England

Anyone picking Joe in goal is now going with their Hart instead of their Head

An opinion piece questioning Joe Hart’s goalkeeping, just a day after England dropped points against its oldest enemy may attract accusations of being reactionary, if only that was the case.

The reality is that the last year and a bit has included one problem after another for the previously undisputed Manchester City and England number one.

Pep Guardiola being announced as the forthcoming City manager, on February 1, got the ball rolling, and the momentum has got faster as time has gone on, most recently culminating in the 30-year-old letting two really quite saveable free-kicks past him in as many minutes in Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Scotland.

Euro 2016 was the first real on-pitch indication that the Hart was starting to break with England unceremoniously dumped out of the competition in France as early as the Round of 16 stage, against Iceland.

Not all the blame can be aimed at the goalkeeper, of course, but the Three Lions did concede four goals in their four matches against Russia, Wales, Slovakia and Iceland and a case could be made that Hart was at fault for all of them.

A looping header caught him off guard in the Russia draw, Gareth Bale’s free-kick from miles out squirmed under him and then a long throw-in that caught Hart out followed by another tame shot that seemed to go through him led to Iceland eliminating England.

Regardless of his Euro 2016 showing, Hart was probably departing City anyway, given Guardiola’s insistence on a ball-playing keeper, and Hart was duly loaned to Serie A outfit Torino. In his own words, to Soccer AM: “The management didn’t want me, so I had to go somewhere else.

“Obviously he (Guardiola) had different ideas. The manager who came in came in with a lot of experience, an awful lot of medals and I know the club worked really hard to have him in charge of the football club.

“Unfortunately, football is a game of opinions. His opinions weren’t too great on me, I kind of smelled that when I came in. That’s life, that’s football.”

Hart’s replacement at City, Claudio Bravo, had a disastrous campaign of his own but he was only ever a temporary option for Pep and his side, given that Barcelona’s other keeper, Marc-Andre Ter Stegen, was the one he really wanted with Manuel Neuer, who he coached at Bayern Munich, never a realistic option.

Given Bravo’s below-par bedding in period, City fans and neutral pundits alike were calling for the return of the ousted Hart, but only by those that were not watching his performances in Turin.

Life in Italy was tough, and gaffe-ridden for Hart who dropped, in some cases literally, clangers against the likes of Inter Milan, Atalanta and Crotone.

Judging goalkeepers by statistic is difficult in the nicest terms, and downright inaccurate in the worst. Torino having the second-worst defence in the Italian top flight is not a direct correlation to Hart’s form, or lack thereof, and nor, really, is a poor shot-to-save ratio.

Hart’s inclusion in the Serie A ‘Flop of the Season’ XI is a damning indictment though and established Italian football writer James Horncastle quipping: “Torino couldn’t believe they had landed England’s number one. Over the course of the season, they realised why”, sums it up better than most.

Once done with England duty, Hart will return to Manchester, but if he even gets to the stage of taking his coat off and hanging it up on his dressing room peg, he can call that a victory as City’s £35 million signing of Benfica’s Ederson kicks him through the door that was already more than ajar.

While his time at his club comes to an end, Hart is also at risk of a bypass at international level. Jack Butland may have missed the majority of the 2016-17 season through injury but in his games since recovery he seems back on track while Jordan Pickford was widely considered to be the best goalkeeper in the country last season, despite Sunderland’s abject relegation campaign.

“We didn’t expect so many mistakes from an England international”, was the departing shot from Torino president Urbano Cairo but currently it looks increasingly more likely that a good moment for Hart would be more surprising.

 

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In Profile: Jadon Sancho

England got their Under-17 European Championship campaign off to the perfect start: with a 3-1 win over Norway. Liverpool striker Rhian Brewster netted two of the goals for the Three Lions, but he was not the man that enticed those that tuned in on Thursday afternoon.

Manchester City winger Jadon Sancho ran the show, quite literally, in Velika Gorica, Croatia.

Things looked bleak for England when they went 1-0 down as early as the eighth minute, but 17-year-old Sancho showed the character of someone well beyond his tender age, by assisting the first of Brewster’s brace just two minutes later.

Sancho did not play a direct part in the second goal, but an intuitive piece of skill got the move going that started the move that completed England’s turnaround.

Norway quickly cottoned onto the fact that Sancho was trouble, and doubled-up on the flamboyant winger, with little success, as the right-hand side of the Norwegian’s flank was under consistent scrutiny for the entire 80 minutes.

