Jermain Defoe ensured that his No. 3-ranked England team would not play to a draw against Italy when he buried a shot in the top right corner in the 80th minute to give his team a 2-1 lead that would not be relinquished.
It looked as though he would lose control of the through ball when he stopped and turned to gather himself, but he let out a screaming shot to beat Salvatore Sirigu.
The outcome was far from decided before that though.
After narrowly outplaying the Three Lions throughout the beginning stages of the match, Daniele De Rossi got the Azzurri on the board on a 15th-minute header.
De Rossi positioned himself perfectly in the box, and with a bit of help from the out of place England defense, he dropped the ball right over the goalkeeper's outstretched hand.
England made sure that the match would not end in a 1-0 Italy win when Phil Jagielka drilled a diving header off a corner kick to notch the equalizer in the 27th minute to send his side into the locker room tied at the break.
The pace seriously fell off at the beginning of the second half, with neither side being able to find any solid scoring chances.
Even when the chances came, the teams squandered them with various forms of futility. Poor setups and inaccurate finishes were prevalent during most stretches.
Ex-England footballer Michael Gray noted that the Three Lions were intent on keeping the ball moving early on, something they weren't too brilliant at in the Euro:
We've made more passes in the 1st 10minutes than the whole of the euros... #England— michael gray (@mickygray33) August 15, 2012
BBC's Simon McCoy was less than impressed with the start that England got off to:
Boring boring England football. I want rowing from Eton Dorney. And I want it now!#whereisclarebalding— Simon McCoy (@simonmccoy) August 15, 2012
Opta Sports provided an interesting statistic, and one that had Italy feeling pretty good about its chances after De Rossi found the back of the net in the 15th minute:
8 - Italy have won eight of the nine previous games in which Daniele De Rossi has found the back of the net. Rosy.— Opta Sports (@OptaJoe) August 15, 2012
Soccer AM's Franky Fryer was thoroughly impressed by Defoe's go-ahead goal and hopes he can do the same for his club team this season:
What a goal Jermaine Defoe, buzzing for him particularly after all he s been through this summer #nowdothesameforSpursplease— Franky Fryer (@BabyElvisSocAM) August 15, 2012
Grades for Key Italy Players
Daniele De Rossi: A-
Daniele De Rossi is one of the best players on the Italian side and has proven that he is more than ready to take the torch from Andrea Pirlo as the leader of the squad.
He has a knack for being in the right place at the right time and slipped in among the English defenders to get Italy on the board first.
Alessandro Diamanti: C+
Alessandro Diamanti made solid runs to the net and played in a few crosses that looked as though they would be capitalized on, but that was not the case.
Diamanti was subbed out in for Marco Verratti in the 59th minute, and his teammates didn't generate much offense from then on.
Grades for Key England Players
Frank Lampard: B-
Frank Lampard's best days are way in the past, but he still has just enough veteran savvy to hang with the top players in the world.
The 34-year-old midfielder launched a well-placed cross into the box in the 27th minute that directly led to Jagielka finding the back of the net. Jagielka made the better play to find the back post, but it wouldn't have been possible without Lampard's cross.
Ashley Young: C-
Ashley Young set up a corner and a free kick for his side but was largely irrelevant other than that. He unleashed a hapless shot in the second half that soared far over the crossbar and ended England's chances at scoring on that particular run.
Apparently Roy Hodgson wanted to try something different, as he pulled Young in favor of James Milner in the 62nd minute.
Deciding Factor: Finishing
When it mattered most and the ball was closest to the goal, Italy was simply unable to get that one crucial shot and find the back of the net. The Italians had slightly more opportunities over the course of the match but failed to capitalize on some solid chances.
England had opportunities itself and looked to be heading towards the same fate as its opponents. Numerous chances in the box were squashed by quality goaltending and decent defense, but it was Defoe's finish that proved to be the deciding factor.
Man of the Match: Jermain Defoe
Jermain Defoe came on just after halftime for Andy Carroll, and his arrival greatly benefited the Three Lions. Nobody on either squad separated themselves from the rest of the players in terms of playmaking, so it makes the most sense to award Defoe the man of the match.
Defoe took a through ball on the break, dribbled just inside the penalty box and took a rocket of a shot that wound up in the top corner of the far side to give his team the win.
In a somewhat dull game, England did well to show that it can play some kind of football other than the boring kind that fans have become used to.
Italy looked better early on, but England got better as the match progressed. There was only one true counterattack opportunity for the Three Lions, but Defoe made sure that another one would not be needed.