Written by Staff Writer
15 Jun, 2014 | 7:19 am
Mario Balotelli came back to haunt England with the winning goal as Italy began their FIFA World Cup campaign with a 2-1 win over England in Manaus on Saturday.
Claudio Marchisio had given the Italians a 35th minute lead with a rasping low drive into the bottom corner but Daniel Sturridge converted Wayne Rooney’s deep cross to the back post just two minutes later to equalise.
Just five minutes into the second period, Balotelli headed home Antonio Candreva’s cross from close range.
The result leaves England in a desperate situation ahead of their next match against Uruguay, who earlier were stunned 3-1 by Costa Rica, in Sao Paulo on June 19.
Neither side can afford to lose that match and even a draw would leave them perhaps relying on other results to get through to the last 16.
“Italy were a very good team tonight and we fell a bit short,” said England captain Steven Gerrard.
“But we’re still very much alive in this group.”
Italy were worthy winners with Andrea Pirlo almost putting some gloss on the result deep into injury time with a free-kick that crashed back off the bar.
England’s performance was full of flair and and an immeasureable improvement on their dire quarter-final defeat to the same opponents at Euro 2012 on penalties after a 0-0 draw.
But they still have not beaten Italy since 1977 and the difference between the two sides was Italy’s clinical use of the ball in the final third.
Uruguay vs Costa Rica
Costa Rica came from behind to stun Uruguay 3-1 Saturday at the World Cup, opening the tough Group D with a major upset.
Uruguay left star striker Luis Suarez on the bench but went ahead when Edinson Cavani scored a penalty in the 24th minute.
But the Central Americans fought back after the break and lone striker Joel Campbell slotted in a ball headed down by Celso Borges in the 54th to beat goalkeeper Fernando Muslera.
Oscar Duarte dived past the outstretched foot of Uruguay’s Cristian Stuani to head in the winner for the underdogs, and substitute Marcos Urena added the third with six minutes left, catching out Muslera to slot the ball in from a tight angle.
Colombia vs Greece
Colombia started its first World Cup campaign in 16 years in dazzling fashion, beating Greece 3-0 with goals from Pablo Armero, Teofilo Gutierrez and James Rodriguez in the Group C opener on Saturday.
Left back Armero opened the scoring in the fifth minute when his deflected shot rolled past Greece goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis. Striker Teofilo Gutierrez poked in Colombia’s second goal from a deflected corner in the 58th that confused Karnezis and two defenders covering the near post.
Greece had a chance to pull a goal back after Gutierrez’s goal, but an unmarked Georgios Samaras rattled the crossbar from close range.
James Rodriguez scored with a low shot in stoppage time after a slick backheel flick from Juan Cuadrado.
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