The final quarter final of Euro 2012 sees two sides unbeaten in the group stages face each other in the cauldron of Kiev’s Olympic Stadium. England were efficient if unspectacular in securing their progress from Group D, with their style of play under manager Roy Hodgson earning them criticism and praise in equal measure from across Europe.
Two victories over Sweden and co-hosts Ukraine followed a draw with France for the Three Lions, while the Italians were solid if unspectacular in earning two consecutive 1-1 draws against Spain and Croatia before a 2-0 victory over the Republic of Ireland.
Cesare Prandelli’s men finished second in Group C behind the Spanish, and despite the absence of defender Giorgio Chiellini due to a thigh injury, they will be hopeful of making progress into a semi-final with Germany.
Who to watch out for
For England, goalkeeper Joe Hart will be absolutely crucial to their success, especially if the game goes into extra time and into a penalty shootout. Hart has looked solid in the tournament so far, and will be hopeful of delivering for his country in this high-pressure game.
Captain Steven Gerrard will play a crucial role in England’s midfield, having already earned three assists in the group stage thanks to his superb crossing and set piece play. Scott Parker will be alongside him in the centre of the park, and will be the key man in helping the Three Lions defence keep the Italians at bay. Up front, Wayne Rooney will be hopeful of making an impact having served his two-game suspension and celebrated his return with a goal against Ukraine.
Meanwhile, the Italians have a world-class goalkeeper of their own in Gianluigi Buffon, who continues to play at a very high standard at the age of 34 years old. He will be the rock on which Italy will look to build, and if he performs well, England will have a difficult task in front of goal.
In the centre of their midfield, Andrea Pirlo will be key in orchestrating Italy’s attacking play and set pieces, and he will be aided and abetted by the superb defensive capabilities of Daniele De Rossi. Up front, all eyes will be on the mercurial Mario Balotelli, even if as expected he is only on the bench at the start of the game. He is a potential match winner, along with fellow strikers Antonio Cassano and Antonio Di Natale.
England: Hart; Johnson, Terry, Lescott, Cole; Milner, Gerrard, Parker, Young; Rooney, Welbeck
Italy: Buffon, Balzaretti, Abate, Barzagli, Bonucci, Marchisio, De Rossi, Montolivo, Pirlo, Balotelli, Cassano
This game promises to be a tight encounter dominated by both sides’ high class midfields. Both were unbeaten in the group stage, and despite neither playing a particularly exciting brand of football they managed to keep getting the right results.
These two teams are very difficult to separate, and the result could hinge on one moment of magic from either side, as their defences will be so hard to break down. In terms of the result, if England score first, they will win, but if the game goes to extra time or even the dreaded penalty shootout, the Italians could sneak the victory themselves.
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