World Cup 2014: England v Italy match preview

A look ahead to Saturday’s World Cup fixture at Arena Amazonia in Manaus

The wait is over and England finally get their World Cup campaign underway on Saturday, where they are looking to exact revenge on the Italian team who knocked them out of Euro 2012. It is set to be an intriguing encounter as both teams sweat it out in the humidity of the Amazon, desperate to get off to a winning start, or perhaps more importantly to avoid defeat.

Roy Hodgson’s England come into the World Cup on the back of two draws and one win in their pre-World Cup friendlies, and the lack of expectation for this England team to succeed has almost inadvertently created a sense of expectancy amongst an England camp with less pressure than usual. The emerging talents of Ross Barkley, Raheem Sterling and Adam Lallana will be keen to carry their club form into the World Cup, whilst Wayne Rooney has one last chance to deliver on the world stage. England face a tough task in getting out of what has been dubbed the ‘group of death’, but Roy Hodgson’s men appear to be quietly confident that they can produce a shock, starting with this crucial group opener against the Italians.

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Cesare Prandelli’s World Cup preparations were rocked by two disappointing draws against Republic of Ireland and Luxembourg, and an injury to key midfielder Riccardo Montolivo who suffered a fractured tibia. Italy did however manage their first win since 2013 with a 5-3 victory over Fluminense last weekend, with a hat-trick from Serie A’s top scorer Ciro Immobile, who could be a threat if partnered with Mario Balotelli up front. Euro 2012 player of the tournament Andrea Pirlo will again be looking to control the tempo of the game, as he did the last time these two sides met in a major tournament, but Italy’s defence remains a weakness. It is sure to be a fantastic opening game in Group D as Gli Azzuri  will also be looking to put right their poor performance in the 2010 World Cup, where they failed to win a single match.

Read more: Gerrard: It is time for England to walk the walk
Hodgson up against fiercest challenge yet
Would a dreary draw be so bad?

KICK-OFF: Saturday, 11pm

 

PAST THREE MEETINGS…

England 2 (Jagielka, Defoe) Italy 1 (De Rossi), International Friendly, August 2012

England 0  Italy 0, European Championships, June 2012

England 1 (Fowler)  Italy 2 (Montella x2), International Friendly, March 2002

 

STATS…

Last time these sides met in a World Cup was at Italia 1990, with Italy winning 2-1 in the third/fourth play-off.

This fixture has been played 24 times, with England winning eight, Italy winning nine, and seven ending in a draw.

England have 22 home based players in their squad, whilst Italy have 20.

Roy Hodgson named England’s youngest ever squad since 1958, with an average age of 26.

England’s Luke Shaw is the second youngest player at the World Cup finals.

Italy’s last win against another international side was in September 2013.

This game will be Gianluigi Buffon’s 141 cap, and the start of his fifth World Cup.

Andrea Pirlo (left) and Mario Balotelli share a joke in training Andrea Pirlo (left) and Mario Balotelli share a joke in training  

ODDS…

England to win: 2.9

Italy to win: 2.8

Draw: 3.0

CLASSIC MATCH...

Andrea Pirlo’s performance against England at Euro 2012 still haunts Scott Parker, Steven Gerrard and the rest of the England team who were played off the park by a midfield maestro at the top of his game, who made everything look so easy. This impressive display was topped off by an audacious penalty against Joe Hart, where he chipped the ball down the middle, leaving the England keeper looking a little embarrassed. England fans will be hoping that there is no repeat of this on Saturday.

TV: Live on BBC 1 at 11pm

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