England coach Roy Hodgson believes his side can still progress into the round of 16 of the 2014 World Cup, in the wake of a 2-1 loss to Italy in their opening game of Group D.
The ‘Three Lions’ manager however accepts his side, who are joint-bottom of one of the most difficult groups of the tournament with Uruguay, will have to win their remaining two matches to reach the knock-out stage.
It was the first time England have lost an opening game at a World Cup since 1986, but the manner of the defeat was encouraging; the 1960 winners did manage to put up a fight against Cesare Prandelli’s men, but were let down by the defence.
An unmarked Claudio Marchisio gave Italy the lead from 20 yards and Mario Balotelli got in behind Gary Cahill to grab a crucial match-winner after Daniel Sturridge had leveled for Roy Hodgson’e men.
“It’s tough to accept we lost,” Hodgson told BBC Sport after the match. “But I’ve got great confidence we can do well enough in the next games to qualify.”
Spain in 2010, Ukraine and Ghana in 2006 and Turkey in 2002 are four of 46 sides to lose their opening World Cup matches and go on to progress to the second round since 1998.
He added on Fifa.com: “The fact is that if you lose the first game you probably have to win the next two. The teams you play against have to win as well, but there is no way you can drift into the second round.
“Italy have the best start, as have Costa Rica, and we and Uruguay are on the back foot. We now play Uruguay and Costa Rica, so at least our fate is in our hands.”
The performances of youth players like; Raheem Sterling, Daniel Sturridge and Ross Barckley stuck in the air despite a disappointing end to the match in the jungle city of Manaus on Saturday night.
The 66-year-old manager insists the young lions had not let him down, and urged the team to move on in their remaining two matches against Uruguay- 3-1 losers to Costa Rica- and the latter.
“We have to lift our heads now and make the players realise that if they can reproduce that performance twice more there is a good chance they will get the result.
“It’s never easy to take positives when you have lost, but I think we all need time to digest what happened on the field. My gut feeling was we did some very good things and there were some good individual performances. I thought all the young players did well. None of them let me down or their country down today.”
Sturridge, who hobbled off in the second half, only suffered a dead leg, Hodgson confirmed.
Physio Gary Lewin broke and dislocated his ankle after landing on a water bottle during the celebrations for the equaliser.
Prandelli, on his part, heaped praise on their opponents, for putting up a resilient performance:
“Physically, we were a bit better than England, but I think England are one of the strongest teams at the World Cup,” he said.