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Match Previews

World Cup Preview: England v Italy

13 June 2014

Roy Hodgson's England get their World Cup campaign under way when they face Italy on Saturday 14th June in Manaus.

Both England and Italy will be expecting to advance from Group D - one of the toughest of the eight groups in round one.

Four years ago, in South Africa, the Three Lions managed to progress into the second round by finishing second in their group with five points. Italy, though, had a nightmare. The Azzurri drew with New Zealand and Paraguay before a 3-2 loss to Slovakia completed a limp defence of their 2006 crown, exiting the tournament after just three matches.

England team news

Question marks have been raised over the fitness of Danny Welbeck after the Manchester United forward missed Wednesday's training session. The 23-year-old reportedly felt his right thigh the day before but his club and country team-mate Wayne Rooney said he expected Welbeck to be fit.

Rooney told the Telegraph: "Danny will be fine, I'm sure he will train Friday and be ready for Saturday. He's just not risked anything in training."

With England's defence and central midfield more-or-less decided, the main selection dilemmas are in the wide midfield and forward positions.

Daniel Sturridge looks set to lead the line and, with Welbeck missing, Raheem Sterling had the chance in the number 10 role in training, although Rooney is the most likely player to fill that position against the Azzurri.

Adam Lallana is the other player in contention so, should Welbeck be fit, it will be between those two and Rooney and Sterling for the three attacking midfield positions, behind Sturridge.

There's also Ross Barkley to consider but we expect him to be used as an impact substitute, particularly with the weather conditions and the state of the pitch at the Amazonia Arena, which is our next topic.

Watch out for...

The weather and the pitch.

Much of the pre-tournament talk was about the heat and humidity in Manaus, which is located in the middle of the Amazon rainforest, and whether the players will be able to cope with it.

The pitch at the 39,118-capacity Amazonia Arena has also been a hot topic in the days leading up to the match. Carlos Botella, head groundsman for the Royal Verd company which is responsible for the playing surface at Manaus and six other World Cup stadiums, told the Association Press that the pitch is in "bad shape" and won't improve by the time kick-off comes around.

Head-to-Head

England and Italy's footballing history goes all the way back to 1933 and Saturday's clash in Manaus will be their 25th meeting, but only their second at a World Cup finals after the pair clashed in the third-place match at Italia '90 when the hosts won 2-1.

The two teams met in the last major tournament - the 2012 European Championships - and it was Italy who prevailed 4-2 on penalties after a goalless draw in Kiev.

The Azzurri were the better side over the 120 minutes but Roy Hodgson's team was built on resilience and organisation, and they kept the Italians at bay, forcing the match to penalties, which again proved to be England's downfall. Their shoot-out record at major tournaments now stands at six defeats and one win from seven.

The most recent meeting between the two was in August 2012 when England triumphed 2-1 at Wembley with Phil Jagielka and Jermain Defoe overturning Daniele De Rossi's opener. That result ended the Three Lions' four-game winless stretch against Italy.

The head-to-head record currently stands at nine wins for Italy and eight for England, alongside seven draws.

Click here to read our England World Cup media talk


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