England's World Cup in Brazil is off to the worst possible start after being beaten 2-1 Saturday by Italy, who were inspired by the superb Andrea Pirlo.
Pirlo was phenomenal as he led England's midfield on a merry dance in the rainforest in Manaus. Claudio Marchisio gave the Italians the lead after a well-worked corner kick saw the midfielder hammer the ball home from outside the box.
England equalized immediately through Daniel Sturridge following up superb link-up play by Raheem Sterling and Wayne Rooney. The Italians stepped up a gear at the beginning of the second half and took the lead when Mario Balotelli exposed Gary Cahill to head home what would turn out to be the winning goal.
The Azzurri then closed up shop and allowed England possession, but they continued to dictate the tempo of the game as England were run ragged.
Italy's tournament experience shone through, as Cesare Prandelli's team, who have not won an international game since last September, completely outplayed England.
The Italians played the game at a perfect tempo and adapted to the extreme conditions in Manaus to far greater effect than England. To demonstrate, all one has to do is realize that five English players went down with cramps and exhaustion, while not one Italian would suffer the same fate.
Italy dominated midfield and the game as a whole through Pirlo, Daniele De Rossi and Marco Verratti. England's midfield in contrast, were insipid and offered nothing. The much-vaunted Liverpool midfield pairing of Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson were passengers throughout as Italy controlled the game.
Italy's playing style is perfect for tournament play, whereas England's blood-and-thunder approach was badly exposed. That being said, England can take heart from a brave performance where their naivety proved their ultimate undoing.
Here, Bleacher Report offers five things we learned from England vs. Italy.