Roy Hodgson promised to unleash his young and exciting attacking lineup on the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, and he did. But England, despite putting in a commendable performance, could not quite come away with the desired result as Italy, masters of picking up wins in the big stage, showed that extra bit of experience to come away with a precious three points.
The rumble in the Amazon jungle in Manaus turned out to be quite an entertaining one, with both England and Italy providing plenty of goalmouth action and goals. Claudio Marchisio put Italy into the lead just past the half hour mark, with England answering back immediately through Daniel Sturridge.
However, that man Mario Balotelli, who can never be kept out of the headlines, good or bad, popped up early in the second half to head home the winner, with England, despite their best efforts, unable to answer back a second time, and with it leaving Group D in Costa Rica, after their unbelievable win over Uruguay, and Italy's control.
It was a fascinating match right from the off, with England starting much brighter, giving Italy a few scares with a couple of screamers.
Raheem Sterling, playing the No.10 role with Wayne Rooney shifted to the left, did what every young player has done at this World Cup – play without fear – firing a wonderful drive from 25 yards which rippled the side-netting.
Jordan Henderson then forced a big save from Salvatore Sirigu, in for the injured Gianluigi Buffon, with another long-ranger as England went for the jugular in the opening minutes.
Italy, who were knocked out of the group stages in the 2010 World Cup, were always going to come back, though, and with that man Andrea Pirlo slowly starting to pull the strings, the Italians started to tick, taking control of possession and creating a few chances.
The match swung one way and then the other in an exciting first half, with Italy sticking to a more controlled build-up, while England kept going all out with their pacey front-four, as Danny Welbeck nearly put the ball on a plate for Sturridge, with the ball just eluding the England striker courtesy a last-ditch challenge from Andrea Barzagli.
Italy were getting plenty of joy from their full-backs bombing forward as well, but without too much end product; so it did not come as much of a surprise when the Azzurri got their goal through a setpiece, albeit a wonderfully worked setpiece.
The ball was worked short from a corner with a low cross sent towards Pirlo to smash into the back of the net. However, the classy midfielder decided to play a delightful dummy, which worked perfectly with the ball falling to Marchisio, who took a touch before drilling it low past a forest of legs and the despairing dive of Joe Hart.
The Italy opener, scored in the 34th minute, was cancelled out in just three minutes by England, courtesy another splendid move. Raheem Sterling slipped in a pass to Rooney down the England left, with the Manchester United forward then measuring a pinpoint left-footed cross for Daniel Sturridge to tap-in at the far post.
The match looked to be headed for a 1-1 draw at halftime, but Balotelli nearly stole the show in the first 45 with an audacious chip over Hart, which was brilliantly cleared off the line by Phil Jagielka.
England started the second half like they did the game, taking potshots from distance, with Sturridge forcing a smart save from Sirigu as Hodgson's men looked to keep the pressure on Italy.
The pressure would be piled back on England, though, as Balotelli came to the fore in some style, heading in a peach of a cross from the impressive Antonio Candreva in the 50th minute.
England did not let the goal get to them, pouring forward without holding back, as Ross Barkley was brought in to try and spread a little bit more of that youngsters magic dust, which has prevailed so wonderfully in this year's World Cup.
It was a much more experienced head in Rooney, who had the best chance to equalise, with the forward, desperate to score his first World Cup goal, firing wide after finding himself in space inside the box.
Barkley's first piece of action after coming on was to force a decent save from Sirigu, but the Everton midfielder failed to make much of an impact, as Italy sat back with their couple of defensive banks.
Jack Wilshere and Adam Lallana were also brought on by Hodgson, but Italy's rearguard, now resolute to hold onto the lead, could not be breached, as England were left with just a moral victory, rather than an actual one, one that would have given them three points.