Making his major tournament debut for England, Chelsea defender Gary Cahill started at the heart of the England defense against Italy tonight in Manaus.
Early on England pressed up the pitch, with two early shots from Raheem Sterling just missing the goal, while the England defense maintained their shape and absorbed any Italian pressure.
However the Italians scored on a set piece late in midway through the first half. A corner came in to Andrea Pirlo, who dropped it back to an unmarked Marchesio who fired a low drive between three England players and past Joe Hart, giving Italy the lead. Just 2 minutes later, England’s Daniel Sturridge scored a wonderful goal off a great cross from Wayne Rooney, which appeared to be the only effective play the Manchester United player would create.
As for Cahill himself, the central defender played the full 90 and was effective at controlling the ball and aiding England’s passing from the back. He also made a few key clearances, two within the penalty area that could have led to further damage from Italy. However the one mistake Cahill made ended up costing England the game, though it is difficult to truly call it a mistake.
In the 50th minute, Candreva fired a perfect cross into the box, both Cahill and Ballotelli came up for the ball, with Ballotelli just getting his head to it and nodding it past Joe Hart.
Despite the loss, England looked very good going forward and pretty solid at the back. The other matches in this group may not appear as difficult as Italy, but the Three Lions do need to work on set pieces if they want to advance out of the group stage as Uruguay was thrashed earlier by upstarts Costa Rica.
Cahill looked solid in the loss and shouldn’t blame himself too much for the Ballotelli goal; on his day there aren’t many defenders in the world who can stop Super Mario.
Cahill is still to me the best Centreback England has, and his place at the heart of the English and Chelsea defense should not be in jeopardy anytime soon.
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