only six players remaining from the 2010 World Cup squad and 11 from the Euro 2012 party, Italy will still take solace from the fact that they eliminated the Three Lions two years ago in Kiev. They needed penalties in the end following a dour goalless draw, but there was little doubt that Italy were by far the better team on that occasion. Inspired by the majestic Pirlo, they had 64% possession and, if they can produce a similar figure tonight, the England players will be very tired by the final 20 minutes. Italy went on to reach the final of the Euros, only to be thumped 4-0 by Spain.

10.34pmTheir progress to the final was a return to the usual Italy we know - tournament specialists. They will still be eager to exorcise the demons of four years ago, however, when their World Cup campaign was even more disastrous than England's. They went into the tournament as defending champions but exited at the group stage having failed to win a single match.

10.36pmThey are unbeaten against England in three tournament meetings between the two sides, but the only time they have met in the World Cup came 24 years ago in Italia 90. Lineker, Gazza and co had just suffered a heart-breaking defeat to West Germany on penalties, while the hosts were almost smarting from being dumped out of their own competition. They met in the third-placed playoff, with Italy running out 2-1 winners.

10.38pmDespite their disappointing display four years ago in South Africa, Italy do still boast a formidable record going into this year's competition. The four-time winners have scored in each of their last 14 matches at the World Cup, which is the longest current run of its kind. The last time they failed to score in a game at the World Cup was way back in 1998, when hosts and eventual winners France kept a clean sheet against the Azzurri.

10.40pmIf they are to keep that run going today, their best bet may be to lump the ball into the box. The likes of Cahill and Jagielka are by no means bad in the air, while Balotelli is more comfortable with the ball at his feet, but no less than 42% of their goals during qualifying came from headers. It is a weak spot for England too, with half of the goals they conceded during the qualifiers coming from set pieces or headers.

10.42pmAnother interesting stat for those who like that kind of thing - Italy have conceded a total of 14 goals from outside the area at World Cups, which is more than any other nation since 1966. With the likes of Gerrard, Rooney and Baines all capable of hitting them from distance, that is a stat that may encourage the Three Lions to have a crack if there is nothing better on, particularly with a second-choice keeper in goal.

10.44pmIn the energy-sapping heat of Manaus, this match could well come down to who has the legs for it. Both teams have an intriguing mix of youth and experience in their respective squads, but when it comes to being able to take advantage of tired legs you'd have to give England the advantage. Sterling's pace is likely to cause problems throughout, while the introduction of Barkley for the final 20 minutes would give Italy something new and difficult to deal with. Hodgson has plenty of options, and the hope is that England will finally play some exciting stuff at a major tournament. If they're going to go down, go down with a bang rather than with a whimper as it was two years ago.

10.46pmThis is, incidentally, the second-youngest World Cup squad ever assembled by England. The youngest came back in 1958, which ominously was one of only two times that England have failed to progress from the group stages of the World Cup. The other? 1950, when it was last held in Brazil...

10.48pmExcluding those pesky penalty shootouts, however, England have only lost two of their last 16 World Cup games, drawing seven and winning seven. They know how to avoid defeat in this tournament, and a draw would probably go down as a good result tonight, particularly with Uruguay losing earlier. Of course, that Costa Rica victory also means that a win for either side would put them in a great position after just one match, so it is a fine balance to strike. You'd think this is more of a must-not-lose game than a must-win one.

10.50pmPREDICTION: Right, we're just 10 minutes from kickoff in Manaus! The excitement is reaching fever pitch, and it is about time I made my prediction. From the moment this match was drawn in these conditions, I was adamant it would be a goalless draw. However, having watched two-and-a-half days of free-flowing, entertaining football at this World Cup so far, it doesn't feel fitting to go for a 0-0. I still think it will be a close one, with a single goal at most separating the sides, but instead of 0-0 I'll up it to 1-1 tonight - a good result for both sides.

