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England 1 Italy 2: Balotelli header condemns Hodgson’s men to defeat in World Cup opener

England 1 Italy 2: Balotelli header condemns Hodgson’s men to defeat in World Cup opener

Italy made the perfect start to their FIFA World Cup campaign, accounting for Group D rivals England 2-1 in Manaus on Saturday.

Labelled as the ‘rumble in jungle’ heading into the match, Italy continued their domination over England thanks to goals from Claudio Marchisio and Mario Balotelli at the Arena Amazonia.

Daniel Sturridge had England on level terms at half-time, after cancelling out Marchisio’s 35th-minute opener within two minutes.

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But Balotelli repaid the faith shown in him by coach Cesare Prandelli, popping up to head home the winner five minutes after the break as England were left with just two wins in their past 12 international meetings against Italy.

Italy are back in action against Costa Rica on Friday, while England face Uruguay a day earlier.

England manager Roy Hodgson made just one change from the team that stuttered to a goalless draw against Honduras in their final warm-up match, with Raheem Sterling free from suspension to replace Adam Lallana in midfield.

It was a different story for Italy, who were forced into two changes.

Captain Gianluigi Buffon failed to overcome an ankle strain and was replaced by Salvatore Sirigu in goal, while full-back Mattia De Sciglio also dropped out through injury and Matteo Darmian took his place in the starting eleven.

Up front, Prandelli decided to stick with wayward striker Balotelli, despite Ciro Immobile’s hat-trick display against Brazilian club Fluminense midweek.

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