Similar styles offer explosive match

England face Italy in last quarters

England and Italy, two teams packed with experience but spiced by youth and some volatility, meet in Kiev on Sunday in probably the most intriguing of the Euro 2012 quarterfinal ties. 

England will rely on Wayne Rooney (left) upfront and on John Terry to ward off Italians on Sunday. AFP

Both teams, enjoying unbeaten runs lasting 11 and 13 ties respectively, are built on defence and counter-attack. 

Both use flexible versions of 4-4-2 and have thoughtful and pragmatic managers in Roy Hodgson and Cesare Prandelli. 

For England, where the Premier League has ushered in a financial boom, cosmopolitan coaching and many world class players, it is a chance to prove their game has progressed since they lost 2-1 to Italy at Leeds, in March, 2002. Italian coaches have heavily influenced the English domestic boom. Men like Gianluca Vialli, Carlo Ancelotti and Roberto Di Matteo at Chelsea and Manchester City’s Roberto Mancini have stamped their style on their teams and have been successful, with Di Matteo winning the Champions League and Mancini the Premier League title in 2012. 

Yet, as English football has embraced the Italian way, Italy has moved in the other direction, seeking to instill more dynamic and open attacking play into a tradition of slow, defensive asphyxiation. 

This sense of flux will be embodied on Sunday by teams with sound defences and outstanding goalkeepers -- a relative newcomer for England in Joe Hart, 25, and a seasoned veteran for Italy in Gianluigi Buffon, 34, set to make his 118th international appearance. 

Both teams also have Manchester-based potential firecrackers in Wayne Rooney, of United, who came back from suspension to score England’s winner against Ukraine. and Mario Balotelli, of City, who scored as a substitute against Ireland. 

Rooney’s return has added threat to England’s attack without disturbing a smothering system that has earned Hodgson -- whose peripatetic career has included two spells at Inter Milan -- the soubriquet ‘the English Italian’, after he was praised as ‘intelligent, clever, experienced and cunning’ by Mancini in La Gazzetta dello Sport. Prandelli, like Hodgson, has kept his cards close to his chest on whether he will retain the 4-3-1-2 system used to defeat Ireland or revert to a three-man defence adopted in the previous group games. 

He must also decide whether to continue with Antonio Di Natale as the main striker or recall Balotelli to face his club-mates Joleon Lescott and Hart. Midfielder Thiago Motta is a slight doubt with a hamstring strain. 

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