England v Italy: Group D World Cup 2014

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England v Italy tonight as the 3 Lions kick off their Group D campaign in which could be a classic of free flowing football according to manager Roy Hodgson….

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The coach said he was surprised by the 5-1 hammering the Netherlands dealt defending champions Spain last night.

“I think the start of the tournament will hopefully be the continuation as well. We’ve seen attacking football, we haven’t seen one team defending for all it’s worth … we’ve seen both teams going at each other, we always try to play that way. I don’t think over the years there’s been a (time) where England teams go out to keep a clean sheet and not attack … and certainly on this stage we’d be even less inclined to do it.”

England are sporting many younger players than the squad that struggled into the second round in the 2010 World Cup before being thumped 4-1 by Germany.

Daniel Sturridge looks set to play alone up front supported by a trio of Wayne Rooney and Adam Lallana and one of either Danny Welbeck or Raheem Sterling, who was sent off in a friendly against Ecuador in Miami earlier this month.

“I think it’s important we keep all our men on the pitch,” team captain Steven Gerrard told the news conference, in a sign Sterling will start on the bench.

Given the ferocious heat and humidity in Manaus, Hodgson may decide not to play veteran Frank Lampard in midfield with Gerrard. Instead, he could opt for the younger Jordan Henderson, Gerrard’s team mate at Liverpool.

Ross Barkley, who was electric as a substitute in England’s second Miami warm-up against Honduras, is expected to come off the bench as an impact player.

Gerrard said England’s game plan was to “defend very well and make it really difficult for Italy to play through us and try and limit them to very few chances on goal and then try to be brave and bold and attack.”

Italy depend heavily on 35-year-old midfielder Andrea Pirlo, who could well struggle in the oppressive conditions against younger and more energetic opponents.

“I think we’re going to be fine, we’re going to be able to cope,” said Gerrard, predicting the pitch conditions in Manaus would be “quick and zippy”.

Hodgson bristled when asked about his game plan over the last few weeks, replying that the team had been trying to play the same way for two years.

Yet he conceded that planning could only go so far. “If you’d have said to me after I’d watched the first half of Spain against Holland that the game would end 5-1, I might have been tempted to laugh in your face. But it did end 5-1 and that’s what football is,” he said.


What Roy Hodgson, his staff and players already know is that they cannot allow the Azzurri to dictate the pattern of play like they did in their Euro 2012 quarter-final two years ago if they are to avoid wilting in the Brazilian sun.

Pass master Andrea Pirlo, now 35, made more passes than the entire England midfield that night and covered more kilometres than any English player. Italy enjoyed 64{70aeb3532cb26dbe277d25ea128ebb74de84b9bd22e1583b0eb1b73768e061f6} of the possession in Kiev as they knocked England out on penalties.

Keeping the ball and conserving energy are simply imperative this time around, with only five days recovery until the Three Lions meet Uruguay.

Hodgson has selected a squad built on pace, energy and youthful attacking flair. Only six of England’s 2010 World Cup squad and 11 of their Euro 2012 party remain.

“When we get the ball we are going to go for it, we are going to attack,” Hodgson has said. “But we are also going to make it clear to them that they can’t go gung-ho at any time.”

The class of 2014 are England’s second-youngest World Cup squad in history, behind the squad of 1958 squad – which was one of just two occasions the Three Lions have failed to make it out of the group stage.

The other, of course, was 1950, the only previous time the World Cup was played in Brazil.

Hodgson has been bold in his squad selection, he is now left to dream like all other England fans that fortune does indeed favour the brave.


  • England have only won two of their last 11 internationals against Italy (D3 L6), losing to them on penalties in the quarter-finals of Euro 2012.
  • The one previous World Cup meeting between these two former winners came in the third place play-off in 1990; Italy won 2-1.
  • England have only lost two of their last 16 World Cup games (W7 D7, including two penalty shoot-out defeats).
  • Excluding shootouts, England have scored all eight World Cup penalties.
  • Frank Lampard has had more shots without scoring than any other player at World Cups since 1966 (39 shots, no goals).
  • Wayne Rooney has not scored a goal in 594 minutes of World Cup football for the Three Lions.
  • England talisman Rooney has scored in all six competitive games since Euro 2012, however (seven goals).
  • Italy have scored in each of their last 14 games at the World Cup, the longest current run. The last time they failed to score was on 3 July 1998 against France.
  • Seven of Italy’s last 17 goals at the World Cup have been scored from corners (41{70aeb3532cb26dbe277d25ea128ebb74de84b9bd22e1583b0eb1b73768e061f6}).
  • Italy have conceded 14 goals from outside the box at the World Cup, more than any other team since 1966.


  • England have only lost two of their last 16 World Cup games (W7, D7), excluding penalty shoot-outs.
  • Wayne Rooney, England’s top scorer in qualifying with seven goals, is yet to score in a World Cup finals. This will be his ninth appearance.
  • Leighton Baines provided three assists during qualifying, more than any other England player.
  • England have lost only one of 15 matches played overseas under Hodgson (W6, D8).
  • Eighteen-year-old Luke Shaw is the second-youngest player at the World Cup behind Cameroon’s Fabrice Olinga.


  • Italy emerged unbeaten in World Cup qualifying for the fourth time in their last five attempts.
  • Only Brazil (20) have appeared in more World Cups than Italy and Germany (both 18).
  • The Azzurri have scored in each of their last 14 games at the World Cup, the best current run of any team. The last time they failed to score was in the quarter-finals against France in 1998.
  • Italy have conceded 14 goals from outside the penalty area at the World Cup, more than any other nation since 1966.

Suggested Bets…..

England generally start tournaments well and have scored before they’ve conceded in their last ten major tournament appearances, however the lead rarely lasts throughout.

We go with a BTTS – yes on that front and predict a fast England start with a half-time lead – before Italy start to dominate the second half.

Substitutions will be key and perhaps Sterling will be introduced to run at the tiring Italians.

We’d love an England victory but history says the draw and the best value could be England to be ahead at half-time, but Italy to fight back for the draw?

Back England @ 6/1

Back BTTS – YES @ 8/11

Back England HT – Draw FT @ 16/1

Back Daniel Sturridge to score  at anytime @ 27/10

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