Italy striker Mario Balotelli is not all about muscle and brute power, he has got an intelligent head on his broad shoulders too. Here Super Mario heads in the winning goal against England at the Arena Amazonia on Saturday. Photo: AFP
Mario Balotelli scored the winner as Italy beat England 2-1 in their World Cup duel in the Amazon on Saturday, while Costa Rica provided a major shock with an upset win over Uruguay.
AC Milan striker Balotelli nodded past former Manchester City team-mate Joe Hart on 50 minutes to decide the tense Group D encounter at Manaus's sweltering Amazonia Arena.
Italy midfielder Claudio Marchisio had fired the Azzurri into a deserved lead on 35 minutes, rifling home a low shot from outside the area after a well-worked corner routine wrong-footed the English defence.
England struck back with a fine goal on the counter-attack. Raheem Sterling released Wayne Rooney down the left and the Manchester United star's cross was buried by Daniel Sturridge.
The Italian victory leaves Cesare Prandelli's side in pole qualifying position from Group D.
The only blot on a satisfying day for Italy was the absence of goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, who was ruled out of the England match hours before kick-off with a twisted ankle.
England now face Uruguay in Sao Paulo next Thursday with the loser of that contest facing almost certain elimination.
Italy manager Prandelli offered words of encouragement for the vanquished English.
"They have one of the strongest attacks at the World Cup," he said.
"That's why I am satisfied because we played a really great team."
England coach Roy Hodgson said his team was still confident they could qualify for the last 16 as they contemplated remaining games against Uruguay and Costa Rica.
"If you lose the first game, you know you have probably got to win the next two, but the teams you're playing have to win, too," he said.
"At least our fate is on our hands. It's up to us to produce the right type of performance that will give us victory."