10.52pmA lot has been said and written about the conditions in Manaus, and no matter how much warm-weather training the two teams have done it will be tough for them tonight. The heat and, worse, the humidity will make the muscles tire quicker than normal, and that could lead to more mistakes as the match wears on. Ominously for England, they conceded 75% of their goals during qualifying in the second half, which must raise questions over their concentration levels. They can't afford any slips tonight.

10.54pmIn addition to the heat and humidity, the players will have a sub-par pitch to contend with tonight. Excess fertilizer has been blamed for the poor state of the playing surface and, despite Hodgson playing down concerns over it, such a pitch is certainly not ideal for such a big game. Whether the issue has been overblown remains to be seen, but it is certainly a factor to keep an eye on.

10.56pmWhile that match at the Euros is at the forefront of everybody's mind going into this encounter, these two sides have actually met once since then. It was in a friendly shortly after the Euros finished, and Jagielka and Defoe were on the scoresheet in a 2-1 win for the Three Lions.

10.58pmREFEREE: The officials have come under a lot of criticism in this tournament so far, but the man in the middle tonight is regarded as one of the finest in the world at the moment. Bjorn Kuipers took charge of the Champions League final three weeks ago, while he has had close looks at English and Italian styles have taken charge of both Manchester clubs, Arsenal, Juventus and Fiorentina in Europe last season.

11pmWe're just about ready for kickoff in Manaus then. Excited? I know I am! The Euros act as a good biennial buffer, but there is nothing quite like the World Cup. Here we go!

1 minKICKOFF: And we're off! Italy get us underway in Manaus for one of the most highly-anticipated matches of the group stages. Uruguay's defeat early has heaped even more importance on this match. Who can come out on top?

3 minThe good news for the players is that the conditions aren't quite as bad as first feared. Perhaps they won;t play as big a part in the result as we thought they would, which is a positive purely from a football standpoint.

3 minBright start from Italy as Darmian bursts down the right flank before firing a dangerous low cross into the box. Jagielka rather swings a leg at it, which could send it anywhere, but the Everton man gets it clear.

4 minCLOSE! Good lord! Sterling has his first chance to get on the ball, and he doesn't disappoint! He easily skips away from his man before powering a superb shot towards the top corner that slams into the side-netting. For a moment it looked like that one had flown in!

5 minSAVE! More bright play from England as Sterling picks up the ball on the edge of the box again. This time he is tackled, but the ball falls to Henderson, who unleashes a thunderbolt that Sirigu has to punch away. Great effort from the Liverpool man.

7 minWell, there were calls for England to start on the front foot, and they have certainly done that. Italy have also looked dangerous when coming forward a couple of times, making a mockery of suggestions that this would be a cagey affair. It certainly hasn't started that way.

8 minPENALTY SHOUT! Italy come forward and threaten with the ball on the edge of the box before England eventually clear the danger. There was a penalty shout in there as Pirlo dinked the ball over a challenge of Johnson. The ball came off the full-back's arm, but they were firmly planted down by his side. That one could have gone either way.

10 minThis is end-to-end stuff in the opening 10 minutes! I really was expecting a slow and dull affair, but it has been anything but so far. Both sides are attacking regularly and looking very dangerous when they do come forward. If it carries on like this it won't be long before we see the opening goal.

12 minSHOT! Italy make a mess of clearing their lines on the edge of their own box, with Paletta gifting the ball straight to Welbeck. The United man controls it but drags his effort well wide of the post.

14 minItaly have seen more of the ball in the opening exchanges, but England won't mind that too much. It means they can counter quickly, as Sturridge does here. He breaks free down the right and lines up Paletta one-on-one, beating him to drive into the box. Eventually another blue shirt arrives to crowd Sturridge out, but it was more positive play from England.

16 minSHOT! England aren't shy with their shooting from range in this match. Johnson is the latest to have a go from outside the box, cutting inside onto his left before dragging an effort wide of the near post. He does like to do that, but on this occasion it was probably the wrong option.

18 minThe noise inside the stadium builds to a crescendo as the two sets of supporters try to drown each other out. There seems to be a good number of both Italians and English in the crowd, as well as a fair few 'neutrals'.

19 minSAVE! Heart-in-mouth moment for all England fans who have seen goalkeeping errors blight previous tournaments. Candreva picks up the ball and fires a long-range effort towards goal, bring Hart into his first real save. It dips and moves in the air, but Hart just about does enough to block it. Not the most convincing save, though.

21 minSterling loses the ball when trying to take on a number of players again, and Italy break quickly with Baines out of position. Jagielka eventually deals with the danger, but it is the right flank that is providing most joy for Italy at the moment. Candreva is causing problems.

22 minGreat work from Sterling as he collects a fine diagonal pass from Gerrard before firing a dangerous ball right across the six-yard box. Welbeck was sprinting into the box to try to get on the end of it, but he just arrived too late.

23 minSHOT! First real glimpse of Balotelli tonight as he is allowed to turn 25 yards from goal. The England defence don't get close enough to block his shot, either, but he fires it a few yards over the top.

24 minCLOSE! Oh so close for England! Welbeck does brilliantly to beat his man and reach the byline before sending a dangerous ball into the middle. Barzagli gets a touch onto the cross when facing his own net that somehow takes it up and over Sturridge at the back post. Agonising stuff.

25 minSirigu tries to claim the resulting corner but doesn't get near it as it drops to Rooney at the back post. He can't quite bundle it home, but he does win another corner for his side. Again Sirigu comes, but this time he collects it at the second attempt. Italy survive a nervy few moments.

27 minItaly have had 60% of possession so far, but it has been a pretty even game overall, England have come closest to scoring and look dangerous when they come forward on the counter-attack, but their is a brooding threat about the Italy build-up.

29 minHalf an hour gone, and we have already seen more goalmouth action than I was expecting in Manaus. It has been an entertaining encounter so far despite the lack of goals, and it is a tough one to call at the moment. Italy are controlling possession, but England's pace is always a threat.

31 minSterling has certainly been a bright spark from this opening half an hour and Italy have struggled to deal with him at times. He doesn't seem to be overawed by the occasion considering it is his competitive debut tonight, and so far he has probably been England's best player.

33 minDe Rossi goes into a challenge on Rooney with two feet and, despite winning the ball with a solid tackle, the free kick is given. It was a strong one, but unfortunately they are not permitted in football nowadays. The resulting free kick is wasted as Gerrard's delivery goes all the way through to the keeper.

33 minCHANCE! Italy come forward down the right again as Rooney doesn't track Darmian, allowing the full-back to get on the end over a floated ball over the top. He knocks it back into the middle for Balotelli, who just can't get enough on his header to trouble the England goal.

35 minGOAL! England 0-1 Italy (Claudio Marchisio)

35 minFirst blood goes to Italy, and it is a fine strike from Marchisio. It came from a wonderfully-worked corner as the ball was slid towards Pirlo on the edge of the box. Sturridge rushed to close down the threat of the Juventus maestro, but he threw a sublime dummy to let the ball run for his club teammate. Marchisio then had time to line the shot up and drill it through and crowded area and into the bottom corner. Very good goal.

37 minGOAL! England 1-1 Italy (Daniel Sturridge)

37 minWhat a response from England! They hit straight back, and it is a vintage counter-attack! Sterling slid the ball through to Rooney, who in turn sent an inch-perfect cross over to an unmarked Sturridge at the back post. Sturridge still has plenty to do, but he finishes with aplomb to level the scores. Game on!

39 minEngland's delight quickly turns to concern on the sidelines as England have a staff member hurt. It is thought to be physio Gary Lewin, who is feared to have injured his leg very badly. There is a lot of concern over him on the touchline right now, and it appears to be a serious problem. The physio goes off on a stretcher - not something you see everyday.

41 minBack to matters on the field, and that really was the perfect response for England. You don't want to be behind against the Italians for too long, but that goal ensured that heads didn't drop and swung the momentum right back in their favour. Huge, huge goal, and a good one as well.

43 minHis cross was inch-perfect for the goal, but there are concerns over Rooney's defensive duties at the moment. Candreva has been afforded a lot of space on the right, and the United man needs to do a better job in closing him down and sticking with him. It is an unfamiliar role for Rooney, and that is showing at times.

45 minReally positive player from Darmian as he cuts inside and strides away from Baines, with Gerrard slow to get back and cover. He lines up to shoot but can't keep his shot down as he lifts the ball well off target. England will be concerned at how easily to broke free there.

45+1 minThere will be two minutes of added time at the end of this first half.

45+2 minOFF THE LINE! Italy almost score at the perfect time. It is a lovely reverse pass from Pirlo to release Balotelli down the channel, but Hart comes out well to hold his former teammate up. However, Balotelli composes himself and lifts a fabulous effort over the keeper, only for Jagielka to get back and clear it off the line. Superb effort from Balotelli.

45+2 minOFF THE POST! Italy come close again just before half time! Candreva has a bit of space inside the box and fires an effort towards the near post, and it thumps off the woodwork with Hart beaten.

45+2 minHALF TIME: England 1-1 Italy

11.52pmWow, what an exhilarating half of football that was! The two sides go into the break all square at 1-1 after a 45 minutes that has very much been in keeping with what we have seen at this brilliant World Cup so far. My pre-match prediction was a slow, tight and cagey affair, but I couldn't have been more wrong. It has been a cracking game of football so far.

11.54pmIt was the Italians that took the lead thanks to a well-worked corner routine that saw Pirlo throw a majestic dummy to let the ball run through to Marchisio behind him. The Italian midfielder had plenty of time to line it up and pick his spot, and he made no mistake with a fine drilled finish into the bottom corner. England hit back straight after, however, levelling the scores within two minutes when Sturridge finished off a counter following delightful passes from Sterling and Rooney.

11.56pmThe Italians could have been in the lead right on the stroke of half time when Balotelli showed a glimpse of his quality with a lofted effort over Hart, but Jagielka did brilliantly to get back and clear it off the line. Moments later, with virtually the last action of the half, Candreva struck the near post having being given time to shoot in the area.

11.58pmThe standout performance from England's point of view so far has been from Sterling, who has certainly justified his selection so far. He fired a spectacular long-range effort into the side-netting in the early stages, and that was a sign of things to come. He has been as positive as everyone hoped he would, and Italy have struggled to deal with him at times.

12amThe likes of Welbeck and Sturridge have also been very impressive so far, with the latter getting England's goal with a very good finish. Welbeck has won the ball back really well, although he could do with being more positive when on the ball. Rooney's delivery for the goal was perfect, but there is concerns over how he is carrying out his defensive duties. If there is one thing for England to change at half time, it is that defence down their left flank.

12.02amItaly's best moments have come down their right, where Rooney is struggling to stick with Candreva. The Italian has been his side's most dangerous player so far, although the Azzurri have been unable to create as many clear chances as England. Balotelli, until that stoppage time lob, did not look particularly dangerous, with Cahill and Jagielka being able to double up on him.

12.04amPirlo hasn't quite had the dominant influence that he had on the game in the Euros two years ago, but he has still shown glimpses of his class tonight. England have done a decent job of closing him down, while the bright play of Sterling has forced him to think more about his defensive duties as well. He only needs one chance to hurt England, however, as he showed with that sublime dummy for the Marchisio goal.

46 minKICKOFF: England get us back underway for the second half, and if it is anything like the first then we are in for a treat! No changes for either side at the break.

48 minThere is no change of personnel in terms of the 22 on the pitch, but there has been switch of formation for England. Welbeck and Rooney have swapped flanks in an attempt to stunt the influence of that Italian right, with the former being more sound defensively so far.

