Patrick Vieira gives his verdict on tomorrow’s England-Italy quarter-final and reveals he’s been in contact with Mario Balotelli.
The former Milan, Juventus and Inter midfielder is now a director at Manchester City and spoke to La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“I have heard from Balotelli two or three times recently, as we exchanged some text messages. I complimented him for the goal against Ireland and he seemed happy.
“It’s above all going to be a difficult game psychologically for Balotelli. If he stays calm and concentrated, then he can make the most of the fact he knows John Terry and Joleon Lescott well.
“Mario worked for the team against Spain, better than he usually does in Manchester, and above all did his duty off the ball. It’s what Roberto Mancini asks of him, though I don’t know if he has more faith or more patience with Mario...”
Germany and Portugal are already through to the Euro 2012 semi-finals, but either Italy or England will face Joachim Low’s side.
“This quarter-final is the most unpredictable. Germany and Spain are the favourites to reach the Final, but this will be a very balanced encounter and perhaps also the longest, as I wouldn’t rule out penalties,” continued Vieira.
“England are physically very strong and tactically have learned a great deal from Fabio Capello. Now they know how to be positioned on the field and that made Roy Hodgson’s very closed-up 4-4-2 easier to implement.
“They have Wayne Rooney, but above all Steven Gerrard. Anyone who wants to beat England has to stop him and he’s in great shape.”
Vieira admits he had little time for the Azzurri in the group phase against Spain, Croatia and the Republic of Ireland.
“I will confess, I thought they’d go out in the first round. Instead, I saw a real team that has the character and mentality to play together. That’s what you need for a tournament like this.
“You need mentality and also quality, though I never doubted the quality of players like Gigi Buffon, Andrea Pirlo, Daniele De Rossi and Balotelli.”