Balotelli, Marchisio and Pirlo thrilled by Italy win against England

Italy midfielders Claudio Marchisio and Andrea Pirlo chase England striker Daniel Sturridge.

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Mario Balotelli is elated after Italy’s World Cup started with a victory over England.

The former Manchester City striker put his end-of-season struggles at AC Milan behind him and scored the winning goal in Saturday’s 2-1 win in Manaus.

Balotelli, who was named the game’s best player by FIFA, tweeted: "Man of the match, I’m just so happy.

"A great thank you to my team-mates and let’s continue like this. Forza Azzurri."

The 23-year-old was far from a certainty to start but was chosen by Italy coach Cesare Prandelli ahead of Serie A’s top scorer Ciro Immobile.

Italy next face Costa Rica on Friday in Recife.

Costa Rica stunned Uruguay 3-1 in the other Group D game.

AS GOOD AS IT GETS

"We are strong and everyone should fear us," Balotelli said to figc.it.

Prandelli, meanwhile, wants to get the most out of Balotelli in Brazil.

"Mario played a great game against England," the Italy boss said. "But I’ve told him that he can give a lot more considering his extraordinary potential."

Claudio Marchisio and Andrea Pirlo outlined the importance of Italy starting their World Cup campaign with a win following the 2-1 victory over England.

Midfielder Marchisio fired Italy into a 35th-minute lead in Manaus and, after Daniel Sturridge equalised just two minutes later, Mario Balotelli’€™s header five minutes into the second half settled the Group D encounter.

Italy next face Costa Rica, who stunned Uruguay earlier in the day, and Marchisio is not taking qualification for the last 16 for granted.

"It was important to start with a win, especially on a day in which playing football was difficult,"€ Marchisio told Sky Italia in reference to the humid conditions in the Amazonian city.

"In certain moments, due to the hot temperature, it felt like we were having hallucinations.

"The team showed a big character and, in the last minutes, we held firm to get this win.

"We have seen that each game is difficult. The win doesn’€™t mean that we’€™ve already overcome the group stage. We have seen what happened in the Uruguay game."

Marchisio’€™s Juventus and Italy team-mate Pirlo, who struck the crossbar with a free-kick in stoppage time, also acknowledged the impact of the conditions in Manaus.

Pirlo said: "We have been courageous. We wanted to play in a good way and I think we have played a great game.

"We have suffered, but the hot climate was incredible.

"It was an important win that gives us confidence. Italy must know that we are a strong side, despite the difficulties and that we must continue in this way."