Quarterfinals Pt 4. England V Italy
“A game of Chess is like a sword fight….you must think first”*
The final quarters conflict takes place at The Olympic Stadium on Sunday night and out of the four match-ups, this one is definitely the hardest to call. I fancied Portugal & Germany in the first 2 games and pulled both of them for a change and at the time of writing, fully expect the Spanish to out-play the French but I just can’t call the cracker in Kiev, nor can i guess what the tactics will be for either side. For Roy Hodgson & Cesare Prandelli, it will be like a Game of Chess, they must think first…before they move (As an old Shaolin saying goes).
The Azzuri started the tournament with De Rossi switching from his usual midfield role to the middle of a back 3 in a sort of swarthy sweeper role. The Italians will be toying with what our starting attacking options are and maybe we will see them use both that and a back four in the game. Them missing arguably their best defender in Chiellini will also have our Roy thinking about getting more balls into the danger area where the Italians may be a bit weak rather than soaking up Italian attacks for 90 minutes. I’d deffo have Andy Carroll on the pitch at some stage for at least half hour, there is nothing the Serie A defenders hate more than a big target man. We should be a threat at set-pieces and I think the game may be decided this way, three headed goals from long balls (all from our own Shaolin Master Gerrard incidentally) will have Buffon & co worried. A worry for us is the Pirlo playmaking machine. He has shone in this tournament and his passing of the ball is as good as anyone in the competition. We have to close him down along with Motta & Marchisio, the midfield is now Italy’s strongest weapon and Parker and Gerrard will have to run their nuts off to control them. I believe we will see our wingers and Wayne doing more of this well, more like a 5 man midfield.
Then we have the dangermen up front. Cassano should start but will it be with barmy Ballotelli or Di Natale? We all know about the City superstar and he can turn a game on it’s head with a bit of Balo brilliance but can he be trusted? His childish rant after scoring against the Paddys and the sight of Bonucci buttoning Balotelli’s cake hole wouldn’t have pleased Prandelli one bit. With the excellent Di Nat matching him in the goal stakes and against superior opposition, I think mad Mario might start on the bench and be bought on if the Azurri go searching for a goal in the 2nd half. At least we have defender who knows him inside out, Lescott has been one of best players in the tournament and should have enough to keep him quite and we have JT to wind him up. You never know, Roy may play Jones in front of the back four to do a marking job on Pirlo and retreating as a back 3 if our full backs run on , like Italy do with 3 defenders. As I said, it’s such a hard one to call. Look at Germany last night, they started the game with 3 changes from the previous line-ups. Maybe Roy has a similar ace up his sleeve. Walcott and Young are apparently both fit and the Azzurri will definitely be worried about our pace running at their full-backs, especially with The Ox on stand-by too and rusty Rooney a being a few touches better in behind Welbeck or Carroll. Personally, I think I would start with the Ox on the right, he does his fair bit of tackling back and could come further in field if need be to help out. As much as I love Parker, him and Milner have run so hard in the last few games that I think they are tiring and could maybe do with just one half and I’ve have Theo on super sub duties when the teams are starting to slow down.
I’m praying for a win obviously but can actually see it being a low scoring draw as it is so tight with both team cancelling each other out. If it goes to penalties, for once I actually believe we have a chance. The atmosphere around the squad under Roy’s guidance is probably the most positive since WC 2002 under Sven. They seem to have a belief that has been missing over the past decade. We also have a great shot stopper in Joe Hart who is confidence personified, from what I have seen of him lately on the pitch & on the mike after, he is definitely future England Captain material. Let’s hope he can get a 100% Shaddup You Face shut out and possibly a trophy before he gets the armband. Go on you Lions!!!
* Shao Lin yu Wu Dang (1983) / Da Mystery Of Chessboxin – Wu Tang Clan (1993)
** Shaddup You Face – Joe Dolce (1981)