MANAUS, Brazil — Mario Balotelli scored on a second-half header Saturday to give Italy a 2-1 win over England at the World Cup.
The Italy striker was left free by his marker, Gary Cahill, and nodded a cross from Antonio Candreva past keeper Joe Hart in the 50th minute.
Claudio Marchisio scored first for Italy, sending a long shot through a crowded area and past a diving Hart in the 35th. Daniel Sturridge equalized for England two minutes later, tapping in a cross from Wayne Rooney.
The win put Italy in a strong position to qualify for the second round and left England with plenty to do in its next two matches.
Balotelli nearly scored another in first-half injury time, running deep into the area and enticing Hart to come off his line. The Italy striker stopped, looked toward the goal and sent a chip over the keeper’s head — only for Phil Jagielka to clear by heading the ball over the bar.
England’s attack-minded lineup made frequent runs into the Italy area and came close to scoring several times.
The best of the chances came in the 24th when Danny Welbeck sent the ball across the front of goal, but Andrea Barzagli was able to slide in and tip the ball up in the air. Raheem Sterling, who had been running in from the left, jumped for the header but couldn’t reach it, letting the ball go past him as he tumbled into the net.
Italy played without the injured Gianluigi Buffon. The 36-year-old keeper, who will play in his fourth World Cup if he is able to recover from an ankle problem, was replaced by Salvatore Sirigu.
COSTA RICA 3, URUGUAY 1: In Fortaleza, Brazil, Costa Rica came from behind to stun Uruguay.
Costa Rica entered the tournament as one of the biggest underdogs to make it out of the group stage after being drawn with Uruguay, Italy and England, but it showed no signs of being in awe as it scored three goals in the second half to seriously dent the South Americans’ hopes of advancing.
Uruguay had to leave star striker Luis Suarez on the bench but went ahead when Edinson Cavani scored a penalty in the 24th minute. Costa Rica fought back after halftime, and lone striker Joel Campbell drive in a ball headed down by Celso Borges in the 54th to beat keeper Fernando Muslera.
Oscar Duarte dived past the outstretched foot of Uruguay’s Cristian Stuani to head in the winner for the Central Americans, and substitute Marcos Urena added the third with six minutes left, catching out Muslera to slot the ball in from a tight angle.
It was Costa Rica’s first World Cup victory since beating China in the group stage in 2002.
COLOMBIA 3, GREECE 0: In Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Colombia started its first World Cup campaign in 16 years in dazzling fashion, beating Greece to open Group C in front of a loud, pro-Colombian crowd.
Left back Pablo Armero opened the scoring in the fifth minute when his deflected shot rolled past Greece goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis. Striker Teofilo Gutierrez poked in Colombia’s second goal from a deflected corner in the 58th, and James Rodriguez capped it off with a low shot in stoppage time after a slick backheel flick from Juan Cuadrado.
IVORY COAST 2, JAPAN 1: In Recife, Brazil, Didier Drogba came off the bench to inspire Ivory Coast to a comeback win in Group C.
Drogba came on in the 62nd minute with his team losing 1-0. The striker’s arrival immediately lifted the team, and Wilfried Bony and Gervinho scored on headers two minutes apart. Both goals were set up by curling crosses from Serge Aurier.
Coach Sabri Lamouchi’s substitution negated Keisuke Honda’s first-half goal that had given Japan the lead.