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Well, it’s coming up to eleven o’clock on a Saturday night here in England, and this is, of course, the ideal time to schedule the opening match of England’s 2014 World Cup Finals. But shush. There’s a bit of peace and quiet in the air. A combination of lowered expectations and the gradual thinning out of the more unctuous members of the England team have made the last few weeks somewhat less hysterical than they have been in recent years, and most England supporters seem pretty grounded in the reality of the fact that qualifying from a group which contains a semi-finalist from the last World Cup and the runners-up from the last European Championships is am extremely tall order indeed.

Italy may well have been in less than glorious form of late and the loss of goalkeeper Gigi “So why are you wearing that neck scarf, then?” Buffon is something of a bonus for those of a three lions persuasion, but this is a nation which, like most other major football nations, has held something of a hex over England over the years. Those amongst us looking for crumbs of comfort might choose the glorious night in 1977 when England put Italy to the sword in a match unfortunately rendered irrelevant by the fact that Italy had already qualified at England’s expense. Alternatively, we might prefer to consider the night in 1997 when Glenn Hoddle’s team fought out a glorious goalless draw in Rome to qualify for the following year’s finals, a result deemed necessary because, umm, Italy had beaten them at Wembley in their previous meeting.

Then, of course, there was the meeting between the two teams in the European Championships two years ago, which ended in a HEROIC goalless draw, before Italy won the resultant penalty shoot-out. Andrea Pirlo, who ran the centre of the pitch that evening like Marcus Antonius surveying the city of Rome from one of its surrounding hills, starts again tonight. For England, the only significant injury is that to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, but we’ve known about that for weeks now, so that barely even counts as an injury any more. So, how many players will Roy Hodgson put behind the ball? How puce will Wayne Rooney’s face turn when he doesn’t get a kick of the ball for the first forty minutes of the match? This and many other questions (almost all of which will most likely have nothing has to do with football) will be answered by Ian King and Ed Carter, as well as whichever other members of the 200% team pitch up here, feeling drunk and opinionated.

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Mark June 15, 20141:05 am

Just about the best game of the tournament. England will beat Uruguay on that form. Well, on Uruguay’s form who wouldn’t? Plucky and then some. Pity that the subs didn’t have any significant impact. Cohesive indeed, even down to Hodgson and Lewington’s synchronised head in hands after Rooney’s miss. Italy were a deal better than recently…and four years ago, of course. And that Pirlo free-kick….Christ on a bike.
Aaaaaaaaaaand Costa Rica top the group. Blimey.

Ted June 15, 20141:00 am

England were thoroughly decent tonight against a very talented team. I don’t think it’s a disaster by any means.

Ian June 15, 201412:57 am

Great game, two very good teams. Well done Italy, if you’re going to lose, then I guess you want to lose to a team like that. They’ve noe got to pull it out of the bag against the others in the group.

Richard June 15, 201412:55 am

Maybe its the copious amounts of alcohol I’ve consumed but England deserved better… and 90 minutes ago I didn’t think that much of us.

Kev June 15, 201412:46 am

I find it mildly disconcerting that England are looking like a cohesive team.

Mark June 15, 201412:46 am

So Barley’s face said “Awww, that was mine”? Reckon it said something stronger than that…

Ted June 15, 201412:43 am

Gary Cahill: Robbie Keane’s exact face on Dake Winton’s exact body.

Mark June 15, 201412:42 am

Neville blaming a soggy pitch for that rubbish Rooney corner. What? It bobbled???

Mark June 15, 201412:41 am

Teams looking tired. Should be room for the subs now.

Kev June 15, 201412:37 am

Beard off. Stubble on.

Richard June 15, 201412:36 am

Rooney not helping his cause, against the doubters, with that corner.

Terry June 15, 201412:34 am

Roy is taking a risk swapping the more attack minded Smokin’ Jack for Henderson. Especially since Gerrard is cramping up.

Ted June 15, 201412:32 am

Smokin Jack Wilshere

Mark June 15, 201412:31 am

Italy dropping deep. Would normally do the job against England but not necessarily THIS England…

Terry June 15, 201412:28 am

The way Italy just control the pace of a game is enviable.

Richard June 15, 201412:27 am

Been the best performance from England in a long time

Ian June 15, 201412:23 am

This opinion is open to revision, BTW.

Ian June 15, 201412:22 am

Agreed, Terry. Kind of proud of the football they’ve played tonight, regardless of how it ends up.

Mark June 15, 201412:21 am

And Rooney must scorrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrre…errrrrr

Terry June 15, 201412:21 am

O Rooooooooney.

Kev June 15, 201412:21 am

Look, the bit between the posts is where you’re supposed to be aiming, guys.

Mark June 15, 201412:19 am

There’s been some cheeky “Oles” this week, but the Italian one is easily the most inappropriate

Terry June 15, 201412:18 am

This is the best England game I’ve seen in a while. It would be even better if they weren’t losing of course.

Mark June 15, 201412:16 am

The referee is refusing these penalty appeals before the fouls…er…tackles. But if Thiago Motta is as invisible as he was at Craven Cottage the other week, England are favourites.

Mark June 15, 201412:12 am

A penny for Ashley Cole’s thoughts…no, maybe not…

Ian June 15, 201412:11 am

That was another lovely goal. Ultimately, though, I think we’ve got two good teams playing some great football, this evening.

