Rio de Janeiro, June 15 :
Mario Balotelli struck a second-half winner for Italy to overcome England 2-1 while Group D rivals Costa Rica fought back from one-goal down to upset a highly rated Uruguay 3-1.
In the day’s another match, Group C seeds Colombia breezed past Greece 3-0 in their World Cup first match in Horizonte, Xinhua reported.
Daniel Sturridge equalised two minutes later by slotting in from close range.
But AC Milan striker Mario Balotelli regained the Azzurri’s advantage by heading in at the far post just after halftime.
Wayne Rooney, who as expected played in a deeper role, began to assert greater influence in the second half as Italy’s legs tired.
He had the chance to equalise just after the hour but could only manage to drag his shot wide after Leighton Baines’ pass.
England continued to press and the Italian keeper Salvatore Sirigu was again called into action by Leighton Baines’ curling shot over wall.
But Cesare Prandelli’s side defended stoically as both teams pushed themselves to the point of exhaustion in the final minutes.
Andrew Pirlo, seemingly averse to the conditions with a typically assured performance at the heart of Italy’s midfield, almost made it 3-1 but his dipping injury-time free-kick cannoned off the crossbar.
In Fortaleza, Uruguay’s star striker Luis Suarez, who is recovering from a knee surgery, was left on bench as Tabarez did not want to take any risk. PSG forward Edinson Cavani paired up with veteran Diego Forlan, the winner of Golden Ball award in 2010 South Africa World Cup, to lead the attacking line for the Uruguayans under a 4-4-2 formation.
Centre back and Uruguay captain Diego Lugano was brought down in the box 22 minutes into the match when he was trying to meet a freekick from the left flank. Cavani converted the penalty with a powerful shot into the low right corner.
Uruguay also had a goal waved away in the 14th minute because defender Diego Godin was found off-side by the assistant referee.
The Ticos paid much attention on their defence as they fielded five defenders and only left Arsenal forward Joel Campbell upfront. Their best opportunity in the first half came in the 30th minute when a deflected shot from Giancarlo Gonzalez hit the side of the net.
Costa Rica posed more threat in the second half. Defender Oscar Duarte’s close-range hammer from the far post was blocked by Urugary akeeper Fernando Muslera five minutes after the break. But the Ticos did not wait for long to level the score.
The 21-year-old Campbell, who was on loan to Greek giants Olympiacos last season, chested down a cross deep from the right and slotted home the equaliser with his left foot in the 53rd minute.
The Uruguayans were still coping with the astonishment for conceding the goal when Costa Rica scored again after three minutes. Duarte, again, received a freekick pass in the far post and only this time his sharp-angled diving header managed to beat Muslera and awarded the Ticos with a one-goal lead.
In the 84th minute, Campbell set up a fine through pass to second half substitute Marco Urena. The 24-year-old striker from Russian side FC Kuban Krasnodar rounded off the scoring at 3-1 with his right foot effort only one minute after being brought onto the pitch.
However, Uruguay’s misery did not end there. During the injury time of the match, their defender Maximiliano Pereira received a red card for intendedly kicking Campbell’s leg and will miss the next match against England.
In Horizonte, Colombia enjoyed a flying start as defender Pablo Armero scored only five minutes into the game. He got on the end of the cross and his shot took a deceiving deflection beating Greek goalkeeper Orstis Karnezis.
One minute later, assisted by Georgios Samaras, Greece midfielder Panagiotis Kone smashed a right-footed shot from the centre of the box. It was very close, but missed to the right.
River Plate’s forward Teofilo Gutierrez lifted Colombia to 2-0 in the 58th minute when he found the back of the net off a deflected corner and was on the doorstep to tap it in.
Greece forward Theofanis Gekas got a dive in the 63rd minute but his header smashed off the crossbar. He was replaced by Konstantinos Mitroglou one minute later.
Ioannis Fetfatzidis from Italy’s Genoa, who substituted Salpingidis in the second half, made eye-catching play several times but he did not get enough ball possession.
Colombia’s James Rodriguez from AS Monaco, the No. 10 on the field, made a wonderful goal in injury time to widen the gap to 3-0.
Rodriguez, the Man of the Match, said that he was very happy becuase “we won and I scored”. He hopes to keep winning in this way.
Group C has Colombia, Greece, Japan and Cote d’Ivoire. Japan will play Cote d’Ivoire today, but late at night.