England vs. Italy in Kiev
How they got here: England won Group D, despite all the injuries and pressure. The 1-1 draw against France was useful because England beat Sweden 3-2 and Ukraine 1-0. Italy drew their first two matches by a score of 1-1 to Spain and Croatia. Italy finished second in Group C when they beat Ireland 2-0.
England player to watch: Wayne Rooney- England are a different side when Rooney is in the lineup. He scored the goal against Ukraine and he makes fellow strikers Danny Welbeck or Andy Carroll more effective. Italy is expected to be without Giorgio Chiellini so Rooney could play against a weaker Italian back line.
Italy player to watch: Andrea Pirlo- The creative playmaker will force England midfielders Steven Gerrard and Scott Parker to be more responsible defensively. This matchup in the center of the pitch could decide the outcome of the match.
England strategy: Some have said that this England team plays like Italy, and ironically even more Italian than the current Azzurri. England is a hard team to score on and make the most of chances in front of net. Instead of starting an offensive threat like Theo Walcott, England will play a safer option in James Milner who can back track on defense. That is the kind of game Roy Hodgson likes and if England wins, then fans won’t complain.
Italy strategy: Italy was terrific against Spain and really should’ve won against Croatia until they crumbled in the second half. Italy maybe played down to their competition against Ireland. The Italians will look to play very defensively without Chiellini, and hope Cassano and Balotelli can work well with Pirlo.
Prediction: England 1, Italy 0