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England vs Italy: The Key [United] Battles

Date: 23rd June 2012 at 2:09 pm
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England were so dominant Ash & Dan had time for a quick game of slapsies

England were so dominant Ash & Dan had time for a quick game of slapsies

In case you’ve been sleeping in a cave somewhere over the past few days, you’ll no doubt be aware that the English national football team is contesting a match against the Italian one this Sunday. The tournament that started with everyone seemingly declaring ‘England have no chance’ has still pretty much continued in that vein although one or two are now proclaiming we can actually make the semis- before the inevitable defeat to Germany.

Wayne Rooney’s goalscoring return to the England side has galvanised not just the team but the entire nation with Danny Welbeck now also showing his club form on the international stage. Ashley Young has put his opening two below par performances behind him with a decent showing against Ukraine, making the United trio seemingly fundamental to a quarter final victory.

If England are to prevail on Sunday, here’s three key battles that should prove vital to victory:

Wayne Rooney vs Daniele De Rossi
Many pundits predict that De Rossi who is a natural midfielder will be deployed at the centre of the Italian defence as he was against Spain in the opening game. Although De Rossi has since been moved back into midfield the injury to Giorgio Chiellini means the Roma man could start in the centre of a three man defence. With Wayne Rooney likely to be the deeper of the two England strikers it would seem natural that De Rossi – a defensive midfielder -would be tasked with the job of keeping him under wraps.

De Rossi is a truly magnificent footballer who reads the game well, is strong in the tackle and has the sort of passes in his arsenal which on his day make him comparable to Paul Scholes. Almost. Rooney could actually relish a tussle with De Rossi as neither of them are afraid of the physical aspect of the game and sometimes playing against the best can bring out the best in a player. If England are to have any hopes of actually winning the competition then we need Rooney to be on top form and this will give the United man the perfect test to show whether he’s up to the task.

I can see Rooney dropping even deeper than usual and dragging De Rossi with him for a battle that could well decide the outcome of the game.

Danny Welbeck vs Gianluigi Buffon
This may seem like a strange choice for a head to head type battle, after all it’s arguably one of the defenders such as Andrea Barzagli or Leonardo Bonucci who could partner De Rossi as part of a three man defence who’ll give Welbeck the biggest test. Make no bones about it though, Welbeck is a striker who despite having a ‘decent’ rather than ‘amazing’ goalscoring record for both club and country, does have an eye for goal. His finish against Sweden was an example of how the Mancunian is maturing into a player who’s becoming more and more of a threat with each passing game.

Italy’s ‘keeper is arguably the best in the world -ignore all this Joe Hart sycophancy by the English press-and while the defence may give Welbeck a lot to think about, it’s Buffon who’s going to have the biggest say on the scoreline. The 34 year-old has enjoyed a stellar season with ‘The Old Lady’ conceding just 16 goals in 35 games, so any notion that his abilities may be waning with age, are simply over-optimistic drivel.

Welbeck may find chances scarce against one of the most famous defensive sides in football, but whateveropportunities he does get will need to be taken with aplomb to beat such a legendary keeper. Regular readers of this site will know how much I rate Manchester’s sole Euro 2012 representative, and it will come as no surprise to them that I can see Welbeck grabbing a goal.

Ashley Young vs Leonardo Bonucci
Despite Federico Balzaretti and Ignazio Abate operating as full backs in a flat back four against Ireland, as previously stated I’ve got a sneaky feeling Prandelli may revert to the system he deployed against Spain. If the Italian coach decides to go with three at the back then I can see Bonucci having to deal with more than just Rooney and Welbeck. Young likes to cut in from the left and Bonucci will be the player from the Italian defence most likely asked to handle him.

Bonucci is a typically assured Italian defender who mixes composure with the neccesary agression with great results. Young will need to show us the kind of display he gave against Ukraine, rather than the lacklustre ones we witnessed versus France and Sweden.

My main fear with Young is that if he finds the going tough early on- and doesn’t get any protection from the referee- he may go missing. It’s essential that the United winger keeps pressurising the Italian defence and looks for Ashley Cole on the overlap who could find get some joy down the flank, should Prandelli bring the beatable Christian Maggio back in as a wing back.

Do you agree with my assesments/predictions or have I got it all completely wrong? These are the key battles that matter in my opinion our friends at Samsung want to know: what it is about football matters most to you? If you tell them they may shower prizes on you… check out their website and let them know BECAUSE IT MATTERS.

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