World Cup 2014: Why all England fans should support Italy

There are more reasons to get behind the Azzurri than it just helping England

If Italy win their next two games, England's World Cup destiny will effectively be back in their hands. Cesare Prandelli's team will be desperate to beat Costa Rica (ranked below Scotland in the Fifa rankings) in Recife today, which would virtually guarantee their progression to the knockout rounds. An Italy win means England would still have hope of a miraculous appearance in the last 16 going into the final group D fixtures on Tuesday. Whether or not Italy come to England's rescue however, there are plenty of reasons why Three Lions fans should be getting behind the Azzurri.

LIVE: Follow the latest news from Italy v Costa Rica

Heartbreak, but also joy

The dizzying highs and crushing lows of supporting your team are the lifeblood of football and even more so at the World Cup, but England fans have only known the latter for coming up to half a century. Italy have experienced plenty of heartbreak on the world stage, from being edged out in the semis on home soil in 1990 to a distressing final defeat - on penalties - four years later.

But in 2006, the relatively unfancied Italians won the tournament for the fourth time, putting them behind only Brazil in terms of overall wins. There is much in the make-up and experiences of the Italian fan for his or her English counterpart to identify with, from penalty shootout disasters to highly rated teams failing to deliver. But what sets the Italians apart is that, every decade or so, you have something tangible to joyously celebrate. Imagine experiencing your country winning the World Cup, rather than actually, well, imagining it. By supporting Italy this can be a realistic prospect.

Star players, star quality

From Paul Gascoigne to David Beckham and most members of the Golden Generation to Wayne Rooney, English fans and the press have a complicated relationship with the team's supposed best players, who invariably fail to deliver on the biggest stage despite or perhaps because of their inflated egos and extracurricular activities.

But in Italy, the opposite is true.

In a narrative that is almost too good to be true, Paolo Rossi arrived at the 1982 World Cup on the back of a two-year ban over a betting scandal and made little impact as the team scraped through the group stages to set up a quarter-final with Brazil, the overwhelming favourites to win the tournament with players such as Socrates, Zico and Falcao among their ranks. But Rossi came alive, scoring a stunning hat-trick as Italy won 3-2. He would go on to score two goals in the semi-finals against Poland and then one of his team's three goals in the final against Germany. A World Cup and the Golden Boot after not playing a competitive match for two years - it was as one Italian journalist said at the time as if Rossi had come back from the dead.

Peerless Pirlo

While we're on the subject of star players, it would be remiss to neglect Andrea Pirlo. The veteran midfielder attracted more column inches in the English press than any other rival player at the World Cup, but he justified the hype with a man-of-the-match display as England were beaten 2-1, just failing to cap it off with an impossible looking free-kick in the dying minutes that crashed off the crossbar and left Joe Hart looking as if he had lost his mind. Pirlo has been there and done that but is still at the top of his game at the grand old age of 35. His equivalent in the English team, meanwhile...

 

The madness/genius of Balotelli

Remember the halcyon days of Gazza in his pomp? Rooney may be a similar build and (on paper, anyway) be similarly gifted, but since 1990 no English player has managed to combine technical brilliance with madcap humour and general unpredictability. Italy has its version of Gazza, and his name is Mario Balotelli, who delivers on the pitch with crucial goals but also finds the time to plaster a sticker album with his face, reimagine the World Cup trophy with him centre stage, pledge to help England qualify if he gets a kiss from the Queen, and even portray himself as Christ the Redeemer, watching over Rio. Self-doubt is not a word in the lexicon of the Italian team.

And as this much retweeted tweet shows, there is just no comparison. Forza Azzurri.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Voices
Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and David Cameron appeal to the audience during the Question Time special
voices
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
News
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Sport
football
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
News
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
news
News
Michelle Dockery plays Lady Mary in Downton Abbey
peopleBut who comes top of the wish list?
News
Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, right, with Lib Dem candidate Jane Dodds in Newtown, Powys, as part of her tour in support of the party’s female candidates
general electionNick Clegg's wife has impressed during the campaign
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living