2014 FIFA World Cup: England and Italy face tough test today
Manaus: Cloying humidity and a parched pitch will add to the sense of danger when England and Italy launch their World Cup campaigns in the steamy Amazon jungle city of Manaus today.
Joe Hart of England makes a save as Fraser Forster looks on during a training session. Pic/Getty Images.
With South American champions Uruguay also lurking in Group D, along with Costa Rica, both Roy Hodgson’s England and Cesare Prandelli’s Italy approach the game knowing they can scarcely afford to lose if they are to reach the last 16.
The rainforest humidity, which hovers at around 80 percent, is likely to weigh heavily on the tempo of the game and the two sides must also get to grips with a desiccated playing surface at the purpose-built Amazonia Arena.
Head groundsman Carlos Botella has admitted that the pitch is in “bad shape” and emergency work was required on Thursday to cover up its dry brown patches with green dye.
The teams last met in the quarter-finals of the 2012 European Championship in Kiev, when Italy prevailed on penalties after a 0-0 draw that they largely dominated.
Possession of the ball will be key amid the intense heat, but England striker Wayne Rooney is convinced that his side now possess the weapons to unsettle opponents of Italy’s calibre.
“We’ve got a lot of energy, a lot of pace in the team, and if we can pick the right moments, we can really hurt teams with the pace and tempo that we can hit them at,” he said. “But in international football, you can’t just go out there and attack, attack, attack. We have to be a bit cautious. “This is the top end of football and you might get picked off. We have to stick to our plans that we’ve worked on the last few weeks and pick the right moment.”
02: The number of times England have beaten Italy in their last 11 meetings
England vs Italy
England won: 8
Italy won: 9
Note: Head-to-head includes all international matches
Live tonight: England vs Italy on Sony Six and Sony Six HD, 03:30 (Sunday)
Matches Live on Sony Six and Sony Six HD