Italy are much stronger than England, says Diamanti

The Bologna man believes his country are far superior to the English on the pitch, and hailed team-mate Andrea Pirlo as the best player in the world

Italy forward Alessandro Diamanti has begun the mind games ahead of the Azzurri's Euro 2012 quarter-final meeting with England, insisting the Three Lions are considerably inferior to Cesare Prandelli's team.

Diamanti admits that there is a much better aura surrounding the English game than the various controversies often associated with Italian football, but he is certain the Nazionale are comfortable favourites in terms of playing ability.

"Perhaps in terms of the things that surround football like stadiums and fans' behaviour, they [the English] are 30 years ahead of us, but when it comes to the pitch, we are much stronger and play more beautiful football," he said at a press conference.

"However, even if history says that we are much stronger than them, it doesn't count for anything in these types of games.

"I have only watched England's game against Ukraine and they are strong side, with great champions.

"It's going to be a big battle, we respect them but we have no fear."

A big part of the purported superiority is Juventus' Andrea Pirlo, who Diamanti claims is the best player in the world.

"I'm having a lot of fun and it's great to play alongside Pirlo," he added.

"The past couple of days have reconfirmed to me that Pirlo is the strongest player in the world."

The 29-year-old also admitted he hoped to get on the pitch on Sunday to have the opportunity to play against Scott Parker.

"I would really like to face and beat Parker, who was a team-mate of mine at West Ham," he continued.

"Parker is a top player, a great rival, but since I left [West Ham], I haven't spoken to him."

Diamanti played his first match for the Azzurri against Romania in 2010, but had to wait almost two years for his competitive bow, the win over Republic of Ireland in the final Group C match.

"I was very excited to make my debut against Ireland. Now I have a chance to play in a game that only a couple of years ago I could only dream of playing on the PlayStation.

"I never gave up hope and I've worked hard for it.

"I will do everything that I can to help my team progress to the next round."

The game in Kyiv kicks off at 20:45CET.