There is plenty of football history between Italy and England, but their clash at the 2014 World Cup on Sunday may be their most important meeting.
Italy and England are drawn alongside Uruguay and Costa Rica in Group D of the FIFA World Cup, which is easily one of the most difficult groups in the tournament, and a loss for either side would be crushing to their chances of getting out of this tough group and into the knockout stages of the tournament.
The two sides played out a riveting stalemate in the quarter finals of the 2012 European Championships, with Italy prevailing in a penalty shootout, and this World Cup fixture has the potential to be just as exciting a clash.
This game should be one of the most exciting of the 2014 World Cup fixture taking place this weekend and leading online bookmaker Ladbrokes Australia are offering a wide range of betting markets on the key contest.
How They Will Play
Italy have played a more positive style of football than they are historically known for since Cesare Prandelli took over from Marcello Lippi at the end of the 2010 World Cup and it would not be a surprise to see them come out fairly aggressive against England at Arena Amazonia on Sunday morning.
Prandelli is expected to go with a 4-3-2-1 formation and it will be Italian playmaker Andrea Pirlo who will be the key man for Italy in yet another major tournament. Pirlo will make sure that Italy hold on to possession as much as possible just as he did in their previous meeting with England. The veteran’s combination with Mario Balotelli was key to Italy’s success in the 2012 European Championship and the enigmatic striker will be the central figure for Italy in attack; with Lorenzo Insigne and Claudio Marchisio supporting on the wings.
Defense has long been a strength of Italian football and this side is no different; with Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini as solid as a rock in the centre of defense. Right back Ignazio Abate will look to get forward when given an opportunity, but if Italy manage to score an early goal it would not surprise to see Prandelli bring on another central defender and change the formation to 5-4-1.
Key Player – Andrea Pirlo
Andrea Pirlo has been the heart and soul of the Italian side for a number of years and at the age of 35 he holds the key to their chances in their opening fixture against England. Pirlo controlled the 2012 European Championships clash between these two sides and he remains in that sort of form; with the veteran recently named 2013/2014 Serie A Player Of The Year.
How They Will Play
Sides managed by Roy Hodgson are not known for their creative and attacking flair, but the veteran manager has balanced defense and attack fairly well since taking over as coach of the English National side. Hodgson is not scared of changing his formation in the middle of a match and he could make a number of chances once he sees how Prandelli has set up the Italian side.
Hodgson will set up England in either a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 formation and the forward line will likely feature Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge up front with the inconsistent Wayne Rooney tucked in just behind. Rooney has failed to fire in his previous two World Cup appearances and he will be looking to get his campaign off to a strong start. Steven Gerrard will likely play in the quasy holding midfield role that he filled for Liverpool this season, which will give midfield partner Jack Wilshere the opportunity to get forward as often as possible.
The English defensive line is solid without being spectacular, but this World Cup England has the benefit of a solid goalkeeper in Joe Hart. Gary Cahill, Phil Jones and Phil Jagielka are all solid in the middle of defense and both Glen Johnson and Leighton Baines offer the side another attacking option from the back. If England go down an early goal, expect Johnson and Baines to be given free range to push forward and push the issue on the Italians who may go into their shells.
Key Player – Wayne Rooney
Wayne Rooney is yet to score a World Cup goal and is going to need to fire if England are going to get out of this tough group. The 28-year-old was inconsistent throughout Manchester United’s Premier League campaign and is carrying a niggling injury, but will be keen to return to prominence on the world stage.
This is a very key clash for both sides and a loss would put both teams at serious risk of not making it out of the pool. Because of this a low scoring draw is the most likely outcome, but if one team is able to steal a win it would likely be the Italians
Italy vs England World Cup Betting Plays
Bookmakers look to have got the market just about right for this clash, with Italy priced at $2.63 and England at $2.80 with Ladbrokes.com.au, but the draw looks good value at a quote of $2.88.
Other betting markets worth considering is the $6 on offer for a 1-1 draw and the $6 available for an 1-0 Italy victory.
World Cup Betting Promotions
Leading online bookmaker Ladbrokes.com.au are offering special markets on a number of games during the 2014 World Cup, which offer punters plenty of value. Mario Balotelli to score at any time and Italy to win the game is great value at $5, while the same offer is available for English striker Wayne Rooney.