Football: Where the game will be won and lost

WORLD CUP, GROUP TWO QUALIFIER: England v Italy, Wembley, 8pm tonight; Don Howe talks to Glenn Moore about who will prevail in the key tactical battles in tonight's match
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England's attack


Italy's defence

The most dicey area for the Italians is the goalkeeping. In the last few months I have seen some horrendous goalkeeping mistakes in Serie A. Angelo Peruzzi, who is expected to play tonight, has made some of them.

We know what goalkeepers are like and it is possible he will go out there and play out of his skin but it must be a worry for them.

They also have a problem in defence. Cesare Maldini has come in as coach and it looks like he will play a spare defender at the back. But in recent years top Italian sides, like Milan and Juventus, have been playing zonal back fours, like we always used to. They have now run out of sweepers.

Christian Panucci has been suggested as one but I've never seen him play sweeper. He's usually a right-back but, though he is good on the ball, his weakness is his defending. He would be a good wing-back.

Paolo Maldini is another possible sweeper who is a wonderful wing-back. He would also be excellent at the left side of a back three; he could break from there as well.

Ciro Ferrara played sweeper against Northern Ireland last month but it is almost certain he will mark Alan Shearer. He has been the most outstanding centre-back in Italian football these last few years.

This will not worry Alan. He will work him and work him. He knows at some point in the 90 minutes he will get away, maybe it will be a header at the far post, or a dart at the near. And when he does, that is his chance to score. Ferrara knows that too.

Again they have more problems than us. If Paul Ince is fit, Glenn's problem is whether to play Gazza or Steve McManaman as the one who breaks from midfield. David Batty and Ince have been so solid he will want to keep them together.

If Ince does not make it Batty will have to play a more central role. Jamie Redknapp could come in. Whenever he has played in international football he has looked the part.

They are also very solid. They will have Demetrio Albertini, Roberto Di Matteo and Dino Baggio. Albertini is young but very disciplined; Baggio can get forward. It will be tough in midfield.

There is no one like the wonderful Giancarlo Antognoni there - but they have Gianfranco Zola instead.

Zola is the problem. He will drift around. Does Glenn go man-for-man or does he decide we have enough ability to pick him up wherever he goes? He is the best player I have seen at drifting wide of the back three and getting behind the pushed-in full-back. I would man-mark him with Gareth Southgate or Sol Campbell stepping out of the back three to do it.

I think Fabrizio Ravanelli will lead the line. He's a better finisher than Pierluigi Casiraghi and better on the floor. Casiraghi is better in the air. He is also good at pressing; he will chase defenders.

Then there is Alessandro Del Piero. They say he cannot play in the same side as Zola - is that Cesare Maldini playing a dummy?

In goal we do have the better quality in David Seaman.

Both sides will have good players on the bench. We may have Les Ferdinand and probably either Gazza or McManaman. They may have Del Piero and Ravanelli or Casiraghi.

They will be part of the planning. If Glenn starts without Ferdinand, he knows he can put him on to give the Italians a new problem if we have got into the middle of the second half without a goal.

He may spring a complete surprise and play McManaman off Shearer with freedom to go at defenders. It is not a bad idea - he does his best work for Liverpool when he finds space in the inside-left spot.

It has been difficult for Glenn to plan. When Arrigo Sacchi was manager of Italy you knew exactly how they would play. Now he only has one game to go on. But Maldini has only had one game to work with his players.

Neither coach will find it easy to change things. I could understand Glenn trying to get Wembley to put a bench close to the pitch. It is one of the most difficult places to get messages on. Shouting at the players makes no impression at all.

It will be a super atmosphere, just like Euro 96. There could be one significant difference, though. One of the nice things about the summer is that I never thought the crowd were nervous. I have a feeling they will realise that tonight's a bit different, that this is a World Cup qualifying campaign and we have to win.

I would hope they will still have that sense of enjoying themselves because their mood can affect the players. Glenn will be telling the players to be patient, the crowd will be wanting an early goal but they will have to be patient too.

A draw will be a good result for Italy. They have that last game to come in Italy. We have to take the game to them.

It won't be a high scoring match but it is a hard one to call. It looks like a draw but we now have players who can get us a goal: Shearer, Ferdinand, Beckham. England to win 1-0.

Don Howe was Ron Greenwood's assistant when England beat Italy in the 1978 World Cup qualifier, and Bobby Robson's assistant when they met in the 1990 finals. He was Terry Venables' assistant during the European Championship and is now the Football Association's technical co-ordinator. Howe also commentates on Italian football for Channel 4.

Set pieces

These could well decide the game and Glenn will have been working hard on them - England teams always do.

I think we have more chance of scoring from them than they do, as we did in the Euro 96 semi-final against Germany when Shearer put us ahead early on from a well-worked corner (pictured above).

If we get all our big guns up there, all the centre-backs, at corners and free-kicks, we could put them under a lot of pressure. Their goalkeepers are not the best at coming out and catching crosses. They may have Zola taking their kicks but we have Beckham.

Zola can deliver free-kicks anywhere and we have to be well rehearsed. At Euro 96 Stuart Pearce was given responsibility to decide whether to drop back on the goalline at free-kicks and he did it quite well. You need a good brain, because if you go back too early their forwards will come in. We will have to watch Panucci, he is a big danger - he scored a great header for Real Madrid last week.

Photograph: Ross Kinnaird/Allsport