Preview: The last quarter final of the tournament kicks off tonight between England and Italy. One of these two will meet Germany in the semi final in a few days time. Both teams had forgettable tournaments two years ago in South Africa. Both have done some rebuilding during these two years. Italy changed their playing style from a defensive, counter attacking unit to a more dynamic and fluid pressing team. England meanwhile, adopted the approach that became synonymous with the Italians. England now deploys an old fashioned 4-4-2 formation. They lay deep inside their half and look for goals on counter and set pieces. England have gone beyond their own expectations so far by topping the group. They did themselves a massive favor as they avoided Spain with that. Beat Italy tonight and they will face Germany in the semi finals next. Few of us thought that this scenario could be possible with the sort of turmoil England football was in just a few months ago. Scandals, controversies, sackings, new appointments etc. These are all issues that Italians are not unfamiliar to. And just like the Italians did in 2006, England seem to find a sense of togetherness in difficult circumstances. And much like Italy ’06 England have gradually grown into the competition and look hard to beat. A few questions remain unanswered at the moment for both teams. Team selection and formation; two of the most important aspects of a manager’s job, will be vital for both teams. Big question for Italy is whether enigma number 1, Balotelli gets a start or not. Everyone knows how volatile a character he can be. He can blow over any moment in the game and get sent off. He can also produce a bit of magic from a small opportunity like he did for his goal against Ireland. Prandelli has been cautious with his use of Mario and he may not get a start tonight after all. Another question is what formation the Italians will choose. Italians have been using Juventus’ blue print of 3-5-2 in which they have looked impressive in parts. However, maintaining the energy level for a full 90 minutes under that formation has been difficult for the Italians. With Chiellini’s absence, Prandelli might go back to 4 defenders at the back. For England it is a little more straight-forward in the formation department. Only question for them is whether to start with Theo Walcott instead of Milner.
The only injury is for Italian defender Chiellini who misses out. Both teams can choose from their best set of players other than that. Caroll or Welbeck will partner Rooney up front for England; while Balotelli or Di Natale will partner Cassano up front for Italy. De Rossi might be playing in the midfield if Italy play 4 at the back. Montolivo also made a case for his inclusion in the last game and may start as the trequartista.
Key Battle: Gerard vs Pirlo
Both these players are experienced internationals and have plenty of honors to their names. Their playing style is slight different but both have the ability to dictate play from the centre of the park. Both have also been the best players in their respective teams in this tournament so far. Though Gerard hasn’t got the goal so far, he has led his team well. This will be a top contest between two great players.
Prediction: Italy 0 – 0 England (Italy to win on penalties)
This will be a very cagey affair. Both teams play compact football, even though Italians are a little more fluid going forward. England have some very experienced defenders and a great goal keepers. This looks like a lockdown in the midfield and it will probably go to extra time. Buffon’s experience will come in handy at penalty shoot-out; hence, I tip the Italians to take it.
- Italy are undefeated in their last 16 matches in EURO
- England are undefeated in their last 11 matches in EURO
- There have been under 2.5 goals scored in 6 of Italy’s last 7 games in EURO
- Euro 2012 analysis: England and Italy set for tight contest (bbc.co.uk)
- Why Mario Balotelli Is the Key to Italy’s Euro 2012 Chances (bleacherreport.com)
- England vs Italy – The Key Battles That Matter For Hodgson (footballfancast.com)
- England, Italy primed for rare clash – Yahoo! Eurosport UK (uk.eurosport.yahoo.com)