2014 World Cup – Group D
England vs Italy
Arena Amazonia – Manaus, Brazil
Saturday, June 14, 2014, 6:00 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN, Univision
Money Line: Italy +195 / England +180 / Draw +190
Point Line: England Pick -115 / Italy Pick Even
Total: over 2 -110 / under 2 -110
All odds courtesy of Bookmaker
While there are some great matches scheduled in Manaus in the 2014 World Cup, the focus has been more on the shape of the pitch. Manaus is remotely located in the heart of the Amazon basin and the grass on the pitch is patchy and really just dirt in some places. Much like the NFL’s Chicago Bears and Washington Redskins do to their fields when they get in bad shape, officials in Manaus are painting the pitch green to mask the brown spots.
England and Italy will be the first two teams to test out this pitch Saturday night in a key Group D contest. Throw in the fact that it will be very steamy in the Amazon rain forest, the potential exists for serious injury and/or illness. U.S. soccer fans should pay attention to this match as the Americans will play Portugal here next Sunday.
Italy is already battling injuries to key players, most notably legendary keeper Gianluigi Buffon. The 36 year old Buffon will miss the match against England with an ankle injury that was more severe than first thought. Back-up Salvatore Sirigu will start despite battling a bruised rib of his own. The only other option in goal is untested 21 year old Mattia Perin. Buffon has 140 caps for the national team compared to eight for Sirigu. Expected starters left-back Mattia De Sciglio and central midfielder Riccardo Montolivo will also miss the match with injuries. England is relatively healthy, with the exception of forward Danny Welbeck who is doubtful with a thigh injury. Little used midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will miss the match for England.
Italy leads the series against England 10-8-6, and has gone 6-2-3 in the last 11 games against England. They met twice in 2012 but hadn’t played since 2002 before then. Italy beat England on penalties in the quarterfinals of Euro 2012, and England won 2-1 in a friendly later that summer. Remarkably, this will only be the second meeting in the World Cup between these football powerhouses. Italy beat England 2-1 in the 1990 third place match in Italy.
Italy is making their 18th appearance in the World Cup and has won it 4 times the last in 2006. Italy looks to rebound from a lousy performance in the 2010 World Cup where they didn’t win a game and were eliminated in the group stage.
Italy is #9 in the FIFA World Rankings. Italy easily won their UEFA qualifying group with 22 points, six points clear of Denmark. The Italians went 6-0-4 and outscored their opponents 19-9. Italy is coached by Cesare Prandelli who took over the team after the 2010 World Cup.
Italy hasn’t been great in friendlies leading up to the Cup with 5 draws and a 1-0 loss to defending champion Spain in early March. Italy had a 1-1 draw with lightly regarded Luxembourg 10 days ago in the last tune-up for the Azzuri before the World Cup.
England is making their 14th appearance in the World Cup. They won it in 1966, but have only made the semifinals once in 1990 since then. England lost to Germany 4-1 in the round of 16 in 2010.
England is #10 in the FIFA rankings. The Three Lions won their qualifying group with a 6-0-4 record and outscored their opponents 31-4 in qualifying. Still, they only won their group by a single point over Ukraine, and England avoided the two leg playoff to get into the Cup. England is coached by veteran Roy Hodgson who has coached 16 different teams in 8 different countries in his long career.
England has gone 2-2-2 in their last 6 friendlies leading up to the Cup. England had draws against fellow World Cup qualifiers Ecuador 2-2 and Honduras 0-0 last Saturday in their last two games.
Italy will use a 4-1-4-1 formation against England. Montolivo is a great striker and Italy will miss his play making ability. Italy will depend on the volatile Mario Balotelli to lead the scoring, but he will have help from the ageless creative genius Andrea Pirlo, plus Daniele De Rossi, Marco Verratti, and Antonio Candreva. Ciro Immobile could provide a nice spark off the bench, and some Italian fans are calling for him to start over Balotelli.
England will use a 4-2-3-1 formation. Forward Wayne Rooney has struggled with fitness recently and some are calling for him to be benched. That is very unlikely to happen barring injury. Daniel Sturridge is only 24 but is already a great striker. Raheem Sterling, only 19, will likely start in place of Welbeck. Another youngster, 20 year old Ross Barkley had a great showing against Ecuador, and he could provide a late spark off the bench should England need it. Steven Gerrard has long been a fixture for England at defensive midfield. Keeper Joe Hart is very good.
Playing in such extreme heat will test the fitness of both sides. Besides Welbeck, England is in much better shape injury wise. Still, I think this game ends in a 1-1 draw.
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