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Why England's Performance Against Italy Was Something to Be Proud Of

19/06/2014 16:27 BST | Updated 19/08/2014 10:59 BST

The wait for the beginning of England's World Cup campaign ended late Saturday night as the nation, full of hope and passion, held its breath for kick-off.

90 minutes later, like we've seen time and time before, the opponents walked away the victors and Three Lions' fans felt the familiar pang of disappointment.

However, there was something slightly different about the loss against an experienced and patient Italy side.

Roy Hodgson's men, unlike we've seen in previous major tournaments, looked the better team more often than not.

Whilst they failed to win the game, which puts them in the position of needing to win their final two group games, England made sure they lost in style.

Consistent attacking threats paired with running at the defence and excellent passing put to rest the boring England of old and made way for a new era.

Hodgson picked a young side brimming with talent who were not afraid to take on their relatively slow Italian opponents and caused all kinds of chaos up front.

The only Englishman who failed to excite the fans was Phil Neville and his lacklustre commentary performance.

The front four of Sterling, Welbeck, Sturridge and Rooney seemed to run riot up front, although the Manchester United man was outshone by his vibrant and youthful team-mates.

The attacking line managed 18 shots at goal, nine of which hit the target as they consistently attempted to test Salvatore Sirigu's mettle.

This gives the impression of a team that is not afraid to try and score goals, which was epitomised when Raheem Sterling, just three minutes into his World Cup debut, launched a rocket of a shot which the entire nation thought was in the back of the net.

Sterling seemed to define a 'new England,' no longer afraid by the competition or overawed by the significance of a major tournament.

Unfortunately, Roy Hodgson's men faced the old guard of Italy who, led by 35-year-old playmaker Andrea Pirlo, proved to be that little bit too wily.

But there was a whole lot of heart shown by the men in white on Saturday evening, who gave a performance to be proud of.

A New Era

Cast your mind back to the beginning of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa as England lined up to face the USA in the first game of their relatively easy Group C campaign.

Fabio Capello's side struggled and looking back at the team selection and the spirit of the squad, it's easy to see why.

The two men who led the line were current forward Wayne Rooney, who again failed to perform, and Emile Heskey. Not exactly a massive threat to any defence.

But in the four years since the 2010 tournament, the squad has endured a monumental shift from ageing and slow players to exciting, quick prospects.

The England side we saw on Saturday night looked ready to take on the world with their fresh-faced vigour, whilst the side of 2010 fumbled around a bit and managed to squeeze their way out of the group, only to be pummelled by a rampant Germany side.

Though the loss against Italy puts us in a difficult position, the England team of 2014 look like they should be making the quarter-finals, possibly even the semis, with their performance.

The spirit and obvious will to win in Brazil was evident, even after the team went a goal down. Within a minute-and-a-half, our boys pegged back their flowing Italian opponents.

It didn't even matter that golden boy Wayne Rooney didn't perform up to standard, even though he did set up England's goal, with a delectable cross which met the foot of Daniel Sturridge, because his team-mates easily outshone him.

And that's what is required. So often England rely on one player to perform, now there seems to be eleven or more to rely on.

The entire squad played without worry, without nerves and without any obvious pressure on them.

Lest we forget that Italy are one of the best sides in world football, despite their ageing workforce.

If this result against the Azzurri ends with England not reaching the knockout stages, they can leave the World Cup with their heads held high.

And if not this year, then maybe in two years time at the European Championships, possibly two years after that in Russia in 2018.

Saturday 14th of June 2014 may have seen the birth of an outstanding squad of players who currently stand with the world at their feet.

When the wounds have healed, Roy and his men can look back on their performance with pride after an exhilarating performance which almost immediately changed their reputation in just 90 minutes.

The disappointment is still there, but it's the best kind of disappointment.

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