5 Italians Who Could Trouble England At World Cup
Italy: 5 Players Who Could Trouble England at the World Cup
The draw for next summer’s World Cup has officially come and gone at long last, with Italy and England drawn together in Group D alongside Costa Rica and Uruguay.
Cesare Prandelli’s men face the task of capturing international football’s most prestigious prize for the second time in the last three editions of the tournament, determined to both vanquish painful memories of an early exit in South Africa in 2010 and recapture the spirit that saw a dramatic triumph come about four years earlier amidst the emergence of Calciopoli back on the domestic front.
The Azzurri’s journey in Brazil opens with a matchup opposite the Three Lions on June 14 in the blazing Amazon city of Manaus. The encounter should hold a great deal of promise, being a clash between two European heavyweights that could determine the trajectory of both nations involved.
Italy will be keen to repeat the success against England in the quarterfinals of the 2012 European Championship, when La Nazionale turned in a comprehensively dominant performance that eventually required a victorious penalty shootout to settle after the Three Lions somewhat miraculously managed to keep the match scoreless for 120 minutes.
A friendly just months later in August of the same year saw England run out 2-1 winners over an experimental Italy side that contained a slew of youngsters, but couldn’t change the fact that the Three Lions have never taken down the four-time world champions at a major competition.
And so with success in the group stage at stake off the bat when Prandelli’s charges line up to face Roy Hodgson’s outfit on June 14, following are five Italians who could trouble England.
5. Giorgio Chiellini
The Juventus center-back may not be of the same ilk of some of the illustrious defenders his homeland has produced in the past, but he’s a force of nature nonetheless and the undisputed leader of Italy’s back line.
Shutting down Wayne Rooney will be his main task in taking on England, with the 29-year-old well-equipped in having successfully faced top strikers on the big stage between Champions League experience and the Azzurri’s run to the final of Euro 2012.
4. Emanuele Giaccherini
Perpetually questioned for his inclusion in the Italy squad, the diminutive midfielder still always seems to find a way to silence his critics and make a healthy contribution with the faith of Prandelli behind him.
Having moved to Sunderland last summer from Juventus, he holds the advantage of having played against the majority of the current England squad before, a factor which can’t be discounted and one that could see him playing a distinct role in the opening encounter.
3. Mario Balotelli
A man who simply needs no introduction, Balotelli is a mercurial talent capable of both the brilliant and the maddening frustrating, yet he Italy’s most potent threat up front.
Like Giaccherini, he’s plied his trade in the Premier League, having spent 2.5 seasons in England with Manchester City. As a result, he has an excellent grasp of the Three Lions’ tendencies, while he’s before proven decisive against top opponents in international play, having fired the Azzurri to the Euro 2012 final via a brace against Germany.
2. Andrea Pirlo
The renowned regista turned in an absolute master class against England two summer ago, tearing apart the Three Lions with his typically precise long-range distribution and audaciously chipping Joe Hart in the penalty shootout to turn the tide.
His importance to Italy simply can’t be overstated despite his advancing years, and given the particular penchant he showed for torturing England in the most recent European Championship, his influence will once again be key if La Nazionale are to start out on the right foot in Brazil.
1. Lorenzo Insigne
His place in the Italy squad certainly isn’t confirmed, but given Prandelli’s willingness to integrate youth and Insigne's status as one of the Azzurri’s greatest young talents, it is highly probable that he’ll make the trip to South America.
A player of pace, trickery and superb technique, Insigne is largely an unknown quantity to the England staff and could leave his mark on the game coming off the bench against a tired opponent with an aging midfield core.