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'England at their best for 15 years'

ESPN staff
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Gary Neville believes England can take encouragement into their final two group games against Uruguay and Costa Rica after Roy Hodgson's side played "some of their best football" in 15 years against Italy.

Mario Balotelli headed the winner as England were beaten 2-1 by Cesare Prandelli's side in Manaus on Saturday, but coach Neville was pleased with his team's attacking mentality.

"I thought it was some of the best football an England team has played in a competitive game - and definitely in a World Cup - for 10 or 15 years," Neville told BBC Radio 5Live.

"At times when we have beaten big teams like Argentina we have been resilient and backs to the wall, get a goal and defend it. I thought the other night, relative to the game two years ago when we were on the ropes with our gloves up, defending and we lost on points, this time we won a few rounds.

"We can see where we are going, that doesn't diminish the disappointment of losing, but it does give us encouragement.

"We lived in a football match of real quality. I said on the bench during the game that this was a top football match, it didn't feel like the first game of a World Cup, it was far more like a quarter-final."

Neville believes Hodgson was "brave and bold" in his team selection, although debate has since raged over the performance and role of Wayne Rooney on the left.

Raheem Sterling, who admitted he would have no problem moving to the wing to accommodate Rooney, was a shining light against the Italian defence and Neville believes Hodgson was right in his team selection.

"It's risk and reward. I felt we risked in the game. The manager has been very brave and bold in selections, and when you live with risk it can go the other way. It is not something to regret," Neville said.

"We could easily have drawn or won and they are a top team, and they have a number of players who are world class in their team, but we lived with them. We didn't just defend. We did things in the game that shocked them."

England face Uruguay in Sao Paulo on Thursday before their Group D campaign ends against Costa Rica in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday.

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