World Cup - Hodgson hails 'best performance' despite loss

England manager Roy Hodgson found it hard to take losing to Italy in their opening World Cup game on Saturday after what he called the best performance of his two years in charge of the team.

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World Cup - Hodgson hails 'best performance' despite loss
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Team manager Roy Hodgson of England and Gary Neville look on during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group D match between England and Italy

WHAT HAPPENED

Italy won the Group D clash 2-1 thanks to a 50th-minute winner from Mario Balotelli after England were unable to turn their second-half dominance into an equaliser. Daniel Sturridge had earlier responded to Claudio Marchisio's opener.

But there was hope nonetheless for England, with their forward line attacking with verve and pace and Raheem Sterling in particular looking sharp in a No. 10 role behind Daniel Sturridge.

"It's always difficult when you lose a game to take the positives. Even when it was 2-1, I thought we'd get back into it and go on to win it because it was quite a dominant second-half performance," Hodgson told reporters.

"The only positive I can take is that it was undoubtedly the best I've seen the team play during my time with them," said Hodgson who took over as England manager two years ago.

Costa Rica beat Uruguay 3-1 in the group's opening game and Hodgson believes his team still have every chance to progress to the last 16.

"Of course we can still qualify. We're a bit downhearted at the moment, a bit sad that the game didn't go our way - we were hoping for a perfect start but we don't live in a perfect world," he said.

"I've got great confidence that we can do well enough in the next two games to qualify and I'm sure the players will get that when they get over this disappointment."

[BALOTELLI CONDEMNS ENGLAND TO OPENING DEFEAT]

OUR VIEW

Despite the defeat, this was a very promising performance from England – full of vigour and freedom. There was far more promise in this one performance than in the two tournaments that England have competed in. The important thing now is to carry this mentality into the next two games – do that and England should qualify for the knockout stages.

BRAZIL BUZZ

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT

England face Uruguay in a crunch clash on Thursday – defeat for either side and they are effectively out. If England maintain the positive mental attitude that they have brought to this tournament then they should prevail against a Uruguay side who looked jaded in their opening fixture. Of course, Luis Suarez should be fit for that fixture so that could change everything.

COMING UP

We move deep into the group stages and Group E, as Switzerland face Ecudaor in the 5pm kick-off. After that, France aim to back up their reputation as dark horses when facing Honduras at 8pm and Lionel Messi joins the party when Argentina take on Bosnia and Herzegovina at the Maracana at 11pm.

[MATCHPACK: SWITZERLAND V ECUADOR]

[MATCHPACK: FRANCE V HONDURAS]

[MATCHPACK: ARGENTINA V BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA]

WHAT JOEY BARTON SAID

BRAZIL BUZZ

WHAT THE MEDIA SAID

Martin Samuel (Daily Mail): For England, this was a strange kind of World Cup defeat. This time will be few recriminations, no grand inquest, little soul-searching, no official or lay examination of what is rotten in our game. England played well, but lost. Went for it, but lost. Had many of the best chances, but lost. That happens in football and we’ll live with it. Frankly, we’ll have to. England were beaten by Italy not because Roy Hodgson was too cautious or the forwards inferior. They lost because Italy were better, just.

Sam Wallace (Independent): The England of 2014, led by the teenager Raheem Sterling and at last playing like a team that knows how to attack, have finally arrived on the world stage. A pity for them that they should come up against those shrewd old men of Italy, who picked them off in the second half and condemned Roy Hodgson’s men to the kind of cruel defeat that can befall good teams.

WHAT THE FANS SAY

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