Match Preview: England vs Italy
Venue: Arena Amozonia, Manaus
Date: Saturday 14th June
Kick-Off: 23:00 BST
It’s the opening game of Group D, or should I say, the group of ‘death’, where England will entertain Italy in Manaus, just off the coast of the Amazon River. It’s a game that will tell England fans how well they have prepared and what they can expect from this years, World-Cup.
Both teams will be conscious of their last encounter, in the Euros, where the game was possession-orientated with a lack of goals from both sides. Italy managed to grate past England on penalties, but overall, it was an encouraging performance from the Three Lions.
I expect both teams to line-up with an attacking approach, but for Roy’s men, it’s more about containing the Italian wizard, Andrea Pirlo, from dictating the play like he did two years ago. The plan for England will be to exploit Italy down the flanks using the pace of Lallana and Sterling, whereas, Italy’s counter-plan will be to get the ball into Immobile and run at the heart of England’s defence with options on either flank supporting him accordingly.
It’ll be an interesting game from a tactician’s point of view, as Prandelli faces up against Roy, we will see who can out-mastermind who. England should aim for avoiding a defeat and try to register points in their group as early as possible to generate their confidence levels, contrasting to that, for Italy, that won’t be justifiable, Prandelli will be looking for the win and they will be going into the tie as the hot favourites to take all three points.
Buffon; Chiellini, Barzagli, Bonucci, Abate; Marchisio, Pirlo, de Rossi; Balotelli, Immobile, Cerci.
Pirlo: The bearded genius of football is a name that is consistently given to Andrea Pirlo, the man who single-handedly dictated play against England in the Euros is still in great shape after coming off from a season where he saw Juventus lift the Scudetto once more. He is the creator and deliverer of anything Italy produce, he is the orchestrator of the Italians and I fully expect him to show his class once more on Saturday. England must contain him to have a hope in this tie.
Chiellini: I only say that Chiellini is a weak-link in this team, because he is being played out of position once again for Italy. He is, by trait, a centre-back but is being used in the full-back position because of lack of options that Prandelli has. England must try and put Chiellini under intense pressure from the off to force mistakes out of him.
Hart; Johnson, Jagielka, Cahill, Baines; Gerrard, Henderson; Lallana, Sterling, Rooney; Sturridge.
Sterling: This season has been a turning point in young Raheem Sterling’s career, for Liverpool, he is one of the many players to thank for returning Champions League football back to the Merseyside club. A great attribute of Raheem’s style, is the pace of which he can run at players with the ball at and his vision to find the next man or to even, score a special goal. Roy will use Sterling as the player to cause havoc in the heart of the Italy’s defence and consequently, produce problems which they will have to deal with. I expect Raheem to have a brilliant tournament with England, regardless of how far they make it.
Glen Johnson: From the three friendlies that England have had leading up to this World-Cup, it is crystal clear that Johnson has difficult defending against fast-paced players, no doubt that Prandelli will indeed know this and aim to exploit this during their first game against England by using either Balotelli or Cerci to run at Johnson.
Predictions — England 2-2 Italy.