England v Italy: Group D preview

This match marks the debut for the Arena Amazonia stadium where the humid conditions could be the deciding factor.

    Juventus midfielder Andrea Pirlo is Italy's key player and directs their speed of play [AFP]
    Juventus midfielder Andrea Pirlo is Italy's key player and directs their speed of play [AFP]

    The tactical approaches of England and Italy's wily coaches Roy Hodgson and Cesare Prandelli will come under the microscope with the oppressive atmosphere of the Amazon rainforest providing the backdrop for a Group D clash.

    Italy's squad is imbued with their 2006 World Cup success and revolve around the midfield metronome Andrea Pirlo, a veteran of their final victory over France eight years ago, and the mercurial prowess of Mario Balotelli up front.

    The Azzurri will play a possession game where the ball is jealously guarded and energy conserved rather than expended.

    Pirlo is one of three current Italy players with World Cup winners' medals along with 36-year-old goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and 30-year-old midfielder Daniele De Rossi. 

    England, by contrast, look set to put their faith in a pack of attacking youngsters with only a handful of caps between them but with energy in abundance.

    Expectation levels are at a low ebb for the English and that could also work in favour of a side that retains enormous attacking potential.

    England lost to Italy on penalties in the quarter-finals of the European Championship two years ago and the Italians are strongly favoured to emerge from a tough group that also includes Uruguay and Costa Rica.

    Match facts
    • The only previous World Cup meeting between these two nations came in the third-place play-off in 1990 when Italy won 2-1
    • Roy Hodgson's side won 2-1 when the sides last met, in a friendly in Switzerland in August 2012
    • Italy emerged unbeaten in World Cup qualifying for the fourth time in their last five attempts

    Venue: Arena Amazonia, Manuas

    Kick-off: 01.00 (Sunday 15th June)

    Possible teams:

    England (4-2-1-3): Hart; Johnson, Cahill, Jagielka, Baines; Gerrard, Henderson; Sterling; Lallana, Sturridge, Rooney.
    Out: Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee)

    Italy (4-4-2): Buffon; Abate, Bonucci, Bonucci, Chiellini; De Rossi, Candreva, Pirlo, Marchisio; Balotelli, Cassano.
    Out: De Sciglio (calf)

    Referee: Bjorn Kuipers (Holland)

    SOURCE: Reuters


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