Mark June 15, 201412:09 am

I suppose that was Rooney’s fault too…

Richard June 15, 201412:09 am

That cross from Candreva was yummy!

Mark June 15, 201412:04 am

Gary Lineker nearly said “their penises will shrivel to nothing” on national TV (you want context don’t you?). And Ferdinand has called Rooney “Wazza.” Oh, and Thierry Henry can **** off, says Mark MURPHY.
Ross Barkley to win it in the last 20. You heard it here first…and last…

Richard June 14, 201411:59 pm

Danny Murphy deserved more time in an England shirt.

Richard June 14, 201411:59 pm

Italian’s have probably been the better team but if they had gone in winning at half time it would have been a bit harsh on England.

Mark June 14, 201411:58 pm

Barzagli’s clearance from that Welbeck cross was fabulous!!! By the way. Oh, and Phil Neville’s better than Mark Lawrenson…

Ted June 14, 201411:54 pm

I had a good point there. Forgot it.

Mark June 14, 201411:51 pm

The replay suggests Balotelli could have side-footed it in, Hart never got back in position. Would have been unfair on England, though. Not much “tempo” but a(nother) good game…

Kev June 14, 201411:49 pm

And he’s good at darts.

Ted June 14, 201411:47 pm

Balotelli is a genius.

Mark June 14, 201411:45 pm

For 43 minutes, Italy have caused England’s left flank problems and ONLY NOW is Leighton Baines getting any attention

Ted June 14, 201411:45 pm

One meat. One cat. One England.

Ian June 14, 201411:44 pm

Look, I’m just saying.

Ted June 14, 201411:44 pm

Bring back Eileen Drury.

Ted June 14, 201411:44 pm

England physio injured. Typical.

Kev June 14, 201411:40 pm

First time I’ve seen the physio stretchered off…

Ian June 14, 201411:38 pm


That was a magnificent pass from Rooney, who had managed the sum total of buggerall in the thirty-seven minutes prior to that.

Mark June 14, 201411:37 pm

Marchisio looks a little winded by the celebration – like Roger Osborne after he scored for Ipswich against Arsenal in the 1978 FA Cup final. Oooh…1-1 Good call Ted

Ted June 14, 201411:36 pm

England would be winning if they had navy blue shorts. There, I said it. However, they are losing. Italy would be 2-0 ahead in white shorts. So let’s call it 1-1.

Ian June 14, 201411:35 pm

Terrific goal from Marchisio, and it had been coming.

Richard June 14, 201411:34 pm

One from the training ground.

Mark June 14, 201411:31 pm

Twitter is alive with suggestions that Hodgson should bring Rooney on as a sub. HAHAHA etc…

Paul Jones June 14, 201411:30 pm

If only we were playing Grease…

Ian June 14, 201411:29 pm

I like this Sterling/Welbeck thing. They seem to be bringing the best out in each other. Like John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.

Kev June 14, 201411:28 pm

I’m quite pleased that Mario Balotelli is honouring the host nation by sporting a haircut which consists of primarily bald with a landing strip.

Mark June 14, 201411:26 pm

Italy’s setpiece defending is worse than Mexico’s. And that, as I discovered when I watched the game properly, gave me my first opportunity of the tournament to type “execrable.”

Richard June 14, 201411:17 pm

Typically everything the Italian’s do is through Pirlo. Not that I expected anything different.

Ian June 14, 201411:16 pm

This has been a bright start. Nothing between the two teams so far. Italy seem defensively uncertain, and Sterling is getting acres of space on the right. But, you know, it’s England.

Ted June 14, 201411:13 pm

This game has nil-nil written all over it. As does Phil Neville.

Mark June 14, 201411:09 pm

Neville’s momentary silence after Johnson’s handball spoke volumes

Kev June 14, 201411:08 pm

So, do any of the players have boots which are not day-glo?

Ted June 14, 201411:07 pm

Oh lord, England, you titilate me.

Mark June 14, 201411:06 pm

“Goal” says the TV caption. Neighbour says f*****g hell. “Raheem Steeling.” says Guy Mowbray. Good job the team have started well…

Richard June 14, 201411:06 pm

I was one of the ‘others’

Ian June 14, 201411:05 pm

Raheem Sterling, there, the only man in the world who knew that hadn’t gone in straight away.

Richard June 14, 201411:02 pm

I can see the Italian’s going down very easily tonight.

Mark June 14, 201411:02 pm

Phil Neville. A poor man’s…er…Gary Neville…

Kev June 14, 201410:59 pm


Mark June 14, 201410:57 pm

If England needed any motivation, someone should have played back that Vialli interview to the players in the dressing-room. “We eat pressure for breakfast…” Dear me…

Richard June 14, 201410:56 pm

I may be jumping in at obscure points over the next 5 hours. Nice to see the England team singing the anthem with some passion.

After the earlier result anything is possible. Should make for a more attacking game.

Evening everyone!

Ian June 14, 201410:32 pm

Alright, you buggers. If you think this is bad, just wait until I’m on Cote d’Ivoire against Japan at two in the morning. THEN we’ll see some fireworks.

Prediction? Another goalless draw. We’re due one in this tournament, and England are the team to deliver it.

Ted June 14, 201410:23 pm

Hey there sports fans, it’s time for the REAL world cup to start. With Ian J. King and me. And whoever else we can find. Come on England. Or Italy. Or whoever.

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