For the first time in 10 years, Italy and England play each other in a competitive match. The prize for victory in Sunday’s fourth quarter final of Euro 2012 is a place in the second semi-final on Thursday against Germany. England ended up three points clear of France at the top of Group D but the table hides a tough route to the quarter finals.
After a tight 1-1 draw with France they came from behind to win an exciting five-goal thriller with Sweden 3-2. And hosts Ukraine caused some anxious moments in their last match, which they won 1-0 thanks to a goal just after half time from Wayne Rooney, making his first appearance at the tournament due to suspension. England qualified by winning Group G and are a team in transition with current team coach Roy Hodgson having only just taken over.
Italy began with a creditable 1-1 draw against tournament favourites Spain but could only manage the same result against much less fancied Croatia. They got their act together for a 2-0 victory over Ireland in their last match, but they had to wait until the 90th minute before Mario Balotelli added a second to Antonio Cassano’s first half goal. They finished second, two points behind Spain. Italy were unbeaten in qualifying, winning Group C and conceding just two goals. The team coach is Cesare Prandelli.
England go into the match having won only one of their last nine games against Italy; what is more, England have reached the quarter-final of a major international tournament ten times, winning just three, while Italy have reached this stage nine times, winning seven - their only two defeats in a quarter-final were on penalties to the eventual winners.
England under Roy Hodgson is different to England during previous managers’ reigns. There is a lot less expectation on them and they seem to have a better team spirit. However, they have not gone about getting their results easily having drawn with a threatening looking France in their first game of the group, winning 3-2 over Sweden and 1-0 against Ukraine. Nonetheless they managed to get the results they needed in true Roy Hodgson style.
While stating that he is aware that Italy are tough opponents, Hodgson is happy to be playing them instead of Spain, who they avoided thanks to the fact that both teams topped their groups. “It has to be an advantage not to face Spain,” he said. “They are the clear favourites. They won the last World Cup and European Championships and are favourites to win this one.”
Hodgson has not been afraid to change his strikers around, with Andy Carroll coming in to exploit Sweden’s aerial weakness and then reintroducing Wayne Rooney against Ukraine after he completed his two-match suspension, Danny Welbeck also featured. Ashley Young is a potential doubt for the game, having suffered a shin injury. Other than that it is likely that Hodgson will name an unchanged side to the one while beat Ukraine 1-0.
Midfielder Daniele De Rossi is aware of the threat posed by England, saying that they are a well organised team. “They have other very good players playing on the flanks and it’s a really compact team,” he was quoted as saying in the Daily Telegraph.
Cesare Prandelli’s newly attacking side is a lot different than the defensive one that won the 2006 World Cup. Their passing football and 3-5-2 formation seems to be working, tough, having achieved draws against Spain and Croatia and a win against the Republic of Ireland.
Italy will be without star defender Giorgio Chiellini who is suffering from a thigh injury meaning England will have an advantage with pacy wingers Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott. Other than that there are no fresh injury concerns for Prandelli as he and his players hope to prove that the Italians will not be easily beaten.