Bookiepromotions.com editors believe this really isn’t a game which the Three Lions can afford to lose, not with the difficult challenge of Uruguay still come. It is a three horse race in Group D for the two qualifying spots and this is such a high pressured opener. Italy have been holding the upper hand in the outright match odds, but England have closed the gap, the closer that kick off has approached.
Italy are currently on a seven match international streak without having posted a win (D6 L1) and that should give England’s enterprising young attack plenty of heart. But England themselves misfired badly in their final warm up match against Honduras, Daniel Sturridge guilty of being very wasteful. Hopefully that is just him getting his misses out of his system and he is still better value in the anytime goalscorer market against Italy than fellow striker Wayne Rooney with his miserable World Cup record, is.
So will England’s pace and strength in just running at sides be enough to take down the Italians in Manaus of Saturday? Whether their attack can convert chances and whether or not their defence is strong enough to stand up to the Italian threat are the two big questions here. England do look a little flawed in both departments and that is why Italy, who look a far more composed side, have held on favouritism. But they aren’t anything to be feared.
Cesare Prandelli’s men will probably control most of the possession, with the maestro Andrea Pirlo pulling all of the string from deep in midfield. He dominated England the last time that they met, which was at Euro 2012, and he is the one to watch. Biut Italy, who do play quite a positive game, have other match winners in the form of Ciro Immobile and Mario Balotelli up top. No, results haven’t been going their way, embarrassed in a recent 1-1 draw with Luxembourg, but they are not to be counted out.
They have tremendous pedigree and a strong starting eleven. However, the Italians are not a quick side, nor are they packed with depth, and that is where England could hurt them. Italy have scored in each of their last 14 group stage World Cup matches, but have drawn the last three 1-1. No-one has taken more drawn matches in World Cup matches than Italy have and no-one has taken more 0-0 draws in World Cup matches than England have.
Would the sides be happy with parity at the end of the day? Probably. Defeat could be hugely costly here. 11 of England’s 14 defeats in matches at the World Cup finals have been by a single goal margin, and with just two of the Three Lions’ group stage matches having gone over 2.5 goals, then expect this one to follow its billing and be very tight.