Sancho’s key attribute is obvious from the outset. Type his name into YouTube and you are inundated with ‘Amazing Skills and Dribbling’ compilation videos – the first sign that a Millennial footballer has arrived, one video even describes him as “The Future.” Maybe with good reason.

Manchester City certainly know what they have got, as three weeks before his 17th birthday, and two years after they paid Watford £500,000 for him, Sancho was offered a three-year deal to remain in Manchester following talk he missed his hometown of Kenington in south London. Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham were all ready to pounce, but had no luck.

Talk of homesickness seems strange, though, given that he describes his 2015 move to City as him “getting out of the hood” and that “bad influences were happening” around him. “If I moved, it would be better for me, to stay out of trouble”, he told the club’s YouTube channel.

“After school, it was just football, football. Other people were a bad influence on me, doing bad stuff and I just didn’t want to be around that, so there was the opportunity to come to Manchester and I’m really happy,” he continued.

Sancho wasted no time in showing his gratitude to his new club. On his debut start for the Citizens he scored two in a 6-1 demolition of Newcastle and, during the same season, he was part of a City under-16 side that went unbeaten during the 2015-16 season. While with the under-18 team Sancho scored a further five goals and ended the campaign with seven goals in four starts for Jason Wilcox’s side.

Progression has not slowed down for the tricky winger, as this season he has been training with the first-team under Pep Guardiola, in what was the latest indication on what City, and England, have got brewing.

“When I saw Pep, I just couldn’t stop smiling. When I walked on the training pitch I was very nervous, but I just remembered what my Dad said: no pressure.

“I just kept my head low and then Pep came over to me, I shook his hand, he put my arm around me and gave me great advice.

“He’s seen what I can do, he wants me to improve in certain parts, he doesn’t care if I lose the ball 1,000 times, he knows what I’m capable of.”

Guardiola is not the only one who knows what Sancho is capable of. At 16, Sancho was already heavily involved in City’s UEFA Youth League campaign, the Champions League for under-21s, playing six out of the seven games City played, and scored two goals – against Borussia Monchengladbach and Celtic in the group stages.

City were eliminated in the play-off round, against eventual winners Red Bull Salzburg on penalties, but Sancho was one of the three men in blue to bury his spot-kick.

Sancho did reach one final this season, as him and the rest of the Manchester City EDS (Elite Development Squad) got all the way FA Youth Cup final, but lost 6-2 on aggregate to Chelsea, although there is clear signs of positive work on display in the City set up.

“I think our group is so special, because we have great chemistry on and off the pitch. When on the training pitch, we take it proper seriously, like it’s a game day, that’s how all of us work so hard and get results on match days.”

Sancho is getting results on match days, and if he continues in this vein he will certainly be getting results in his career.

 

 

 

 

Top Five Flops Of The Euros So Far

The Group Stage of Euro 2016 has now been and gone, so BenjaminWillsBlog has taken a look at five players who have as yet failed to live up to the pre-tournament hype.

1) Antoine Griezmann – France

When Antoine Griezmann came off the bench to head France into a last-gasp lead against Albania it seemed like the Euros was about to burst into life for one of the continent’s top talents, however it has not yet been the case.

Atletico Madrid’s main man suffered a frustrating 90 minutes on opening night as Olivier Giroud and Dmitri Payet were needed to rescue the hosts and Griezmann was promptly dropped for the Albania game.

His goal got him back in the line-up against Switzerland, but again the Frenchman was ineffective as he has yet to get a proper foothold on this tournament which is underwhelming from a man many backed to win the Golden Boot.

2) Harry Kane – England

Harry Kane has been the top English goalscorer for each of the past two seasons, the current Three Lions squad is attacking and exciting, so, put the two together and you have a perfect blend, right? It would appear not.

At his club, Tottenham Hotspur, boy wonder Kane is used to being the main man, he plays on his own up front for Spurs, but with his country he finds himself deployed as part of a three-man attack and has so far struggled to find his scoring boots due to lack of service and perhaps is not suited to others doing the dirty work for him.

After unexpectedly failing to win Group B England find themselves on the harder half of the tournament table, and Kane will need to remember where the back of the net is if the Three Lions want to make a serious impression on this year’s Euros.

3) Paul Pogba – France

Since 1996, the Player of the Tournament at the European Championships has had two things in common: they were centre midfielders, and their country were crowned champions.

