Roy Hodgson says that England will deal with the threat posed by Andrea Pirlo and Italy by playing better than they did during their Euro 2012 meeting.
In the quarter-finals of the European Championships two years ago, the Azzurri defeated the Three Lions on penalties after a 120 minutes that may have ended goalless, but was dominated in possession by Italy and their main midfield man.
Ahead of this Saturday’s Group D opener in the 2014 World Cup, the reunion between the sides presents England and their Coach with an opportunity to improve upon that previous showing.
“How are we going to stop Pirlo? What we’re going to do first of all is we’re going to play better against Italy this time than we did in Euro 2012,” Hodgson has promised media this week from England’s training camp in Rio de Janeiro.
“Of course, against a tiring team and a team that was playing with Pirlo, he had a very, very good game because he’s a very, very good player.
“What are we going to do this time against Pirlo? First, we’ll play with more energy because we’ll have more energy because it will be the first game in the tournament.
“We’ll be even more compact than we were in that game.
“We’re going to make certain also that Italy have a lot more concern themselves with our attacking play, because one of the problems we had in that game is that we weren’t functioning well as an attacking unit.
“So Italy had too much of the ball and we were doing too much defending.
“One of our plans this time is to make certain we do a lot more attacking and that Italy find themselves wondering what they’re going to do about people like Steven Gerrard or Wayne Rooney.”
The former Inter and Udinese Coach was asked for his opinion on the Azzurri’s Mario Balotelli.
“It interests me when I’m preparing the team and we’re discussing his qualities and what problems we might face with him and with him in the Italian team.
“Really, Balotelli as a player and as a person, it’s purely a question to put to the Italy coach. How do you get on with him? How do you use him? I saw him on TV and the occasional game for Man City.
“I’ve not worked with him. I’m not in a position to make any judgement, other than to say the obvious one: He’s a very dangerous player with great qualities, and whenever he plays he will pose problems the opposition will have to deal with.”