MANAUS Brazil (Reuters) - Italy coach Cesare Prandelli was generous in his praise of an improving England side but said his tactical approach had paid off with the 2-1 victory in Group D on Saturday.
“Our logic was that we don’t have players who are as powerful as England’s but we have technically skilled players and in the first half we had better ball possession," said the Italy coach, whose team won thanks to a 50th minute Mario Balotelli header.
"This is the way to play and in our substitutes we have players who can go the extra mile.
“We lined up Andrea Pirlo, Daniele De Rossi and Marco Veratti to have numerical superiority in the centre of the pitch and it worked.
"We had to be very good at closing down England whose players have the ability to turn quickly and sprint."
Prandelli said it was "crazy" not to have had time-outs or drink breaks in the intense heat and humidity but was pleased by the way his team coped with the energy-sapping environment.
“We suffered tonight but the response of the players to the conditions were extraordinary.”
"It was an epic match and I feel that England is one of the strongest teams in the World Cup. We played a great game," he said.
Prandelli said though that he was impressed by the way that England's game had progressed.
"Up until just a few years ago England relied on long balls but they are now a skilled team with excellent triangular passing.
"They have changed a lot and now have one of the strongest attacks in the World Cup, that is why I am so satisfied with the result," he said.
Striker Balotelli said it had been a classic example of the Italian way of playing.
"Italy suffer, they always suffer but the important thing is to win," said the forward.
"Now we have to keep our feet on the ground and just focus on each game that comes."
The other Italy scorer, midfielder Claudio Marchisio, said the Azzurri had shown their true personality in the heat in the jungle city of Manaus.
"It was important to start with a win, above all on a day when playing football was really difficult.
"At times I thought I was having hallucinations it was so hot. This team, though, showed it has great character, in the final minutes we resisted and brought home a deserved win," he said.
(Writing by Simon Evans, Editing by Michael Kahn)