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.