Peter Galindo Date:14th June 2014 at 4:31pm
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England and Italy face off in Group D of the World Cup in a rematch of their Euro 2012 quarter-final when the Azzurri defeated The Three Lions 4-2 on penalties. Andrea Pirlo dictated the tempo from beginning to end in what was one of the most lopsided 0-0 draws in recent memory.

A little over two years into the Roy Hodgson era, it appears as if the former West Brom and Fulham coach is putting faith in youth to prepare for the 2018 tournament in Russia. Raheem Sterling, Luke Shaw, Ross Barkley, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (injured for the opener) will surely be integral to that squad, but as for right now, they could be key to progressing through the group stage in 2014.

Expose Italy’s defence on the counter

England may have their weaknesses, but speed isn’t one of them. The aforementioned youngsters along with players like Daniel Sturridge are lethal in transition. Considering Italy’s back line isn’t what it used to be, the English attackers have the ability to cause trouble in that area.

Giorgio Chiellini is the only world class defender that can play in any system. Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Gabriel Paletta are some of the best Serie A has to offer, but apart from Paletta at times, the Juventus duo have been exposed in a back four, which coach Cesare Prandelli will surely go with.

Whenever England get possession, they must utilize their pace and attack Italy as quickly as they can.

Andrea Pirlo ItalyWatch Andrea Pirlo like a hawk

Not only should England be wary of Andrea Pirlo, they better make sure he doesn’t get the space to operate like he did at Euro 2012. It’s easier said than done, but Wayne Rooney was a liability defensively as he was responsible for covering Pirlo but didn’t track back.

It seems as if Rooney is going to be deployed a little deeper again, but will have Jordan Henderson or someone else beside Steven Gerrard to help out. The defenders and wide players can handle Italy’s wingers and forwards, it’ll be down to the centre midfielders and Rooney to cover Pirlo. If not, expect a repeat of the European Championships.

Don’t be afraid to test the goalkeeper

News broke late Friday night that Gianluigi Buffon suffered a minor injury to his ankle. Prandelli claims that the Juventus stalwart is alright and that it’s just a small sprain. In case of emergency, PSG’s Salvatore Sirigu will get the nod.

Regardless of whoever starts in goal, England must not hold back on shooting. They only mustered six shots two years ago, one of which was on target. Now that there’s more of a youthful influence on the squad, it should be a much different story.

If Sirigu starts, it’ll be even more important. The 27-year-old has Champions League experience with the Parisians, but has just eight caps to his name, none of which have come in a competitive tournament. Nerves may play a factor early, so the English must make sure that the goalkeeper has a rocky beginning.

glen-johnson-v-chile.ashxFullbacks must be conservative

One of England’s biggest weaknesses is at fullback, at least defensively. Shaw and Leighton Baines are formidable defenders, but Glen Johnson has proven that he isn’t when he dons an international shirt. James Milner could start as the right back, but whoever is on the flanks, they have to make sure they track back fast.

England may have speed going forward, but England does as well and have several players capable of unlocking a defence with one quick through ball or long pass. The fullbacks could be the target for the Azzurri’s midfielders. If they’re in the proper position defensively and the attackers out wide help out, it shouldn’t be a problem.

Take advantage of set pieces

Italy are highly susceptible to set pieces, mainly corners. England have some height in almost every position, all of whom are strong in the air. Whenever The Three Lions can get an opportunity from a free kick, throw in, or anything of the sort, they have the ability of testing that Italian defence. It’s hurt them in previous tournaments, it could very well be the same again.