Euro 2012: QF4 Preview: England vs Italy


Kiev, Jun 23: Two European giants England and Italy will clash in their first competitive fixture after 15 years in the last quarter-final match of Euro 2012 on Sunday at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev.

Roy Hodgson's England enter the last eight with a poor record against the Azzurri, winning just one game in last five encounters. The Three Lions last beat Italy in a warm-up match prior to the World Cup in 1998.

England should consider themselves lucky to have topped Group D after France slipped in their last Group clash against Sweden. England began their Euro 2012 campaign with a nervous 1-1 draw against the Les Bleus. Sweden came back twice to deny Andy Carroll's opener and Theo Walcott's impressive goal but England found the winner through Danny Welbeck. Co-hosts Ukraine looked bright but the return of Wayne Rooney brought further luck as he headed in from close range while Marko Devic's equaliser was disallowed.

Euro 2012: QF4 Preview: England vs Italy

Italy on the other hand, had difficulties facing Croatia who managed to comeback and settle the score at 1-1. The Azzurri ended second in Group C after another draw against holders Spain in the opening game before finally winning 2-0 against the Republic of Ireland.

Cesar Prandelli's side have shown a spark of improvement since their miserable run at the 2010 World Cup, failing to defend their 2006 crown as they struggled against the likes of Paraguay, Slovakia and New Zealand.

Both sides have similar approach to the game with slow build-ups as the ball remains inside their own half for huge portions of the match. But both teams have equal and efficient players to make it an exciting encounter. Players like Steven Gerrard and Andrea Pirlo have been in fine form providing goal-scoring opportunities with curling crosses or defence-spliting through balls.

Cesar Prandelli's side face a major set-back in the back-line as Giorgio Chiellini suffered a left thigh injury during their 2-0 victory over the Irish. Chiellini's Jeventus teammate Leonardo Bonucci is likely to replace him in the heart of their defence.

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney, who scored the winner to push England into last-eight, is definite to start against the Azzurri but Hodgson will have to rethink his tactics whether to choose Carroll or Welbeck.

Wingers Ashley Young and James Milner are yet to shine in the tournament while Walcott and his Arsenal teammate Alex Oxlade-Chamberlian may be given the nod to fire-up pace on both flanks. But Hodgson is likely to stick to his cautious approach against a very experienced Italians

Controversy kid Mario Balotelli will be itching to fire against his club teammates Joe Hart, Joleon Lescott and James Milner. The Manchester City striker will be keen to get past Lescott after scoring a stunning goal against Ireland.

Apart from Balotelli, Prandelli has the option of Antonio Cassano and Antonio Di Natale upfront. Italy are like to place four in defence while make-shift defender Daniele De Rossi is set to play in midfield.

As both teams are known to have a strong defensive set-up, a penalty shoot-out looms large over this epic clash.

Probable Line-ups:

England: Hart-Johnson, Terry, Lescott, Cole-Milner, Gerrard, Parker, Young-Rooney, Welbeck.

Italy: Buffon-Abate, Barzagli, Bonucci, Balzaretti-De Rossi, Pirlo, Marchisio
Montolivo-Balotelli, Cassano.

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