Italy Outlasts England, Uruguay Crash

Italian experience overcame England’s youthful exuberance in an intriguing clash of styles at the World Cup on Saturday and in Group D’s other game tiny Costa Rica beat twice champions Uruguay in the tournament’s biggest upset so far. Later in the day Ivory Coast came from a goal behind to beat Japan 2-1 in Recife, after Colombia overcame Greece 3-0 to open Group C proceedings.

On an action-packed day across Brazil, England against Italy in the searing heat and humidity of Manaus had top billing, and it lived up to the hype in a thrilling contest in keeping with this tournament’s emphasis on attacking football. Claudio Marchisio fired Italy ahead after 35 minutes when England were wrong-footed by an Andrea Pirlo dummy, but Daniel Sturridge levelled within three minutes after Wayne Rooney picked him out with a perfect left-wing cross. Mario Balotelli, who had a clever lob cleared off the line at the end of the first half, made it 2-1 five minutes into the second when he took advantage of ragged defending to head home. From then on, England pressed for an equalizer while Italy defended calmly and allowed Roy Hodgson’s men to run out of gas in the Manaus heat.

Meanwhile, some 2,400 kilometres (1,500 miles) to the east in Fortaleza, Costa Rica came from a goal behind to beat Uruguay 3-1 and blow one of the toughest groups wide open. Promising young striker Joel Campbell set them on the way, chesting down a cross from the right after 54 minutes and slamming home a low shot to cancel out Edinson Cavani’s first- half penalty. Center back Oscar Duarte put the Central Americans ahead just three minutes later with a brave diving header at the back post from a Christian Bolanos free kick. Substitute Marco Urena completed one of most memorable victories in his country’s modest footballing history with a third in the 84th minute, silencing an army of sky blue-clad fans who had made the trip north from the River Plate.

To compound Uruguay’s misery, defender Maxi Pereira became the first player to be sent off at this World Cup when he was shown a straight red for upending Campbell with a nasty kick to the shin in stoppage-time. Striker Luis Suarez, recovering from a knee injury, could only look on from the bench and the South Americans will be hoping he is fit for the crunch clash with England in Sao Paulo on Thursday.
The result, an even bigger surprise than Friday’s 5-1 trouncing of champions Spain by the Netherlands, extended one of the most exciting starts to a World Cup in living memory.