24 June 2012

England and Italy Set For Scrappy Battle

On a great day for the English nation in 1966 Bobby Moore lifted the Jules Rimet trophy after a momentous 4-2 win over West Germany in extra-time. However since then England are yet to reach a major final in 46 years of pain and misery. England have had high hopes many times before; in 1970 England were favourites for the World Cup but lost a 2-0 advantage to West Germany in the quarter-final. The amount of tight defeats since then have been endless. From dropping out of the World Cup in 1982 unbeaten to the endless penalty shoot-out defeats of the last 22 years the Three Lions have continued to fail time and time again. 

This year it seems that the English public have finally given up and expectations have been unusually low this summer. With a new manager and an injury-prone squad no one thought Roy Hodgson's men had a prayer in this tournament. But since then England have shown great resolve and grit to progress through a tough group on top. Today they face a much harder task in a determined Italy team hoping to also prove their doubters wrong. Italy have many world class players and will provide a very close examination of England's apparently water-tight defence. Despite this England have had five different goal-scorers in the group stages and will definitely create some dangerous moments for the Rossoneri on the counter-attack. 

Italian manager Cesare Prandelli will be aware that the opposition will be hard to break down but will still hesitate to start with enigmatic striker Mario Balotelli. Despite undoubtedly being their main goal threat his temper poses a very different problem for the opposition. His countless discipline problems have caused a headache for his manager who is likely to leave him on the bench again tonight. Prandelli does have other attacking options in Antonio di Natale and Antonio Cassano who have both scored so far this tournament. Despite this the game will probably be won and lost in midfield where the Italians will probably have an extra man as England are likely to play a 4-4-2 system. Scott Parker and captain Steven Gerrard will have their work cut out as they try to stop the creative influence of players like Juventus veteran Andrea Pirlo. These two English bulldogs are sure to hassle and hurry him to a point of no return and Pirlo can struggle when constantly put under pressure.

England have goal threats of their own in the shape of Manchester United strike pairing Danny Welbeck and Wayne Rooney who scored 47 goals between them for their club last season. Add the likes of Ashley Young, James Milner and the attacking threats from Gerrard and right-back Glen Johnson and this shows a definite capability of scoring goals. There is also the threat on the bench of big Liverpool striker Andy Carroll and the Arsenal youngsters Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who both have plenty of pace to burn.

Tonight  is sure to be a tightly-fought contest between two similarly set up sides. Roy Hodgson spent much of his management career in Italy and usually sets up his teams to play in an Italian style. It could well happen that the two sides cancel each other out and extra-time and penalties is a very big possibility. However the game pans out this will be a massive occasion for both nations as they attempt to prove critics wrong. 


  1. Jed - some comments:

    1970 - England lose 3-2 to Germany after being 2-0 up with 20 mins to play. In fact, the game went to extra time at 2-2 and Hurst had a goal disallowed for no reason which would have made it 3-2...

    I take issue with the comment that no one expected England to do anything - broadly the expectation was that England 'should' be able to get out their group, but would trail France. Their over-achievement has been to top the group.

    It is a lazy analysis to say Italy & England play in a similar way.

    From a defensive line both teams will defend deep, but in terms of when the teams have possession, Italy play a short passing game designed to release players to run at the defence and shoot from distance.

    England by contrast look to release players to cross the ball from wide areas, usually playing quite directly with 30-40 yard passes, with overlapping fullbacks supporting wingers.

    When you analyze where both sides win free kicks you will see this, England end up with the majority of FKs in wide areas, Whilst for Italy they tend to be much more central.

    Just some thoughts for you.

  2. Sorry I just missed out the word 2-0 'advantage' haha.
    I also think that although England like to get the ball out wide they have actually not managed to do so as much as they have wanted to so far this tournament. I think England might get so caught up in stopping Italy's midfield it could end up as a scrappy midfield battle as England struggle to get the ball to Young and Milner.

  3. Your comment on BBCfootball that the Italians don't know how to defend against Carroll is frankly laughable.

    So i'm guessing you just forgot about Ibrahimovic then?

    Also, Rooney not fit, Ashley Young has been poor, Milner is in no way 'an attacking threat' and Gerrard is not the attacking player he once was.

  4. England have a very good chance to win. Carroll would definitely prove a handful, especially with Chiellini not playing. And Milner is perfectly capable of creating something, he does have an attacking threat; hescores a goal every 10 games

  5. ...and that observation from the match commentator says it all "...from what Germany would have seen tonight they won't be worried about facing either of these two teams".

    Probably the most boring game so far at the Euro's... wait, can Italy make something of this freekick?... No.

  6. I agree with you. Although I can't resist saying that it has been 'a scrappy battle'. England have been very lucky so far, the Italians look decent; but not as as good as the Germans.

  7. And England's achilles strikes again! I think England should have whole training camps just dedicated to taking spot kicks :)

    It was definitely scrappy from what I saw (only started watching from the 69th min), can't blame Hodgeson - he'll be looking to build from here.

  8. Yes Hodgson has done a great job but I just think that England will never have the bottle or class to win on penalties. I think Germany should be able to beat Italy in the semi-final