Steven Gerrard has praised Italy’s midfield for their “superb technique” and believes the quarter-final with England could be decided there.
“I think Andrea Pirlo is a world class player and has proved for many years he’s one of the best midfielders out there. He’s a player we will have to control tomorrow night,” said the Liverpool man in the Press conference.
“This game is certainly not about me and Pirlo or Wayne Rooney against Mario Balotelli. It’s England against Italy and in my view it’s 50-50.”
Daniele De Rossi and Claudio Marchisio both said they were looking forward to facing ‘idol’ Gerrard on Sunday.
“I’m very flattered and humbled to receive compliments from those players and the feeling from myself is mutual respect.
“De Rossi is a fantastic midfielder who can see a long pass, create goals and score important goals. Marchisio runs into the box a bit more.
“Both are threats tomorrow night and it’s important for myself and Scott Parker to control the middle of the park, because Italy have three players with superb technique there and if we let them take control then we’re in trouble.
“Balotelli is an excellent player, a very dangerous player and we’ll take extra care if we face him tomorrow.
“We watch him week in, week out getting goals and assists, so we know his qualities. Some of our players know him very well and we hope to keep him quiet tomorrow.”
Gerrard also took time to praise England goalkeeper Joe Hart.
“I think we’ve got one of the best goalkeepers in the world and eventually he’ll go on to become the best in the world.
“So far in the tournament his performances have been fantastic and he could be one of our most important players tomorrow, whether in normal, extra time or even penalties.
“The level of the squad so far in the tournament has given me belief. The reason we went out in previous tournaments has been the level of performance was not up to it and this time we’ve improved as the tournament has gone on.
“Our players are well aware of how big the game is and what’s required. The confidence and belief is there, so it’s important all the players seize this opportunity. From experience I can say they don’t come along often.
“We can show the critics that we are good enough at this level.”