Paul Pogba and France were both tipped for glory this summer, both still might get their crowning glory, but neither have been entirely convincing as yet. The Juventus man has shown flashes of brilliance, in the first-half of France’s 2-1 win over Romania and during the 0-0 draw with Switzerland, but for a man touted as one of the best in the world and expected to command a fee of £70 million, the mercurial midfielder has not quite been firing on all cylinders.

Pogba will need to kick it up a notch if he wants to emulate his childhood hero Zinedine Zidane, who was the best player as France won Euro 2000.

4) Thomas Muller – Germany

The Germans. Ruthless, clinical, efficient, and any other cliche you want to use, none apply to Thomas Muller this summer.

He may only be 26-years-old, but Muller is as experienced as they come. The forward has 32 international goals in 74 caps, and a World Cup winners’ medal, but despite this he has never scored in a Euros, and that stat does not look like being wiped out any time soon.

Muller’s role is that of a Raumdeuter – a ‘space investigator’ in real terms – Mario Gotze as a false nine is supposed to create space for the supporting Muller, but so far the mean defences of Poland, and especially Northern Ireland, have managed to snuff out the Bayern Munich man out, leaving him ineffective.

5) Robert Lewandowski – Poland

This is new territory for Robert Lewandowski. Since his first season as a professional in the Polish second division with Znicz Pruszkow in 2006-07 he has scored fewer than 15 goals in a campaign only twice, but now when representing his country his magic touch seems to have worn a bit thin.

Lewandowski scored 30 goals in 32 matches for his club, Bayern in the Bundesliga last season and went into the Euros in hot form but after four games in France he has scored no goals and had just the one shot on target.

Despite one of the world’s hottest strikers blowing cold Poland have made it to the quarter-finals, getting on the scoresheet a grand total of three times in the process, but they need their star man to show up sooner rather than later, otherwise a great opportunity for history may go up in smoke.

Steven Gerrard should not be offered a new deal at Liverpool – the club need to move on

Steven Gerrard is reportedly currently pondering signing a new one-year deal at Liverpool with his current one set to expire in the summer but is it time for both parties to move on?

The Anfield icon, 34, is expected to suffer a drop in wages if he accepts the proposed offer instead of leaving the club in June.

Liverpool’s captain has also had to deny a rift with boss Brendan Rodgers this week after the manager dropped Gerrard as he marked his 16th anniversary at the club as well as benching him when the Reds faced Real Madrid at the Bernabeu in the Champions League.

Rodgers revealed he “wasn’t aware” of the landmark until he walked into the dressing room and saw the programme. Gerrard insisted in an Instagram post the following day that a rumoured rift was “nonsense”.

Matters on the football pitch obviously need to be considered too of course with Rodgers admitting his skipper can no longer play two full games a week.

He has been forced to play in a much deeper role in Liverpool’s diamond formation which limits his influence in the final third of the pitch that he was once so needed for.

Gerrard looking a frustrated figure on the Liverpool bench

Gerrard looking a frustrated figure on the Liverpool bench

Jordan Henderson (55), Philippe Coutinho (57) and Adam Lallana, then at Southampton (63), all completed more key passes than Gerrard (54) last season and Lallana created more chances (68) than Gerrard (67) too. Henderson and Coutinho fashioned 62 and 64 respectively.

Gerrard did contribute the most assists (13) but only one of these did not come from either a corner or a free-kick. He also notched the most goals out of the five, also 13, but 10 of them were penalties.*

Veteran talisman Gerrard has only missed one match this campaign (the League Cup win over Middlesbrough) – making 16 starts and two substitute appearances but some of his displays have left a lot to be desired.

Most notably the 3-1 defeat at Crystal Palace where Mile Jedinak dominated the midfield (even scoring a free-kick in a similar vain of a younger Gerrard), as well as Jason Puncheon and Yannick Bolasie repeatedly leaving him for dead with their speed, strength, power and guile.

The much improved Henderson is starting to become the beating heart of Liverpool’s midfield much like he is for England since the former Three Lions captain retired following their dismal World Cup display where they finished bottom of their group.

The new Gerrard: Jordan Henderson, finally justifying that £20 million pricetag

The new Gerrard: Jordan Henderson, finally justifying that £20 million price tag

It was a disappointing display in Brazil from most members of the 23-man squad but unfortunately for him, Gerrard will be tainted with providing the nail in England’s coffin with a mistimed header that played in then club colleague Luis Suarez to knock Roy Hodgson’s men out after only two games.

By Liverpool fans, Gerrard will be remembered as the “one club man” who turned down the glamour of Chelsea’s riches and Premier League titles in 2004 for his beloved Reds and pretty much single handedly dragging them to glory in the 2005 Istanbul Champions League final.

But to many others, Anfield’s legendary number eight will forever remind them of individual errors.

From the dodgy back-pass that led to France beating England 2-1 at Euro 2004 after being 1-0 down in injury time as well as doing the same again, teeing up Didier Drogba in 2010 to all but win the title for Chelsea and of course that slip last season against the same club that cost him his best chance of winning the Premier League.

And as more of these mistakes creep into Gerrard’s game in tandem with his influence on a football pitch fading, Liverpool need to respectfully shun their skipper in order to retain his status as a bona fide Liverpool legend.

*All stats via Squawka

 

Roy Hodgson must start picking England squad on merit to win back belief in fans

Roy Hodgson has named his 23 man squad for England’s upcoming Euro 2016 qualifiers against Estonia and San Marino and while some promising players have made the squad, there are some still waiting in the wings. 

England fans are growing ever more impatient with their national side following a poor World Cup and have shown that with their feet. Just over 40,000 turned up for a home friendly against Norway, in which England limped to a 1-0 win via a penalty against a side then 33 places below them in the FIFA World Rankings.

Saido Berahino is the top English scorer in the early stages of this Premier League season with four goals in six games but will not be joining up with the Three Lions despite Daniel Sturridge’s absence from the squad with injury.

Nathan Dyer of Swansea, who are flying high in fifth, also misses out, being snubbed by Tottenham’s Andros Townsend. Dyer has netted three goals in three games this season while Townsend has zero in two.

Curtis Davies and Tom Huddlestone, FA Cup finalists with Hull City last season, find themselves without a spot in the squad again as well.

Positive steps have been made however with the inclusions of Nathaniel Clyne, Kieran Gibbs and Jonjo Shelvey.

However, the inclusion of Rickie Lambert may have annoyed a few as he is mostly used as a substitute now he is at Liverpool and the former Southampton striker will be 34 when it is time to jet off to France.

England squad in full:

Goalkeepers: Fraser Forster (Southampton), Ben Foster (West Bromwich Albion), Joe Hart (Manchester City)

Defenders: Leighton Baines (Everton), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Nathaniel Clyne (Southampton), Kieran Gibbs (Arsenal), Phil Jagielka (Everton), John Stones (Everton)

Midfielders: Fabian Delph (Aston Villa), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Adam Lallana (Liverpool), James Milner (Manchester City), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Jonjo Shelvey (Swansea City), Raheem Sterling (Liverpool), Andros Townsend (Tottenham Hotspur), Jack Wilshere (Arsenal)

Forwards: Rickie Lambert (Liverpool), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Daniel Welbeck (Arsenal)

Brentford sign Alex Pritchard on loan

Championship side Brentford have confirmed that Alex Pritchard will spend the 2014/15 season at Griffin Park on a season-long loan deal.

The promising English winger, 21, spent last season on loan at Brentford’s then League One rivals Swindon Town where he scored six goals in 35 league games.

Pritchard also netted in a Capital One Cup tie away at Queens Park Rangers where Swindon ran out 0-2 winners.

Cup King: Pritchard celebrates his goal against QPR.

Cup King: Pritchard celebrates his goal against QPR.

Brentford’s new signing has also earned three caps for the England Under 20 side, two of which came in the 2013 Under 20 World Cup but England failed to make it past the group stages.

Tottenham winger Pritchard has also signed a two year contract extension that will keep him at White Hart Lane until 2016.

Pritchard made his Tottenham debut in the club’s 3-0 win over Aston Villa, coming on as an 83rd minute substitute.

Change needed for England? Again?

Following what looks to be England’s latest failing at a major tournament, there are yet again calls for major overhaul.

After the 2010 World Cup in South Africa where England crashed out in the last 16 with a 4-1 hammering by rivals Germany, the Three Lions were encouraged to base their style on the tiki-taka of Spain who went on to win the coveted trophy.

St George’s Park was built with this philosophy grained into it and the effects have been predicted to come to fruition for the Qatar World Cup in 2022.

The problem now however is that tiki-taka looks tiki-toast after Spain themselves were dumped out the group stages this summer by The Netherlands and Chile.

To Roy Hodgson’s credit, England did play the positive attacking football in their opener against Italy and were arguably the better side but Uruguay was a different story as static, nervous England seemed to be back as the pressure looked to have got to them.

England need to create their own identity, possibly starting with a new Captain.

Steven Gerrard has come into particular light as the 34-year-old has probably waved goodbye to the World Cup due to his age and it did not end on a high, his header setting up Liverpool teammate Luis Suarez’s winner to all but send England home.

Liverpool’s iconic hero has been a loyal servant to his country with some fantastic highs including scoring the equalizer in England’s famous 1-5 win over Germany in 2001, scoring a brilliant goal against Trinidad and Tobago at World Cup 2006 and of course his crucial World Cup qualifying goals against the likes of Croatia for 2010 and Poland for 2014.

Along with this though, he has had his lows including a dodgy back-pass at Euro 2004 against France which led to Thierry Henry being fouled for Zinedine Zidane’s winning penalty as well as the Uruguay gaffe.

If Gerrard is replaced, either by choice through International retirement, or by force as Hodgson continues to build for the future, who could replace him?

Joe Hart: The England goalkeeper would be a popular choice among fans as he is one of few England players who has a safe spot in Hodgson’s starting eleven.

Two time Premiership winner with Manchester City, Hart, has established himself as England’s number one after Robert Green’s high profile error against the United States at the last World Cup and then number two David James has since retired.

Hart is a known leader on the pitch, often seen barking instructions from his penalty box and is refreshingly honest in interviews, something that adheres to England supporters as he is one of very few players who embodies himself among fans as “one of them”.

It is a myth that England players do not care about their national side as much as the fans but Hart is a rare example of someone who truly proves this. Perfect Captain material.

Wearing his Hart on his shoulder: England's number one.

Wearing his Hart on his sleeve: England’s number one.

Gary Cahill: John Terry’s partner in the heart of Chelsea’s defense is starting to emerge from the former England Captain’s shadow.

Since joining Stamford Bridge from Bolton in 2012, Cahill has blossomed working with Terry and has picked up plenty more England caps to boot as he ‘s built up a solid partnership with Everton’s Phil Jagielka.

Along with this, Cahill has similar personality traits to his colleague such as on-pitch leadership and an equally similar playing style. The 28-year-old is often seen putting his body on the line for his team much like Terry (“Superman” dive vs Slovenia esque) in true English lion-heart style, something the Three Lions have missed since Terry’s acrimonious departure from the national fold.

Another positive of Cahill’s, he also does not come with the baggage of John Terry with his personal life stories of affairs and racist allegations.

New kid on the block: Cahill dives in-front of a shot.

New kid on the block: Cahill dives in-front of a shot.

Wayne Rooney: Expected to be the bookies and media favourite to replace Gerrard. The England poster boy is undoubtedly the star man.

94 caps and 40 goals would be an impressive return by anyone’s standard but the main criticism of “Wazza” is that he does not turn up on the big stage.

The Manchester United forward, 28, has only scored six goals in major tournaments (four at Euro 2004 where he was just 18, one at Euro 2012 which was a header from two yards against Ukraine, and his leveler against Uruguay) – his first World Cup goal at the third attempt.

Criticism of his attitude would also be a harm to him, frequent contract issues with his club where he seems to be constantly demanding more money does not portray him in a good light.

Many also believe that we have never seen what Rooney is truly capable of, citing that if he had more drive and determination he could have been one of the best players in the world, possibly even ever.

Rooney’s rant into a camera following a 0-0 draw with Algeria at the last World Cup will also live long in the memory of many an England supporter. “Nice to see your home fans boo you, that’s what loyal support is”, is not a sentence that endears you to fans well.

Despite all this though, Rooney is still seen as the man to lead England. Why? Because he is England’s best player and, after all, isn’t that what the Captain should be?

Wayne's World: England's next captain?

Wayne’s World: England’s next captain?

Uruguay 2-1 England: Super Suarez all but eliminates England

England’s hopes of qualifying from Group D looked dashed due to to a brace from Luis Suarez either side of Wayne Rooney’s equalizer.

The Manchester United forward, 28, scored his first goal in a World Cup to level the scores with 15 minutes left when he tapped home a Glen Johnson squared pass to give England hope.

Rooney could have dragged England level earlier but shot straight at Fernando Muslera ten minutes into the second half after he knocked the ball past a La Celeste defender.

Suarez killed English dreams though when he tucked the ball past Joe Hart after Muslera’s goal-kick has flicked on by England Captain Steven Gerrard.

Suarez had earlier given Uruguay the lead when he scored a controlled header past Hart but the spine of the England team were largely at fault.

Gerrard and Jordan Henderson were caught out and allowed Nicolas Lodeiro space in midfield and teed up Edinson Cavini who easily lost Glen Johnson and FCavani’s cross was headed in by El Pistolero when Phil Jagielka failed to follow the runner.