49 minSAVE! More positive play from England as Sturridge picks the ball up and skips beyond De Rossi all too easily. He lets fly from range with a low effort that Sirigu parries away from danger.

50 minGOAL! England 1-2 Italy (Mario Balotelli)

50 minEngland can't say they haven't been warned down that right flank. Darmian comes forward again and gives it to Candreva, who sells the dummy to Baines before swinging a perfect ball towards Balotelli at the back post. Cahill just gets too far under the ball and, with Johnson nowhere to be seen, the former Man City striker plants his header past Hart.

52 minEngland react well to going behind yet again as Sturridge makes a beeline for the box. He beats a couple of blue shirts and almost makes it all the way through on goal, but Italy finally get it clear with the last man.

54 minCLOSE! We're still yet to see the best of Rooney at a World Cup, but that was just a glimpse of it. He picks the ball up and makes a powerful run forward before firing a bobbling effort just wide of the far post. Better from the United man, who really hasn't been in the game much as he would have liked.

55 minEngland come forward again as Johnson makes the overlapping run on the right. The Liverpool man fires an early low cross into the box, but there is no white shirt gambling at the front post. That was a good ball from Johnson, who never really got forward like that in the first half.

56 minPENALTY SHOUT! Big penalty shout for England as Rooney pings a ball over Gerrard, who plays a lovely one-two before driving to the byline inside the box. He gets to the ball just before Paletta, who crashes into the skipper and brings him down. The ref says no, but in my book that is a penalty. Big call.

58 minITALY SUB: The first change of the night comes from Italy as Thiago Motta replaces Verratti in a straight swap in midfield.

60 minAgain, it is down the right that Italy threaten. Candreva is the dangerman once more as he fizzes a great low ball towards the near post. Balotelli arrives at speed but just can;t get there in time as Hart collects.

61 minSHOT! Sturridge threatens to double his personal tally for the night as he digs the ball out from under his feet before curling an effort a yard or so past the post. Not a bad effort from the Liverpool man, but he would have wanted to hit the target.

62 minENGLAND SUB: The first England change of the night sees the exciting Ross Barkley come on in place of Welbeck, who has really put a shift in tonight. Is this Barkley's time to shine?

63 minCHANCE! What a chance for Rooney to finally bury those World Cup demons! Baines finds him with an incisive pass into the box, and for once Rooney has space in a shooting position, He cuts back onto his right before giving the keeper the eyes and going for the near post. However, he dragged it narrowly wide, with the side-netting rippling on the way past.

64 minSAVE! Italy threaten as the ball is lifted over the top for Darmian, who takes it down brilliantly before being crowded out. England immediately break and Barkley leads the charge, cutting inside before drilling a low effort towards the far corner that Sirigu beats away - not for the first time tonight.

66 minConcern for England as Sterling goes down with a touch of cramp. They won't want to take him off here as he looks a constant threat, but these humid conditions mean that cramp comes on a lot quicker than usual - particularly for a player that didn't play a big part in the warm-up matches.

68 minSHOT! Italy keep the ball really well, forcing England to chase shadows and tire themselves out. Eventually the inject pace into the attack and once again it is down the right that they threaten, with Candreva firing an effort just wide of the near post.

70 minThe game has just hit a bit of a lull in the last few moments, but for the first one to come 70 minutes in is not bad going in this heat. You feel that it is the calm before the storm as England gear up for another siege on the Italy goal.

72 minSHOT! Baines delivers a corner towards the near post for the first time tonight, and Cahill steals a yard on his marker. He misses his header as the ball is put behind for another corner, which is played short this time. It eventually finds its way to Johnson, who unleashes a ferocious left-footed drive that swings a few yards wide.

73 minITALY SUB: The match-winner as things stand Mario Balotelli makes way to be replaced by Ciro Immobile, Serie A;s top scorer from last season.

74 minENGLAND SUB: England respond with a change of their own immediately after as Jack Wilshere comes on for Jordan Henderson.

