England left stunned by Italy

It’s the first time I can remember following an England loss that there’s a feeling of disappointment without anger, optimism instead of resignation. Pride in defeat.

This is due to far more than the deceleration of the England hype machine and the halting of elevated self importance that we English seem to have. It’s a national team who are playing football. Actually playing proper football.

England matched Italy in an even and open contest and scarily enough it was also entertaining. England were unlucky to take nothing from the game.

The link up, passing and fluidity between Sturridge, Sterling and Welbeck in the final third was beautiful to watch. Pace and positivity in attack. A threatening front three as capable as any we’ve seen so far at the World Cup. A truer representation of English Premier league football than we’ve seen from the national side for a long time.

England for a long time have been sedated, lacklustre, scared of failure. Even in victory. But the younger newer editions to this squad have brought a fearlessness and energy to the team. Also skill and (nearly) execution.

Despite the pride in the performance, England did lose to an excellent and tactically superb Italian side. Much has been made of the Italian exploitation for England’s left flank, with fingers pointing squarely at Rooney.

It’s an unfair criticism on a player who did contribute to the game. Rooney is not the World beater Nike adverts or the cover of FIFA would have you believe. There’s a greater number of more talented players at this tournament and possibly in the England squad. But there is still a player in Rooney and he does bring something to the team.

True, there was space in behind the midfield on both flanks but this is in part the result of an attacking system. The three number 10’s behind Sturridge are the creative heart to England’s set up and though the midfield looked like it don’t have a settled shape defensively, space behind will be the result for wanting to attack and take the game to the opposition. Especially against a team with a penchant for long diagonals. It’s no individuals fault. And it’s a fair trade off.

I would much rather see England have these vulnerabilities with creative, pace filled attacking football, than go back to stagnant, muted two banks of four.

We’ve all complained about boring England in the past and now it seems, even in defeat, we got the England we’ve always wanted. If we don’t have victory, let’s a least celebrate that.

RG

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