England v Italy: World Cup 2014 Match Preview
Venue: Arena Amazonia, Manaus Date: Saturday 14 June 2014 Kick-off: 23:00 BST
What happens in this game could well define the fortunes of both England and Italy at the 2014 World Cup in the ‘group of death’ Group D. It will certainly have a bearing on the sale of patriotic bunting and flag waving. Uruguay and Costa Rica will have already played so points will be on the board in the group and both would obviously be hoping for a draw in that match or a win for Costa Rica but its likely Uruguay will be off and running with all three points.
Both teams will be conscious of the last occasion the two teams faced each other in the Euro’s and how despite Italy dominating possession the game was only won on penalties. In that game a different England was playing and crucially they failed to deal tactically with their creative genius Andrea Pirlo who made more passes than the entire England midfield. England if nothing else will have no excuses for allowing Pirlo to direct the game in Manaus.
The noises coming from England are for an attacking mentality although England will likely have periods where they will need to absorb pressure and defend as a team themselves and the first choice centre backs are looking more assured in their roles. England are always more convincing going forward and exploiting the lack of pace in areas of the Italy team would provide goals.
England are always better going forward and exploiting the lack of pace in areas of the Italy team. England have shown flashes of real promise in recent games, especially when playing young players such as Sterling, Barkley and Oxlade-Chamberlain who will give any defence something to think about. England will want to dictate the tempo if they can and be bold when they can and what the fans would like to see is starting places for at least one exuberant, young and fearless player but I think Hodgson will be more cautious and measured.
"I'd like to win it (the Italy clash)," said Hodgson on the English Football Association's website.
"When we get the ball we are going to go for it, we are going to attack. We are going to encourage our attacking players to do what we do.
"But we are also going to make it clear to them that they can't go gung-ho at any time. At all times you've got to be thinking, 'What happens if it doesn't work out? Are we protected?"
Rooney has been generally quite so far in the friendly matches and is yet to really hit the sort of form that would be required for England to succeed. The usually bulletproof United striker has faced criticism and calls for him to be dropped from the starting line-up in favour of the more dynamic Barkley but this is unlikely to happen against Italy and Rooney is unfazed by the critics.
"I am not really interested," Rooney said when asked about claims he should be dropped.
"A lot of people have their opinions - but I listen to the people around me and in the coaching set-up.
"I don't listen to people outside of the set-up really so anyone, journalists can say what they want. I have got no interest in listening to them."
Expect England to start with the same team used to face Honduras with young players such as Barkley, Wilshere and Sterling coming on to inject pace especially with conditions being generally difficult and depending on the situation within the last 30 minutes of the game.
Up front the big physical Balotelli will always be a menace but he has failed to score in his last five appearances for Italy but will be difficult to contain if he is on form. Immobile who recently transferred to Borussia Dortmund for £15M scored a hat-trick and provided an assist in the last warm-up game for Italy albeit against a hastily assembled club team but that will do his confidence no harm at all.
Italy will likely look to exploit what is generally agreed to be the weak right-back position for England with Glen Johnson all too frequently caught in possession and the space exploited by opposition teams but with no natural replacement England will need to show more care in this area. How England cope as a defensive unit will either provide a glimmer of hope or add to the disquiet. Italy will be wary of the threat from England’s front pairing and will need to control the midfield and squeeze the pair out of the game.
A draw would be a good result for either team if obviously not the very best but would put greater pressure on getting a win from the Uruguay and Costa Rica games for both teams to be sure of progressing.
Italy will go into the game in confident mood with the psychological advantage of having outplayed England for long periods two years ago but England will say that game is ancient history and was a much weakened team due to injuries.
The game promises to be the ‘Rumble in the jungle’ with the Amazonian conditions being a strong feature that will affect all aspects of the game from team selection to playing style to tactics. The weather forecast for Manaus is looking like being between 28 and 31 degrees with humidity around the 60% mark at game time. Wednesday to Friday is looking unsettled with the chance of storms.
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