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World Cup

  • June 14, 2014
  • • 23:00
  • • Arena Amazônia, Manaus, Amazonas
  • Referee: B. Kuipers
  • • Attendance: 39800

England - Italy Preview: Three Lions after revenge for Euro 2012 exit

Raheem Sterling's expected inclusion in Roy Hodgson's line-up is likely to open up the game in the Amazon jungle of Manaus

By Sammy Lee in Manaus

For the many anticipating a slow, cautious opening to the World Cup for England and Italy in the much-discussed humidity of the Amazon jungle, a careless error by Gary Neville on Wednesday will come as a breath of fresh air.

It was expected that the essence of the Three Lions’ gameplan would be to shackle Andrea Pirlo, with perhaps James Milner deployed in a midfield role, to prevent the Juventus metronome from dictating the game from the heart of midfield.

With Italy’s reputation as slow starters (they have won just one of their opening games in their last five major tournaments), the fact they have drawn more than any other country, and with a defeat far more damaging than a stalemate to start the tournament, it was hardly a recipe for all-action football.

But England coach Neville’s notes hint at a fast-paced approach to the game. Should that philosophy transpire, it will almost certainly mean a starting berth for Raheem Sterling and the prospect of a more open game with some goals.

Roy Hodgson had moved to play down the influence of Ross Barkley following an impressive showing against Ecuador last week, but he had no qualms hailing Sterling’s performances in training. The Liverpool tyro was unable to play against Honduras in the final warm-up friendly due to suspension, but it seems likely he will get the nod in Manaus and add some pacey exuberance to England attacks.

Calls for Wayne Rooney to be dropped will surely come to nothing, so either Danny Welbeck or Adam Lallana will make way for Sterling, with the Manchester United man struggling with a thigh injury.

Barkley, just 20, will surely have to make do with a place on the bench, but could make a real impact in the final 20 minutes to take the game to the Azzurri.

Italy’s line-up has looked pretty settled until recently, but injury to Riccardo Montolivo, the country’s only genuine No.10, has created issues throughout the midfield and attack regarding the balance of the team.

Mario Balotelli will be central to his nation’s hopes this summer but there have been calls for Ciro Immobile to start following an impressive season with Torino which has echoed the form of Toto Schillaci ahead of Italia 90.

More likely is that Daniele De Rossi will play at the base of the midfield for the four-time World Cup winners, with Pirlo slightly more advanced alongside Marco Verratti, with Antonio Candreva, impressive at the Confederations Cup last year, coming in on the right.

Players to watch

R. Sterling

Position: Midfielder

Games: 3

  • 0
  • 1
  • 0
If the Liverpool man starts, he will be key to England’s hopes of victory, and possibly to the way the game itself is played out. He was a driving force for the Reds in the closing stages of the season and Roy Hodgson appears to have faith that he can be a major weapon on the world stage at the age of just 19.

A. Pirlo

Position: Midfielder

Games: 3

  • 0
  • 0
  • 0
Andrea Pirlo, at the age of 35, has been there and done it so many times he doesn’t even bother with the t-shirt these days. He will be charged with controlling the game for Italy, but following a long-haul flight just 24 hours earlier, and with ageing legs, his powers will be tested to their limits in the humid Amazon conditions.

Editor's Prediction

I was confident of a drab goalless draw until it appeared that Raheem Sterling would play, but the Liverpool winger will open the game up. Unfortunately for Roy Hodgson, I think that will create space for the Italians to exploit and they should create plenty of chances, especially given Glen Johnson’s poor performances at right-back for the national side.

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