What words best describe England? Elusive and frustrating would perhaps be a good start. England are a team that promise so much but deliver so little, and yet expectations have never been so low going into a World Cup Finals.
It remains to be seen whether England can rise to the challenge – in a way, England may enjoy going into a tournament regarded as the underdogs because it gives them the freedom to play with nothing to lose. But can or should England play at high intensity in such blistering heat with such young inexperienced players? Objectively, England fans would consider it an amazing achievement if England made it to the Quarter- Finals.
England’s mixed brand of tenacity and possession football will do them well against the Italians, Uruguayans and Costa Ricans. England’s main threat definitely comes from midfield, as Gerrard can create a quick counter attack out of nothing, and what will be important is whether England can attack in numbers leaving gaps for Gerrard to thread passes through to Sturridge and Rooney. However England must not sit back to much and show the desire to win the game – especially as they’re more physical and adept to working under pressure.
Being subjected to possession football will tire the England team in the heat; especially against Uruguay and Italy. England can’t go for more than 20 minutes without a ball at their feet especially as both teams play in similar conditions. The quality of teams in the competition will make the games more physically and mentally demanding.
Like England, Italy’s main threats lie in midfield. Pirlo and Marchisio have an array of passing and can hit a ball on a six pence for anyone. The strikers Balotelli and Immobile are also both fairly mobile and technical, and can score from anywhere.
Italy are masters of defensive possession football, however if you play in the same way against them they may find it hard to cope, especially in the heat.
Italy will not want to go through long periods of the game without the ball and are susceptible to counter attacks – as they play in a tight group of 3 in the midfield which, has little opportunity to move. What England should look to be doing is exploiting their wing backs by hitting them with pace and sending low balls in to Rooney or Sturridge.
England have to take care of Pirlo, keep tight on him and Marchisio, so that Italy’s crucial midfield pair have no room to operate – and shut down all avenues to hit through balls through to Balotelli or Immobile. Pass it round the tight group of three that they play because they are the engines of the team, without them we can break them down and hit Chiellini and Bonucci in numbers
My England Team to play Italy
Baines, Cahill, Jagielka, Johnson
Gerrard, Wilshere, Lallana, Oxlade Chamberlain/ Sterling