England v Italy – Opening Game Stalemate?
England v Italy
England and Italy face off in Manaus late Saturday night and both will be desperate not to lose. Can England get off to a flyer? Or will Cesare Prandelli’s me do a typical Italian Job?
England’s preparations for the World Cup have been far from ideal and even further from impressive. Their final warm-up match against Honduras was halted midway through the first half as thunderstorms passed through the area. Roy Hodgson’s men looked to be getting on top in the opening 20 minutes, but then never really got going again after the interruption and the match ended goalless.
Previously a 2-2 draw with Ecuador highlighted plenty of deficiencies in England’s defence, while the 3-0 scoreline against Peru somewhat hid the defensive problems exploited by the South Americans in that game.
On the plus side Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge and Rickie Lambert have all got on the scoresheet in the past couple of weeks. While there have been impressive cameo performances from youngsters Ross Barkley, Raheem Sterling and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Italy’s preparations have also been extremely poor; perhaps even more so than England’s. The Azzurri were held to a 1-1 draw by Luxembourg in their final warm-up friendly just last Wednesday, and drew 0-0 with a weak Republic of Ireland side a few days previously. Cesare Prandelli’s men have not won a match since securing qualification for Brazil 2014 back in September of last year in a run of six draws and one defeat.
The threat of the Italian’s coming good when it matters, however, is ever-present and the four-times World Cup winners simply cannot be underestimated
Barring any late injury scares both teams should be at full strength for their World Cup opener at the Arenena Pantanal in Cuiaba.
Chile rested many of their star performers including Sanchez – and the Juventus duo of Mauricio Isla and Arturo Vidal – to give a run out to some fringe squad members against Northern Ireland before they came off the bench in the second half but all are expected to figure from the outset here.
Head to Head
England won the most recent meeting between the two sides 2-1 when the two nations met for a friendly back in August 2012; Phil Jagielka and Jermain Defoe scoring England’s goals after Daniele De Rossi had given Italy the lead.
Italy, however, have the edge in competitive clashes. They won 4-2 on penalties – after a goalless 120 minutes – at Euro 2012, won 1-0 at Wembley and drew 0-0 in Italy in qualifying for France ’98 and of course came out on top when the sides met in the semi-finals of the 1990 World Cup.
A point would suit both sides in this opening game and with two naturally cautious teams we shouldn’t expect many goals.
There’s not much in it in the Match Odds betting, with England and the Draw both at 2/1 and Italy at a marginally shorter 9/5, and that mutually beneficial point looks to be the best bet.
A goalless draw is priced at odds of 5/1 and Under 2.5 goals is unbackable at a short 2/5. Both Teams To Score is also short at odds of 8/13, but it is worth a play on Under 1.5 goals at the 11/8 available.