Bolt from the Sky Blue: Star Suarez breaks England hearts.

Bolt from the Sky Blue: Star Suarez breaks England hearts.

England did show signs of promise in the first period though, Wayne Rooney curled a free-kick narrowly past the post after ten minutes and later hit the bar with a close range header from Gerrard’s free-kick.

Uruguay threatened themselves after quarter of an hour when Jagielka’s sliced clearance landed at the feet of Cristian Rodriguez who shot inches over from the edge of the box.

A low Luis Suarez corner was also blazed over from Cavani.

Daniel Sturridge had the last opportunity though when Rooney’s intelligent through ball found the Liverpool man who had his shot from a tight angle parried by Fernando Muslera at his near post.

Controversy overshadowed the match however as the stand in Uruguay Captain Diego Godin should have been sent off for putting his elbow up to Sturridge’s face in a body check. He had previously been yellow carded for a handball.

The Three Lions now need Italy to defeat both Costa Rica tomorrow and Uruguay next Tuesday while England must also beat Costa Rica themselves, relying on goal difference, to have any chance of making it to round two.

 

 

 

England 1-2 Italy: Roy’s boys lose opening match

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Italy recorded a somewhat fortunate win over an England side who dominated much of the play but ultimately came up short.

Cesare Prandelli’s side took the lead ten minutes before half time after some poor England positioning when defending a corner. White shirts crowded the box but Claudio Marchisio received the ball outside the area and plenty of time and acres of space to set himself and fire at goal. Joe Hart had no chance.

England were not behind for long however, Wayne Rooney playing in what seems to be his new position for the Three Lions, whipped in a ball on the left hand side that Daniel Sturridge tucked home from close range two minutes later.

The Azzuri regained the lead five minutes into the second half thanks to Mario Balotelli’s close range header from Antonio Candreva’s cross. Candreva darting past Leighton Baines and floating in a delivery that went over Gary Cahill and into the path of Balotelli who couldn’t really miss.

Raheem Sterling looked to have gave England the lead after just four minutes when his drive from distance rippled the net, the side netting though, disappointing many an England fan who thought they were in front.

Jordan Henderson wasn’t far away either, a swerving shot from him was palmed away well by Italy’s stand in goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu.

Italy hit back with first Daniele De Rossi warming Hart’s gloves with a stinging shot that was fumbled and then Balotelli curled a shot over from far out.

A minute later and England came close again, Danny Welbeck on the right squaring the ball across goal but Andrea Barzagli slid in just before Sturridge and Italy re grouped for a corner.

Phil Jagielka saved England just before the break when Balotelli lobbed an out of position Hart but the Everton defender was there to clear it off the line. Just after that Candreva cut inside and rattled the post but England survived.

England also had a penalty claim when Welbeck was sandwiched between two Italy defenders as he attempted to reach a Sterling ball across goal.

Rooney was more of a shooting threat in the second half as he was moved into his favoured central role, first shooting narrowly wide from the edge of the area and soon after cutting inside a defender and firing wide again, should have really scored.

Ross Barkley was introduced for Welbeck with twenty five minutes left and made an immediate impact, bursting down the left, turning inside an Italian defender and having a shot palmed away by Sirigu.

Inside the last twenty minutes Glen Johnson decided to try his luck after receiving the ball from a short corner but his strike whistled wide.

England had a few last throws of the dice with free kicks from Steven Gerrard and Baines but there was no David Beckham esque moment vs Greece. Andrea Pirlo almost scored one for Italy though, smacking the bar from distance and Italy held on for the win.

World Cup Preview: England

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Possibly the first World Cup ever where England do not go into the tournament tipped as being one of the favourites, Brazil could be the start of something new for Roy’s boys.

Up and coming young stars such as Ross Barkley, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Raheem Sterling will all be looking to gain valuable tournament experience ahead of being future England figureheads.

England are hindered by being drawn into the so called “group of death” with 2006 World Cup winners Italy and Luis Suarez’ Uruguay and will need to hit the ground running if they have any chance of making it past the group stages.

The Azzuri are England’s first opponents and three points are needed in that or England’s second match against Uruguay if they are to progress. A win also must come against expected whipping boys Costa Rica.

Much of the attention, as ever, going into the tournament is centered on Wayne Rooney with some calling to drop the Manchester United forward.

Rooney, 28, has never scored a World Cup goal in the eight games he’s played in and must prove his undoubted ability this summer to finally show his worth when it counts for England.