England Chasing Upset

Image courtesy of www1.skysports.com
Veteran Wayne Rooney is a key for England. Image courtesy of www1.skysports.com

England Flag

England v Italy

Amazonia Arena, Manaus
Sunday June 15 – 8:00 AM (AEST)

Italy Flag

The English have a reputation to underperform on the game’s big stage and enter this World Cup with a lot less weight on their shoulders than in recent tournaments. The lack of expectation may work into the Three Lion’s favour and despite the anticipation of failing to qualify through to the group stages, they are certainly capable of doing so. The first obstacle for Roy Hodgson is to get a result out of the match against Italy, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be a win. Hodgson will know how imperative it is not to lose the opening match, because if they do it will be a monumental mountain to climb. They may have to do it though without Manchester United striker Danny Welbeck, who is in minor doubt after injuring his thigh at training. It is expected he will play though, but if he misses out, he would join another influential attacker in Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the sidelines. He's out with a knee injury sustained in England’s friendly against Ecuador.

Italy have been there done that, in terms of winning the competition, and there’s no reason why they can’t do it again. The 2006 champions boast a talented squad, headed by veteran midfielder Andrea Pirlo. The 35- year-old may be drawing closer to the end of his career, but he proves time and time again to be as the most influential player in the national squad. The Azzuri cannot be underestimated in this tournament and they continue to play at their best in major competitions. Their latest high achievement was featuring in the 2012 European Championship final. Spearheaded by the controversial Mario Balotelli, and the relatively unknown Ciro Immobile, Italy have the firepower needed to go far in this competition and could spell havoc to the at-times fragile English defense.

This is shaping up to be one of the highlights of the opening matches. Both teams have strong claims to progress from their groups, but Italy seem the more likely. Roy Hodgson will mark this as the most important match of the group stage and although it’ll be a big ask for England to win, they might just do that with a draw also a real possibility.


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