Italy scouting report: The inside track on England’s first opponents

The Rio Report

As you may have heard, England kick off their World Cup campaign with a Saturday night showdown against Italy in Manaus.

We've all read about Danny Welbeck's fitness and heard pub bores debate whether Wayne Rooney should start - but what of the team Roy Hodgson's men will face in the Amazonian jungle?

We asked Eurosport Italy's Daniele Fantini to give us the inside track on how preparations have gone for Cesare Prandelli's side, and what England can expect in their first group game.

FORM

Italy’s form is a little bit worrying: our last win was on September 10 (2-1 vs Czech Republic), then we had six draws (some of them against minnows like Armenia and Luxembourg) and one loss (in a friendly against Spain). We won last Sunday in a friendly against Fluminense in Brazil, but, obviously, it’s not a national team…

TACTICS

Italy’s going to use a 4-3-2-1 formation: Antonio Candreva and Claudio Marchisio will play behind Mario Balotelli, the lone striker. Daniele De Rossi, Andrea Pirlo and Marco Verratti will be the three midfielders.

INJURIES

We’re quite okay. Verratti has recovered from a problem, Andrea Barzagli is not at his best but he’s expected to play. Maybe Gabriel Paletta is struggling a little bit, but it’s not serious.

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STYLE

Our strength is clearly in the middle of the pitch, even if Riccardo Montolivo is injured and did not travel to Brazil. We’re going to try to take care of the ball and have a lot of possession, like Spain, hoping that Balotelli could make a big impact. We’re a little worried about our defence: in our recent matches we conceded too many goals.

KEY MEN

The old guard (Gigi Buffon, Pirlo, De Rossi) and, obviously – and maybe unfortunately – Balotelli. And you should know why…

COACH

Cesare Prandelli is a very calm person, with great style. He’s a hard worker, very concentrated on his job, and he has done a great job of re-building the team after the South Africa 2010 disaster. He focused on creating a new playing style, based on ball possession and quality in the middle of the pitch, and even if Italy are not going to score many goals, we will surely be a difficult team to play against. He has been criticised for the lack of results recently, but he always answers with poise and takes responsibility.

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