JORDAN Henderson stressed the positives after England’s World Cup opener ended in defeat, highlighting the “outstanding” performance of Liverpool team-mate Raheem Sterling.
The Three Lions produced a rousing attacking display against Italy in Manaus, yet poor defending saw them leave the Amazon on the wrong end of a 2-1 scoreline.
Roy Hodgson’s side dominated for large parts of the first half but paid for their futility in front of goal as the unmarked Claudio Marchisio impressively put the Azzurri ahead.
Daniel Sturridge levelled immediately, only for Mario Balotelli to head home and condemn England to defeat at the Arena Amazonia.
“Everybody is disappointed, but I still think there’s a lot of positives to come out of it,” said Sunderland-born Liverpool midfielder Henderson. “What we will do is keep confident, keep believing and look forward to the next game.
“I felt as though we gave it everything, worked really well as a team.
“Going forward, I thought we were brilliant, especially in the first half. I thought we counter-attacked really well and obviously got the goal.
“In the second half, I thought we dominated with the ball, dominated with possession and penetrated with the passing and runs in behind, with a few chances. It was disappointing but we gave it everything we had.”
One of the main positives on the night was the performance of Sterling in what was just his third England start, impressing onlookers and team-mates with his directness, skill and passing range.
“We didn’t know he was going to start,” ex-Sunderland star Henderson said of the 19-year-old.
“But there were no surprises that Raheem started because he has been brilliant in the games, brilliant in training. He was outstanding.
“He got on the ball, was confident taking players on and played a big part in the goal.”
While it was an encouraging display from Sterling and Co, especially given the difficult conditions, it was still not enough to prevent defeat.
England lie joint bottom of Group D along with Uruguay, who – four years on from their fourth-placed finish in South Africa – lost their opener 3-1 to unfancied Costa Rica.
It sets up a fascinating clash between the two countries on Thursday, when defeat would all but end the chances of either side.
Injury meant star man Suarez was an unused substitute for Uruguay’s defeat, heightening speculation that he may not make the England match – something Anfield club-mate Henderson would welcome.
“If Luis doesn’t play, it is obviously a positive because he is a fantastic player,” he said.
“But I am sure he is chomping at the bit and doing everything he can to be fit for the game.”