There has been much discussion of Manchester United's departed or injured defenders, but far less of Michael Carrick. Will his return to fitness cause notable improvement?
Arsenal fans have been sucked back into believing Wenger can bring the glory years back after beating Borussia Dortmund. Plus, more on Liverpool's worrying decline...
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A Brave Effort...
Well done F365 - great headline and comments about out performance. It was brave and we were far from outclassed, doing as well as could be expected given our defence which was always going to be vulnerable. On another day, we could easily have got something out of the game.
We looked lively and played with real zeal - the first time in a long time and there is no shame in losing to a good Italian side. However, Costa Rica winning has really opened the group up and their third, along with Pirlo hitting the bar has really helped us out.
It means that we are ahead of the Uruguayans and a draw against Uruguay (assuming Italy beat Costa Rica, which admittedly is far from a given if they repeat their second half showing today!) means that a win in our last game will see us through in second spot, assuming Uruguay dont beat the Italians by more than we get against Costa Rica which I would suggest is unlikely even with Suarez back.
I'll admit that there are several 'ifs' in all of that and that our performance, whilst good in general had several areas of concern but today was encouraging and we showed more areas of ability (and pace!) than we did in the whole of South Africa.
Unlucky lads - but it's far from over just yet...
...Good, But Naive
Firstly, in the wake of England's defeat against Italy I must say that I enjoyed England's performance as much as any in a major tournament since the 90s. However, I think the last ten minutes offered a counter argument to the clamour for youth and the oft associated fearlessness. Whilst largely impressed with Sterling, in skewing three crosses/shots in the last ten minutes it highlighted the value of experience over youth.
It's all very well taking on players but with age comes improved decision making and his greenness exposed a lack of ability to make clutch judgements. As Phil Neville sagely said on commentary, at that stage of the game, it's worth taking an extra pass.
PS Wrighty's faux leather shirt? Sexual...
Richard (oh Pirlo)
...And Not That Great
Well, England's brave lions showed lots of grit, fight, passion, heart and courage, and a couple of them were running around a lot; but when your attacking players have a universally awful first touch, it's about right that we lose to a team who are technically superior.
We were presented with opportunities but didn't have the capability to take advantage of them. When England's players have time to think, they make mistakes. When it's high-tempo and end to end, players can rely on their instinct and achieve more. In the 2nd half Italy changed how the game was being played, and England didn't have the capacity to react with our own tactical manoeuvre. We had to think, and couldn't rely on instinctive fast counter-attacking football. And that's where we came up a bit short.
I wonder if that will be Wayne Rooney's last start at the World Cup. Big decisions to make Roy. Good luck with that.
Rating The Players
Rather than give arbitrary numbers and taking off my blue tinted glasses, I'll give the players a rating based on what I remember of them from the game...
Hart - He scares me. Like the idea of Purple Aki spotting for me in the gym scares me.
Johnson - A few decent crosses, some decent defending.
Jagielka - Fantastic clearance on the line. Pretty decent.
Cahill - Should have done better with Italy's second.
Baines - Sold a job lot of dummies... I wouldn't be surprised if he was still on the pitch reacting to the turn now.
Henderson - The answer to the question 'Why James Milner...?'
Gerrard - Too many Holywood balls, not enough quality in their delivery.
Sterling - Best player in an England shirt by light years.
Welbeck - Should now be the England question and trending topic. "Why Danny Welbeck?"
Sturridge - Great finish, good movement. Looks confident and sharp.
Rooney - Aside from the cross for Sturridge. snatched at his shots, seemed nervous and a fraction of the player he was for us.
Barkley - Start him. If only because Sterling can't keep up that pace the whole tournament can he? (And even if Sterling can, start him!)
Wilshire - Tried too hard. But I'd still start him over Wellbeck/Henderson (Barkley taking the other spot)
Lallana - I really really really hope Liverpool pay 30m for him...
Bit gutted. But listening to the Spanish say 'we've lost the first game before' fills me with confidence. Costa Rica helped too...
ZtunYtsur. (Honda's goal was a peach by the way!)
I have to wonder about all the generally positive reviews England got tonight.
I've only just seen the game (at 4am. christ) and thought that we were largely slow in attack.
With half the Liverpool side in business, I kind of expected them to play like Liverpool; fast, counter attacking stuff. They did in the first five minutes.
But then? Was I the only person to see the game peter out into almost nothingness? The Italians seemed to have everything behind the ball and England had absolutely no idea how to break them down.
Often, to my eyes, the play was slow and laboured. I was calling for Lallana to be introduced but when he showed up he did the square root of bugger all. Barkley at least seemed to want to have a go.
Does anyone remember Henderson or Gerrard having a touch? No? Me either. The latter fell over in the area, as he is wont to do, but.. but?
