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World Cup Finals 2014
Match of the Day Live: England v Italy
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If they didn’t before, there’s no doubt that the Italians know about Daniel Sturridge now. He’s that valuable thing, a striker who can score all types of goals and even come up with a “worldy” when it’s needed. Something special, something out of the ordinary.
Despite what happened against Ecuador, I’d really like Raheem Sterling to start – although I’m not sure whether Roy Hodgson will do it. Pace scares the opposition to death. It gives England a different dimension, the chance to threaten in behind and create extra space for midfielders – Adam Lallana on the left, Sterling on the right, Wayne Rooney in the middle behind Sturridge. It’s an attacking force with balance, an ability to keep the ball and, yes, pace.
Whether that line-up has any ball to play with is another matter. In midfielder Andrea Pirlo, Italy have an exceptional player with a fantastic ability to control the game. You fully expect him to do that in Manaus, where heat and humidity count and players can’t run round him. Behind him, they’re very strong, with the likes of defenders Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, Ignazio Abate and of course goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon with over 140 caps: an unbelievable international record.
I would take 0–0 all day long (and I’m sure Roy Hodgson would too). Don’t get beaten in your opening game. It sounds dull, but it’s a great place to start from.
England v Italy (Kick-off 11.00pm). Coverage as Roy Hodgson's men get their World Cup Group D campaign under way at the Arena Amazonia in Manaus, Brazil. The sides also met in the quarter-finals of Euro 2012, when the Italians were largely dominant throughout, but the match ended 0-0, with the Azzurri progressing on penalties. The teams faced each other again two months later in a friendly, when England prevailed 2-1, but both sides were far from full-strength. Since that contest, England have qualified for this tournament in a competent, if unspectacular manner, winning six and drawing four of their 10 fixtures to finish one point clear of Ukraine at the top of the table. Meanwhile, Italy also earned six victories and four draws from their qualifiers, but they finished ahead of nearest challengers Denmark by six points. Both teams' qualifying campaigns will give them hope of improving on poor showings at the 2010 World Cup. England were thrashed 4-1 by Germany in the last 16, while the Italians failed dismally in their defence of the trophy, going out at the group stage without a win. Presented by Gary Lineker, with commentary by Guy Mowbray and Phil Neville.
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