5 Things We Learned From England 1-2 Italy

1. Raheem Sterling is a superstar in the making

We knew this already, didn’t we? Or rather we tried to reduce the hype around it being a possibility, only to fail. Raheem Sterling was brilliant for England here, constantly wanting the ball and always proving to be a roaming, spiky attacking threat for his team.

Surely no teenager has had a bigger effect on a World Cup for England since Michael Owen in 1998, and all of the questions and conjecture over whether or not the teenager should start ended up looking a little foolish.

2. Roy Hodgson can ‘Dare To Liverpool’

Playing the way that Liverpool did during their unlikely and ultimately unsuccessful pursuit of the 2013/14 Premier League title isn’t always the right way to go, but seeing as so many of the Reds’ players are English and had forced their way to the forefront of Roy Hodgson’s plans this summer, it at least made sense for the England boss to give a nod to Brendan Rodgers’ side.

That nod came with Sterling stationed centrally as Jordan Henderson passed and probed and tore around the pitch behind him, and the early attempts on goal from the duo – with Sterling’s getting a nation on its feet – were reminiscent of so many of Liverpool’s fast starts last season.

3. Andrea Pirlo can change a game without touching the ball

Only very special players have an innate knowledge of where every player is on the pitch at any one time, and Andrea Pirlo is a very special player.

Just when England were looking to take a hold of the game in Manaus having started well, Pirlo’s dummy to allow Claudio Marchisio the space to shoot and score to suddenly put Italy ahead. They may have conceded moments later, but it was a moment which underlined that why England’s talent here was very much raw and promising, whilst Italy’s was honed and experienced.

4. Ashley Cole might well have been smiling to himself

Leighton Baines looked nervy from the moment he stepped out onto the pitch in Manaus, and whilst there is no doubt about the Everton man’s quality, England matches at tournaments have had a habit of breaking players in the past.

Ashley Cole didn’t play enough for Chelsea last season to earn a spot as England’s starting left-back, but would his presence in the squad right now act as an experienced comfort blanket for Hodgson? Certainly the role that Baines played in Mario Balotelli’s winner won’t go unnoticed.

5. Italy can click into gear from here

This was by no means a vintage Italy display, and indeed they rode their luck on more than one occasion, but having fought so hard for a victory they will doubtless feel galvanised.

They had to dig deep to beat a promising but raw England side, but with performers such as Pirlo, Marchisio and Balotelli coming to the fore, the 2006 champions might just have the characters just go a long way.