I'm not looking forward to the Uruguay game because, well, we'll be shafted. Expect Costa Rica to second the group, behind the Italians.
I've had enough. Tarra.
Enough With The Pirlo Love
Enough with this pirlo fawning... and I'm an Italian citizen. I've had it with how english press selects some gifted player from other nations at random and then he's somehow the pied piper, the man with the midas touch, Mr. Perfect and so on and so on. And his timing couldn't be more perfect after humilliating Joe Hart (again) with a ridiculous free-kick at stoppage time. But aside from that did you watch the game last night?? Without the sick pirlo bias, if he was just a relatively unknown player from a less historic nation there was no way that performance would warrant so many lines, so much twitter explotion with undying adulation and sycophancy...
Is it about his beard or looking good? Most anyone looks good in Italy mind you. Back in the day when he was instrumental in AC Milan working in tandem with gattusso winning everything and scoring mercurial free kicks and giving delicious through balls nobody gave a hoot about him yet now that he's so old he can barely walk the pitch, he plays with a pace that would make a snail feel encouraged to race him suddenly everyone thinks he's the greatest midfielder of his generation.
Give me a break.. 95% of the passes he concretes are back passes and/or one or two meters away. He played with a pace as if he where strolling down a road walking his dog. Pirlo is the kind of player you would never play if you needed to up the tempo of a game. He is way past his best but stands out for his technichal ability. Those certainly don't wane with time.
Raúl H. García (My MOTM was between Sirigu and Candreva) Liverpool FC
Why Did England Arrive So Late?
I'm all for losing well and what it might do for the thoroughly defeated English psyche, but I simply don't understand "modern" training methods that had your team arriving in a jungle climate a few days before the big game.
When I recently moved to Denver, which is a mile above sea level, it took me 2 months to function at altitude at even close to a comparable level to a coastal region. And many years ago when I moved from the mountains to Chicago, it was humidity that was the great equalizer. And again, it took about 2 months to get used to the difference.
So my point is obvious, what in the name of God are these modern teams employing modern methods doing when they can't even figure out they need to be living in a certain climate or altitude for more than a few days to perform?
Niall (I can run farther and faster than Wayne at a mile high and in 80% humidity), Denver
Like A New Signing
Whilst football media and onlookers have been racking their collective brain over how exactly Arsene Wenger plans to address Arsenal's 'lack of competent centre forwards', the solution (or part of it at the very least) may have made itself very evident during Costa Rica's 3-1 over Uruguay in their opening World Cup 2014 game, through a certain loanee not many have taken proper note of until this past season
Joel Campbell has not actually spent a single season at the Gunners, with Wenger opting to send him on 3 season-long loans at Lorient, Real Betis, and most recently Olympiakos, the first two producing limited success. With this in mind, it would have been easy to understand why some Arsenal fans (myself included, admittedly) might have had their doubts about whether or not he would become a regular fixture at the club anytime in the near future. His stint with the current Greek Champions, however, should have been enough to lay those doubts to rest.
8 league goals, a similar number of league assists and a magnificent goal against Manchester United in the Champions League signal a coming-of-age which has surely signaled a readiness to continue perfecting his craft under the careful guidance of Wenger himself.
If helping Olympiakos to yet another Greek Super League title isn't enough to convince the club of his improved ability, his performance against Uruguay - Man Of The Match quality in my opinion - must be. Sure, the tournament is still very much in its infancy, but to score and provide an assist whilst posing a constant attacking threat, against a team coming into the tournament as Copa America Champions and World Cup semi-finalists of 2010 is no easy feat, yet it is one which was pulled off by Campbell with a maturity that someone like Yaya Sanogo, despite his full involvement in Arsenal's past campaign, has no quite achieved as yet.
So much pressure has been placed on Wenger to sign forwards with the pedigree of Karim Benzema, or the prolificacy of Luis Suarez, but maybe in Campbell, Arsenal have a unpolished gem who, though nowhere near the finished article, could be set to stun the Premier League in the same manner he stunned Uruguay's seasoned defence.
That said, I believe that if Wenger plans to make proper use of him, it has to be now. If not, Campbell's now well-known potential will take him elsewhere very quickly.
Just A Great Tournament
Great stuff so far in this WC. Drama, upsets, controversy and lots of goals - great to see teams trying to win and being rewarded (take note Greece - if not bugger off forever).
On England, they played their part in yet another excellent game and I thought Sterling started really well, but in the last 20 minutes he seemed to run out of ideas - not sure he was as brilliant for the whole game as others have stated. Hopefully they can beat Uruguay with Suarez sent off as a bonus!
Three out of four of the BBC pundits have their first language as English. Yet only Thierry Henry speaks with any depth or incisiveness.