76 minGerrard appears to be in a bit of trouble here. He just pulled up a little when on the ball and he has not been moving freely since. It may just be cramp, but it is one to keep an eye on. England, meanwhile, have a free kick in a very promising position as Chiellini brings down Sturridge.

77 minSAVE! It is Baines who takes the free kick, and he curls it past the wall and towards the corner. Sirigu gets across in good time to push the ball away with a comfortable stop, however. From the resulting corner, Rooney loses his footing and puts it straight behind for a goal kick.

79 minITALY SUB: The third and final Italian change sees Candreva go off after a superb performance, with Marco Parolo his replacement.

80 minENGLAND SUB: England follow suit with their final change as Sturridge limps off rather gingerly to be replaced by Adam Lallana, who is making his competitive debut.

82 minThat England change has seen Rooney go up front, with Barkley behind him in a central role and Lallana out on the left. For the first time tonight, it looks as though every player is in his preferred position.

84 minCramp is beginning to set in for some England players, with Cahill the latest to suffer. Time is running out for the Three Lions to get an equaliser, so they can't afford to stay down for too much longer. Just over five minutes remaining, and England have a free kick in a very promising position...

85 minIt is Gerrard who pulls rank on the free kick duties, but he can't get enough dip on it having cleared the wall. It flies over the crossbar and another chance goes begging for England. They've had enough opportunities to win this match.

87 minSHOT! Barkley picks the ball up and drives towards the edge of the box, but Rooney takes it off him and fires an effort over the bar. Barkley wanted to keep hold of that one, and he was making a positive run.

89 minYet another positive run from Sterling as he sprints past a couple of blue shirts before firing a shot at goal. The initial effort doesn't look to be too dangerous, but it is sliced behind for a corner by a defender.

90 minThis time it is a waste from Sterling as he beats a man but then slices his effort harmlessly off target. The pressure was slowing building there, but Sterling let Italy off the hook with that shot.

90+1 minSome good news for England - there will be FIVE minutes of added time. Plenty of time for some late drama here in Manaus!

90+2 minYELLOW CARD! The first yellow card of the match is shown to Sterling, who tripped Parolo when tracking back. He had to do that, though, as Pirlo had released Parolo with a perfectly-weighted pass.

90+4 minOFF THE BAR! The magician has almost done it again. When everyone is expecting him to play a free kick short and keep the ball, Pirlo can't resist an effort at goal. It is a magnificent strike that leaves Hart stranded having gone one way then seen the ball swerve the other. However, the ball smashes off the crossbar and England escape.

90+5 minReally good defending from Cahill as he stops an Italian counter in the dying stages. It came after England had pushed everyone forward, and Immobile lead the break. He looked to have beaten Cahill, but he responded and recovered well to make the challenge.

90+5 minFULL TIME: England 1-2 Italy

12.56amCahill's challenge is the last action of the match as Bjorn Kuipers brings an end to proceedings. It is Italy who are celebrating following a 2-1 victory, but England can hold their heads up high having given it a very good go. There are plenty of positives for them to take into Thursday's match against Uruguay, which is now and must-win and could well be a winner-takes-all clash.

12.58amThe Italians opened the scoring towards the end of the first half as Claudio Marchisio drilled a fine effort into the bottom corner after a slick corner move. However, England responded immediately through a Sturridge equaliser after Sterling and Rooney had linked up to provide the chance for the Liverpool man. It was Mario Balotelli who proved to be the match-winner, however, as he planted his header past Hart at the back post.

1amRight, that is all we have time for tonight. Thank you very much for joining Sports Mole for what was an enthralling encounter between England and Italy. The Azzurri came out on top with a 2-1 victory to get their campaign off to a winning start, but it was a good performance from both sides. I will leave you with our match report, and be sure to stick around for reaction, analysis and player ratings. There is still one match to come as Ivory Coast and Japan go head to head, but from me it is goodbye for now!

England manager Roy Hodgson looks on at the start of the international friendly football match between England and Scotland on August 14, 2013
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