England kicked off their campaign off with a loss but showed some promising signs in tropical Manaus that should they escape group D they could cause problems to the top-ranked contenders. 

Claudio Marchisio’s tracer bullet from outside the box opened the scoring for the Italians, before England almost immediately replied. 

An incisive ball from Raheem Sterling – chosen to start ahead of Adam Lallana in an inspired call by Roy Hodgson – found Wayne Rooney on the unfamiliar left wing before his pin-point crossed landed in the path of Daniel Sturridge’s perfectly timed run. 

The match was decided by another cross with Balotelli, who’s been in top nick for AC Milan since leaving Manchester City, slipping clear of Gary Cahill at the back for England to head home from close range. 

England now face two tough group matches against Uruguay and Costa Rica, who threw a spanner in the works in group D when they shocked their much more fancied opponents 3-1. 

On a bizarre note, the England physio Gary Lewin left the field on a stretcher after his celebration of Sturridge’s goal earned him a dislocated ankle. 

Images via Getty