England Down But Not Out Of 2014 FIFA World Cup

After losing their World Cup opener 2-1 to Italy in stifling Manaus, England find themselves in an uncomfortable position.

No, it’s not about making up the lost points. It’s this: England lives in hope.

How else can you explain The S*n newspaper calling the team “Brave Lions” after a somewhat unexpected loss? How else do you explain the optimism that is still, stubbornly, ringing around the England camp?

In Manaus, England were Pirlo-ed by an Italian team with a ton of tournament nous. Italy deserve a ton of credit – even with big injuries and new players being blooded in defense, Italy paced themselves and came up with one more big moment than their opposition.

How good were the Italians? They had the best pass-completion rate of any team in World Cup history at 93.2%. Players like Antonio Candreva and Matteo Darmian were plugged in and performed. Georgio Chiellini at fullback? No problem.

Cesare Prandelli showed again why he has quietly become one of the best international managers in the world. Italy, as good as they are, even punched above their weight.

And even with all of that, this was a very competitive game. Hodgson’s team easily outshot Italy, and had seven more corners than their opposition – minus the one that Wayne Rooney pumped into Row Z. Despite the will-sapping conditions, England was there to be reckoned with to the very end.

The result – especially at the beginning of major tournaments – isn’t everything.

In Euro 2012, England were winning a penalty shootout against the Italians that would have put them in a semifinal against Germany had they held on. They didn’t, and no one shed too many tears.

The England team was totally outclassed that day. It was time to go home.

It was a different story against Italy this time around. England traded overwhelming negativity for sweetly surprising positivity. With Raheem Sterling through the middle, it was the most attacking approach for England at a major tournament in more than a decade.

Thanks in large part to Sterling, England made a fast start. They could easily have scored more than their one goal, a sensational move finished off by Daniel Sturridge.

Yes, they lost. But England more than escaped the jungle with their tournament intact, they leave with their heads held high and ready to play again.

It’s a team with more to give. No one played their best game against Italy.

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