Benitez - Italy won game because of control, but positives for England, including Rooney?

The Spaniard said England are capable of beating Uruguay on Thursday.

Former Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez has said that Italy beat England because of tactical adjustments as the Three Lions lost their World Cup opener in Menaus 2-1 on Saturday night. 

In his column for the Independent, the current Napoli boss said the Azzurri had a good tactical plan which included playing with a back five, making it hard for England to break down as well as demonstrating their quality in defence.

Benitez said: "It is only fair to say that Italy had control of the game. They won because of tactical adjustments, rather than showing more commitment than England. They had a good tactical plan, with a very clear idea about what they were trying to do and with the quality of players to carry it out.

"Maybe England expected Italy to have four at the back. In reality, in possession it was five so many times – because Daniele De Rossi dropped off from midfield, in between the centre-backs, Gabriel Paletta and Andrea Barzagli, and that made a line of five, which was their platform."

The Italian defence was breached on one occasion when Raheem Sterling, Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge combined to equalise immediately after they fell behind to a Claudio Marchisio strike. However, the Spaniard did outline reasons to be positive, and there were a couple of points which defended Wayne Rooney's performance, whose role within the starting XI is still under the microscope from many sections of the media.

Benitez added: "A very strong aspect of England on Saturday was the exchange of positions between the offensive players, when they had the ball. Wayne Rooney moving into the middle sometimes; Sterling was switching on to the left, to take up different positions and attack the defenders.

"We were talking here last time about how they needed to have conviccion, hambre, quererla – conviction, hunger, wanting the ball. They did. Ross Barkley and Adam Lallana gave more energy and different options too. It was a dynamic thing to see."

Still, reasons to be positive for England? One of the interesting things regarding Rooney's role in the side is that people have highlighted how uncomfortable he looked on the left hand side. But Benitez has said there was plenty of interchanging - and this is the kind of movement that can often unlock a notoriously solid defence. There was also a bit where he defends Rooney, who was partly criticised for not giving Leighton Baines enough cover on the left-hand side, which ultimately led to Mario Balotelli grabbing the winner for the Italians.

But there is so much focus on Rooney. There seems to be such a simplistic view about his position, when he was just one of a unit. Maybe the performances of Sterling and Sturridge upstaged that of the Manchester United striker, and though that corner he took near the end didn't cover himself in glory, it's perhaps a little unfair to suggest he should be dropped for the game against Uruguay.

Maybe it's a part of England's play that Roy Hodgson should persist with, in trying to make the most of the energy and movement on offer rather than be rigid in his set-up - and it is clear that some of the quality from the bench in Barkley in Lallana could change the game in their favour if required.

There's no criticism from Benitez of Rooney, yet no outlandish praise but there was acknowledgement in an attacking unit that caused Italy problems. But it seems as if he was the England boss, he would probably stick with Rooney as well.


FIFA World Cup 2018FIFA 2018 World Cup Russia - click here for all of our coverage...

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch