Italy came away with a 2-1 victory over England on Saturday night in Manaus, winning a thrilling, back-and-forth contest through goals from Claudio Marchisio and Mario Balotelli.
Daniel Sturridge equalized shortly after Marchisio's wonderfully worked opener, but it was the aforementioned AC Milan striker who won the plaudits for his vital header that delivered all three points to the Azzurri.
In truth, it was the Juventus midfielder who should be getting the praise.
The manner in which Marchisio cleverly opened space for Balotelli to score the match-winner was fantastic, and won't show up in any scoresheets.
First, the goal in full:
Let's take a look at how the goal developed.
Matteo Darmian picks up the ball on the right wing, and Danny Welbeck fails to track back and offer support to Leighton Baines.
This forces Baines (circled) to step up and close down the space of Darmian, opening up a gap in behind for Antonio Candreva to run into, which he gladly accepts.
This is where Claudio Marchisio becomes vital. The midfielder is well outside the box when Candreva picks up the ball, and is being marked by Glen Johnson, who himself is in solid position in behind center-back Gary Cahill. Should a cross go to the deep post at this point, Johnson would be able to support Cahill and make the clearance.
But Marchisio, so adept at making deep runs into the box from his midfield position, does exactly that, dashing into the area and dragging Johnson along with him to the first post. Look where Johnson ends up after tracking the Juventus man into the area:
That leaves Cahill in a one-on-one situation with Balotelli, and when Candreva whips in a perfect cross to the back post, Cahill, caught ball watching just slightly, has no support in behind from Johnson.
That leaves Balotelli with an easy finish, heading the ball into an open goal from inside the six-yard box, and ultimately giving Italy the crucial three points.
Balotelli and Candreva will get all of the attention, but Marchisio's role in the tally cannot be overlooked. Combined with his great strike for the opening goal of the contest, Marchisio will be very happy with his body of work on the night.
He should be.
Feature photo courtesy of Reuters