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England 1 Italy 2: Roy Hodgson says criticism of Wayne Rooney is 'harsh'

England manager disagrees the Manchester United striker looked uncomfortable playing wide

England manager Roy Hodgson sprang to the defence of Wayne Rooney after the Manchester United forward was criticised for an indifferent performance in the 2-1 defeat to Italy in Manaus.

Rooney started in a wide left position in order to accommodate Liverpool youngster Raheem Sterling in the number 10 role, but struggled with some of the discipline required.

He often allowed full-back Matteo Darmian to run well beyond him but, on the plus side, he provided the cross for Daniel Sturridge's first-half equaliser with a rare moment of quality.

"I think it is harsh to say he didn't look comfortable on the left. I thought he did quite well and he set up our goal," Hodgson told BBC1.

"It is looking for things to say he didn't play well in that position because I think he did."

Hodgson felt his side were unlucky to lose to Mario Balotelli's winner after Sturridge had cancelled out Claudio Marchisio's opener.

"It is a bit tough to accept we lost the game. Joe Hart has had a pretty quiet evening but we found ourselves having lost it.

"Even when they got back to 2-1 I thought we would get back into it. I thought that was the best I'd seen the team play.

"I suppose you have to bite the bullet today and accept we played well."


He continued: "I thought we came to terms with it much better in the second half. We are a positive team who do not sit back and we left one or two opportunities for them, but we had chances to score.

"Our final ball was disappointing and we are better than that, but we are a young team and this is a first World Cup for two thirds of the team and it is something we will improve upon going forward.

"It isn't a perfect start, but we don't live in a perfect world.

"To take them so close gives us great confidence playing against Uruguay and Costa Rica."

Captain Steven Gerrard admitted the players could have done better in the final third, but insisted there could be no questioning the way the team played.

"I think the chances were there," the Liverpool midfielder said on BBC1. "Maybe we have to look at trying to finish a few more chances off, but we can't point any fingers because everyone has given everything tonight - the effort, desire and commitment was there and we were unlucky not to get anything out of it.

"It is still disappointing to come away with no points.

"I thought we matched them all the way. If we look at the whole 90 minutes we can be pleased, but it just goes to show at this level how cruel it is - you try so hard and come away with nothing.

"That is the lesson from tonight. We are still not out of this group."

"No matter what the result was tonight, I think we still would have had to go and beat Uruguay.

"The challenge is more difficult, but it's certainly do-able."