Wayne Rooney's brilliant assist proved in vain for England on Saturday night as Italy claimed a close 2-1 victory in World Cup Group D.
The Manchester United striker set up the equaliser for Daniel Sturridge but goals either side of it from Claudio Marchisio and Mario Balotelli meant it was a fruitless trip to Manaus for Roy Hodgson's men.
Rooney's club colleague Danny Welbeck also started for England and drilled an early effort wide when Italy defender Gabriel Paletta scuffed an attempted clearance to his feet just outside the area. The two opponents later tangled when Raheem Sterling fizzed a low ball across the six-yard box, with Welbeck appealing in vain for a penalty as the centre-back blocked his run.
Welbeck then tried to find central striker Sturridge with a similar delivery from the right-hand side, only for Andrea Barzagli's outstretched leg to deflect the ball and send it looping out for a corner.
After this promising if brief spell for England, Italy reasserted themselves and took the lead with an exquisite strike in the 35th minute. From a right-wing corner, playmaker Andrea Pirlo took Sturridge out of the equation with a dummy and enabled Marchisio to take a touch and rifle a powerful low shot past Joe Hart.
Sturridge retaliated almost immediately, equalising for England from Rooney's left-wing cross. Wayne expertly bent the ball in behind the Italian defence, landing it perfectly inside the six-yard box for the no.9 to half-volley home. Wild celebrations ensued, somewhat too wild for England physio Gary Lewin who was stretchered away after sustaining a dislocated ankle in the melee.
Italy almost restored their lead just before the interval when Antonio Candreva hit the post and Balotelli chipped his former Manchester City team-mate Hart only for Phil Jagielka to brilliantly head the ball off the line.
The warning for England wasn't heeded. Five minutes after half-time, the same ex-City striker did put Italy back in front