Football

THREE LIONS: THE GOOD AND THE BAD

THE GOOD

1. Attacking intent

Hodgson did inject youth and devised a 4-2-3-1 set up that emphasised their attacking intent.

The Three Lions were encouraged to keep the ball down and thread it between the lines. Even if England go home early, the philosophy bodes well for Euro 2016.

2. Very Sterling indeed

Raheem Sterling was very nearly a revelation. When he found himself with the ball at his feet, there was a genuine frisson of excitement.

The Italians certainly feared him. Uruguay and Costa Rica will, too.

3. The kids are all right

Perhaps Daniel Sturridge is not a kid at 24, but he's still a comparative rookie at international level. Yet he took his goal with aplomb and led the line well.

Substitute Ross Barkley showed some fearless, driving runs in central midfield. Jordan Henderson was perhaps marginally better than Steven Gerrard.

England's defeat was not a fault of their youthful additions.

THE BAD

1 Shaky case for the defence

Baines, Jagielka, Cahill and Johnson were playing together at a major tournament for the first time and the most noticeable deficiency was the lack of pace in the middle.

2 Where was the skipper?

Pirlo and Verratti enjoyed so much possession in the first-half that Gerrard was left conspicuous by his absence. He struggled to impose himself and close the gap between Italy's playmakers. Nor did he really stifle the service to Marchisio and Candreva.

3 Hodgson's bizarre excuse

His explanation for the defeat was strange. In a nutshell, Hodgson said, if the England are going for a braver, faster, counter-attacking game, they must expect to concede possession and a number of goal-scoring chances. Er, why? If a lack of pace on the left is an issue, then there is always the option of shifting Sterling out wide and bringing in Barkley.

World Cup