Friday, February 23, 2018
Sports

Italy opens its World Cup campaign by defeating England

MANAUS, Brazil — With one nod of his head, Mario Balotelli gave Italy a 2-1 win over England on Saturday and put the four-time champion in position to go far at the World Cup.

The often volatile, often brilliant Italian striker was unmarked at the far post, giving him plenty of space to head a cross from Antonio Candreva past goalkeeper Joe Hart for the winning goal.

Claudio Marchisio scored first for Italy, sending a long shot through a crowded area and past a diving Hart in the 35th minute. Daniel Sturridge tied it for England two minutes later, tapping in a cross from Wayne Rooney.

Balotelli's header came in the 50th minute, but with the heat and humidity at the Arena da Amazonia slowing the pace of play in the second half, it came at just the right time.

"We won, but now let's keep our feet on the ground, otherwise we're not going anywhere," Balotelli said.

The match was played in the Amazon city of Manaus. According to FIFA, it was 86 degrees with 61 percent humidity.

"At times it felt like having hallucinations due to the heat," Marchisio said.

Italian midfielder Andrea Pirlo completed more than 100 passes as his team connected on 92.2 percent, according to ESPN Stats and Information, the highest percentage in a World Cup game since 1966.

The defeat is sure to fuel an already pessimistic buildup to the tournament in England, where the rules of the game were codified.

"We all need time to digest what happened on the field," English coach Roy Hodgson said. "My gut feeling is that we did very good things. There were some very good individual performances."

Costa Rica 3, Uruguay 1: Watching from the bench, Luis Suarez saw just how much his teammates miss him.

Uruguay was overrun by the Group D underdog in Fortaleza, a stunning result for the team that reached the semifinals four years ago.

Suarez, his team's top striker and this season's top scorer in the English Premier League for Liverpool, sat out after failing to fully recover from knee surgery.

Joel Campbell led most of Costa Rica's counterattacks and delivered the tying goal in the 54th minute, driving in a ball headed down by Celso Borges to beat goalkeeper Fernando Muslera. Oscar Duarte dived past the outstretched foot of Uruguay's Cristian Stuani to head in the winner.

"We spotted that they had weaknesses and we looked at those. We worked hard on headers and ways to dominate in the air, and we did that tonight," Costa Rica coach Jorge Luis Pinto said.

Colombia 3, Greece 0: Colombia started its first World Cup campaign in 16 years in dazzling fashion in Belo Horizonte in front of a pro-Colombian crowd.

James Rodriguez capped the barrage with a low shot in stoppage time after a slick backheel flick from Juan Cuadrado.

"It was a good debut with players who had never played a World Cup. It's a big satisfaction," Colombia coach Jose Pekerman said. "This is how we planned this match."

Ivory Coast 2, Japan 1: Didier Drogba came off the bench to inspire a comeback victory in Recife in Group C.

Drogba, 36, who had been carrying a thigh injury, came on in the 62nd minute with his team down 1-0. The striker's arrival immediately lifted Ivory Coast and Wilfried Bony and Gervinho scored with headers two minutes apart, both set up by curling crosses from defender Serge Aurier.

Comments

Friday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYAutosMonster Energy Cup: Folds of Honor QuickTrip 500 qualifying5 p.m.FS1NHRA: Arizona Nationals qualifying7 p.m.FS1Baseball, spring trainingCardinals at Marlins1 p.m.FSFCubs at Brewers 4 p.m.MLBBasketballWorld Cup Americas qualifier: Cuba vs. U...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Winter Olympics: Alina Zagitova wins figure skating gold, Russia’s first of Games

Winter Olympics: Alina Zagitova wins figure skating gold, Russia’s first of Games

GANGNEUNG, South Korea  — The Russians finally have a gold medal at the  Olympics, thanks to a 15-year-old who beat the fellow teen who inspired her to become a figure skater.Alina Zagitova won one of the Games' spotlight events Frida...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Winter Olympics: Friday’s viewing schedule

Winter Olympics: Friday’s viewing schedule

TV today5 a.m.-6:30 a.m. Saturday NBCSNSpeed skating (M) – 1,000m final (LIVE)Hockey (M) — Semifinal, Canada vs. Germany (LIVE, 6:30 a.m.)Curling (M) — Bronze-medal match, Canada vs. Switzerland (TAPED, 9:30 a.m.)Curling (W) —...
Updated: 6 hours ago
USA women’s hockey gives us a night to remember

USA women’s hockey gives us a night to remember

Our team.They're Americans, yes. But they are more than that.They're one of us. Adopted Floridians. Honorary members of Tampa Bay.And they gave us the signature moment of the Winter Olympics.USA! USA! USA!In the greatest moment in American hockey sin...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Lightning not planning to trade from current roster

Lightning not planning to trade from current roster

You can bet that many Lightning fans hoped Senators superstar defenseman Erik Karlsson jumped on Tampa Bay's bus after Thursday night's 4-3 Lightning win.Karlsson, 27, a two-time Norris Trophy winner, is the biggest prize leading up to Monday's trade...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Lightning escapes for 4-3 win in Ottawa

Lightning escapes for 4-3 win in Ottawa

OTTAWA – The Lightning was encouraged it escaped Ottawa with a 4-3 win over the Senators on Thursday night.But it was really disappointed about how it had to "hold on to dear life," as defenseman Victor Hedman put it, after taking a three-goal ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Police: DeSean Jackson’s former Eagles teammate drove truck found wrecked with bullets, marijuana inside

Police: DeSean Jackson’s former Eagles teammate drove truck found wrecked with bullets, marijuana inside

TAMPA  — With no witnesses and no video evidence, Tampa Police have stopped investigating a case from Christmas Eve that had a truck belonging to Bucs receiver DeSean Jackson found wrecked and abandoned in a mall parking lot with hollow-po...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Brent Honeywell injury could be worst Rays news yet

Brent Honeywell injury could be worst Rays news yet

PORT CHARLOTTE — It might have seemed that things couldn't get worse for the Rays after an opening week of spring training that included the dumping of two veterans to harshly negative reviews, including from their own players; to the trade of ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Bucs QB Jameis Winston uninjured in car wreck

Bucs QB Jameis Winston uninjured in car wreck

Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston was not hurt in a car wreck last week in which he was cited for careless driving.Winston, 24, was driving on the Veterans Expressway near Waters Avenue in northwest Tampa on Feb. 13 when his Ford F250 truck rear-ended ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Boys basketball: Wharton wins a wild one in final seconds

Boys basketball: Wharton wins a wild one in final seconds

TAMPA — Bartow held a one-point lead and time was ticking down — 12, 11, 10 seconds left — when Wharton guard Darin Green pulled up near the foul line and released the ball over a defender's fingers toward the hoop.Swish.Bartow got ...
Updated: 7 hours ago