Youthful England vs seasoned Italians

Youthful England vs seasoned Italians

The tactical approaches of England and Italy's wily coaches Roy Hodgson and Cesare Prandelli will come under the microscope with the oppressive atmosphere of the Amazon rainforest providing the backdrop for a Group D clash on Saturday.

The contrasting qualities of youth and experience will compete to tame Manaus' punishing jungle humidity as a fresh-faced England, largely unburdened by past failures, play a wizened Italy, with a squad still imbued with their 2006 World Cup success.

England, whose qualifying campaign was underpinned by Hodgson's natural caution, look set to put their faith in a pack of attacking youngsters with only a handful of caps between them but with energy in abundance and plenty of hard running in the tank.

Italy, by contrast, still revolve around midfield metronome Andrea Pirlo, a veteran of their final victory over France eight years ago, to set the tempo for a possession game where the ball is jealously guarded and energy conserved rather than expended.

Pirlo is one of three current Italy players with World Cup winners' medals along with 36-year-old goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and 30-year-old midfielder Daniele De Rossi.

Italy's legacy of success, having reached the final in two of their last four major tournaments as well as a semifinal appearance at last year's Confederations Cup, contrasts strikingly with England's record of persistently flattering to deceive.

Yet one advantage of England's new-look side is there will be no hangover from 2010 where they exited the World Cup in a 4-1 last-16 defeat to Germany.

Captain Steven Gerrard, right back Glen Johnson and striker Wayne Rooney are the only likely starters on Saturday to have survived that dismal performance.

With Hodgson dropping hints that he could include Liverpool's 19-year-old trickster Raheem Sterling in a forward line that is set to feature relative international novices Daniel Sturridge and Adam Lallana, England are looking to the future rather than the past.

The fact that expectation levels are at a low ebb could also work in favour of a side that retains enormous attacking potential.

England lost to Italy on penalties in the quarterfinals of the European Championship two years ago and the Italians are strongly favoured to emerge from a tough group that also includes Uruguay and Costa Rica.

Perhaps the difference between England and Italy is that none of Hodgson's men could utter that prediction without it being greeted by laughter. 

Squads: Italy: 1. Gianluigi Buffon, 2. Mattia De Sciglio, 3. Giorgio Chiellini, 4. Matteo Darmian, 5. Thiago Motta, 6. Antonia Candreva, 7. Ignazio Abate, 8. Claudio Marchisio, 9. Mario Balotelli, 10. Antonio Cassano, 11. Alessio Cerci, 12. Salvatore Sirigu, 13. Mattia Perin, 14. Alberto Aquilani, 15. Andrea Barzagli, 16. Daniele De Rossi, 17. Ciro Immobile, 18. Marco Parolo, 19. Leonardo Bonucci, 20. Gabriel Paletta, 21. Andrea Pirlo, 22. Lorenzo Insigne, 23. Marco Veratti.

England: 1. Joe Hart, 2. Glen Johnson, 3. Leighton Baines, 4. Steven Gerrard, 5. Gary Cahill, 6. Phil Jagielka, 7. Jack Wilshere, 8. Frank Lampard, 9. Daniel Sturiddge, 10. Wayne Rooney, 11. Danny Welbeck, 12. Chris Smalling, 13. Ben Foster, 14. Jordan Henderson, 15. Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, 16. Phil Jones, 17. James Milner, 18. Rickie Lambert, 19. Raheem Sterlin, 20. Adam Lallana, 21. Ross Barkley, 22. Fraser Forster, 23. Luke Shaw.

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