Ex-Manchester United ace laments Three Lions' shortcomings and says their reliance on 'huffing and puffing' will be exposed in the quarter-final against Cesare Prandelli's side
By Rob Stewart
Former England international Paul Parker believes that Italy will blow his country’s Euro 2012 dreams off course in Kiev on Sunday night because Roy Hodgson’s side “rely on huffing and puffing”.
Parker, who helped England reach the World Cup semi-finals in 1990, does not think Roy Hodgson’s team have what it takes to win their quarter-final against the Azzurri.
“I am going to be perfectly honest and say that the Italians are going to win 1-0,” the ex-Manchester United defender told Goal.com.
“I can’t go out and say England will win [just] because I am English. Sometimes you have to be realistic and look at it and wonder how long England can keep going like this.
“Ukraine out-passed us and had a perfectly good goal disallowed and if they had had a fit [Andriy] Shevchenko starting I think England would have lost.
“Everyone saw the threat they posed when they went forward and the way England got cut open and kept coming up with last-ditch defending, and you can’t keep relying on that.
“Chelsea won the Champions League like that but they had a bit more quality than England have got, because when they got in the final third they could make things happen, whereas England rely on huffing and puffing.
“They hope they can get into wide areas, hoping they can get into areas where they get a foul and they can get the ball in the box to test the goalkeeper. But Italy have a top, top keeper who can command his box so that will make the job more difficult for England, who will have to really work hard to get the ball in there.”
While Parker feels the Three Lions have been far from eye-catching during their Euro 2012 campaign, he believes their manager's hands are tied.
“Roy Hodgson is having to play a system which suits what he has got, but if he was to have a Spain, Italy, Croatia, Portugal or Germany he would know that he could play a more expansive type of football,” he added.
“But with England he can’t play that way because his squad is not good enough individually to keep the ball long enough. He knows that the players are not technically good enough or even brave enough to keep hold of the ball which is why he is playing the way he is in the hope that the team can nick something.
“The goal against Ukraine was lucky because it was a cross that took a double deflection and fooled a poor goalkeeper - who looked like what he was, and that was a third-choice - and in the end it helped Wayne Rooney, who was showing that he was lacking match practice but still scored thanks to a goalkeeper who did not look like a proper goalkeeper.”
In contrast, Parker has been impressed with the style of play that has taken Italy into the quarter-finals. He said: “We have not been past the quarter-finals stage outside England, but people are already getting carried away thinking we are going to beat Italy, because we never saw them as a threat; but we are seeing a different Italy at Euro 2012 who are more exciting and showing more ambition in the final third.
“It will be very difficult for England to get past Italy. The Italians have changed their style in the sense that they are nowhere near as negative as they used to be.
“I expected them to be less positive but it would seem that the rise of Juventus this season has made a difference to the national side.
"They have lost their key centre-back (Giorgio Chielllini) but the side are on such a high and want to fight back against adversity because of what has been happening in their league again this season, they have a point that they want to prove.
“If you think back to the last time they were battling back against adversity they went and won the World Cup in 1982 and 2006. They are in that position again this time around."