England will take on Euro 2012 runners-up Italy in what will be one of the most eagerly anticipated games in the first round of the 2014 World Cup.
Interestingly, both teams met at the quarter-final stage in the last Euros, a game which ended in a 0-0 draw, with Italy winning on penalty kicks. And deservedly so too, as they were the better team for the majority of regular play and extra time. But if history between these two teams is anything to go by, this first encounter will be a tightly contested one.
Italy has won only 10 of the 24 World Cup matches played against England, and England has won only 8 of those matches, but a lot of those wins were friendlies, with testing players and tactics more important than the result itself.
England are third favourites to make it through the group stages by the online bookmakers, behind Italy and Uruguay, but it’s one of the toughest groups, and it will no doubt be a close fight for that second spot in group D. This first game is crucial for both teams and neither will be playing for a draw.
Even though their recent 1-1 draw in a friendly against Luxembourg, a team ranked 112th, was certainly a very disappointing result for the Italians. It is not the first time they have been disappointing in games during the lead up to a major tournament. The Azzurri lost 3-0 to Russia in their last game before Euro 2012 and went on to make the final, beating Germany in the semi-final.
The game is expected to be played in hot conditions and the possession game is going to be important. The saying you can’t win the game in the first half, but you can lose a game in the first half holds true, and the first half will probably be close.
Italian midfield maestro Andrea Pirlo will make life difficult for England he dominated their last encounter at the Euros, and Mario Balotelli who emerged as a true star in that tournament, will be a huge attacking threat. William Hill are offering 9/2 on a draw/Italy result in the half time/full time betting market, which seems a good bet.
Check out the very latest Betting Offers for the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil.