World Cup 2014: Were England Unlucky To Lose Against Italy?

After another so close but yet so far moment with the England national team, I can imagine many spent the post-match hours browsing the internet to try and find out just how England had been defeated yet again.

In retrospect Saturday evening’s performance was actually one of the best an England team has produced at World Cup since the 2002. There was fluid attacking football, ball retention and a willingness from every player to leave nothing behind in search of a victory. With this in mind one possible explanation as to why England couldn’t quite get over the line in Manaus on Saturday evening was luck.

With the previous day falling as Friday the 13th on the calendar there was a degree of panic amongst supporters of many nations with this particular date commonly linked with bad luck or horrific events, a theme which a number of blockbuster films have managed to exploit to wonderful effect.

Whilst browsing the internet to try and further investigate the role of luck in England’s misfortune, I found a very interesting recent survey looking at the role of luck in everyday life and how many people view superstitions.

Luck is a well debated concept with many believing it to be pure nonsense however the survey suggests that 62 percent of people would feel it to be good luck to ‘touch wood’ whilst a surprisingly high 69 percent of people would be concerned about the bad luck that is believed to come with breaking a mirror.

Moving back to England on Saturday evening it is rather unusual that an English defeat inside ninety minutes can be attributed to bad luck.

As this piece from the Irish Examiner suggests, England often suffer bad luck when involved in the dreaded penalty shoot-out as seen here, whereby the bad luck stems from psychological pressure and an inability to utilise pre-attained skills within such a high pressure scenario.

England appeared in great contrast to this debilitating pressure on Saturday evening in Manaus. It was the first time in years that the England side has look confident when in possession of the ball and capable of retaining it. Two years ago at the 2012 European Championships when England once again were eliminated in a penalty shoot-out against Italy, the team struggled to keep the ball at all and as a result were pulled from pillar to post by the creative genius Andrea Pirlo.

On Saturday it was a different story, whilst Pirlo was once again the difference between the two sides in footballing terms, putting in a wondrous masterclass of passing, England were much more competitive within the match with it quite plausible to argue Roy Hodgson’s men deserved more than the 2-1 defeat they eventually succumbed to.

England’s 4-2-3-1 system utilised the energy of Jordan Henderson, Raheem Sterling and Danny Welbeck to increase the tempo of the match and disrupt the Italian’s game plan. It worked with England creating a number of chances early on, most notably Sterling’s shot from distance which looked for all the world as if it had nestled in the top corner, however it was mere inches wide, again an insight into the possibility of bad luck playing a part in England’s defeat.

Wayne Rooney was the subject of much discussion before kick-off and after the full-time whistle. The Manchester United forward was played on the left-wing which many criticised however in actual fact Rooney had a good game. His role was to supplement the quick, attacking talents of Sterling, Welbeck and Sturridge with a hard working display on the left flank.

Of course he could have done better with the chances he had in the penalty area but again bad luck was to strike as Rooney dragged his best opportunity wide of Sirigu’s right hand post. Rooney’s positioning on the left-wing was part of Hodgson’s game plan, it allowed the quicker players to disrupt the Italian tempo whilst still having a world class footballer on the pitch to make something happen when the chance arose, as he did with his assist for Daniel Sturridge’s well taken equalising goal.

Contrary to England’s laboured performances in South Africa four years ago, there was a genuine attacking threat all evening long in Manaus. Salvatore Sirigu was forced to make several saves in the Italian goal with most shots coming through a crowd of players’ legs. However Sirigu was still able to get a strong enough hand on the ball to push it away from the danger of a rebound despite not having anywhere near a clear view of the ball.

Conversely for Italy’s opening goal, Joe Hart was not afforded the same amount of luck and Claudio Marchisio’s impressive shot from outside the area managed to find the corner of the net. However England’s inability to close down the shot quickly certainly didn’t aid Joe Hart’s cause.

Italy’s second goal came as a result of excellent work from Lazio’s Antonio Candreva on the right-hand side. The Italian deceived Leighton Baines with a clever cut-back before delivering an inch perfect cross to Mario Balotelli at the back post.

Baines in reality should never have been beaten by such a move and made it easier for Candreva to deliver a cross and Gary Cahill lost Balotelli and the back post and a player of his quality can never be afforded a free header.

England did have an appeal for a penalty turned down in the second-half when Steven Gerrard appeared to be clumsily bundled over by his former Liverpool teammate Gabriel Paletta. Upon first glance it looked like a penalty however replays suggested it perhaps would have been a tad harsh.

Former Brazilian international Giovane Elber did however say the penalty would have been awarded had Gerrard been playing for Brazil,

“If Gerrard had worn a yellow jersey, he would have gotten a penalty.”

Looking back at the match it is difficult to say England lost due to bad luck, the better, cleverer footballing team emerged victorious with Cesare Prandelli’s side proving to be very adept at defending a lead when on the back foot. However of course there were elements of bad luck which plagued England’s evening and put them at a disadvantage but no more than other teams who believe themselves to suffer from bad luck.

England’s playing style on Saturday was however far more positive than anyone could have envisaged just days earlier. The number of chances created against a staunch Azzurri defensive line bodes well for matches against significantly weaker Uruguayan and Costa Rican defences and the chances are if England can produce the same levels of creativity in those matches, they will be on the receiving end of some better luck.

Written by Dinesh V

Co-founder of Soccersouls. Living a start-up life 24/7
Follow @dineshintwit

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