Preview: England Vrs Italy

Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon (ankle) has indicated he is unlikely to play.

On Saturday, Buffon, who would be replaced by Salvatore Sirigu, tweeted: “There are many ways to be important, even if you can’t be a protagonist on the pitch. So go Salvatore.”

However, Italy coach Cesare Prandelli said: “We’ll wait until the last minute hoping he can recover.”

England’s Danny Welbeck has been passed fit having overcome an ankle injury.

But the game comes too early for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain as he recovers from a recent knee injury.

Italy may play with three centre-backs after full-back Mattia De Sciglio was ruled out with a thigh strain. MATCH PREVIEW

England’s Brazilian World Cup adventure starts against the same opposition that ended their hopes at the last major tournament, Cesare Prandelli’s Italy.

It is now 27 weeks since the World Cup draw was made, that’s six months to prepare for the hothouse of Manaus, the humid and stifling Amazonian rainforest city where England’s quadrennial quest for World Cup glory begins.

What Roy Hodgson, his staff and players already know is that they cannot allow the Azzurri to dictate the pattern of play like they did in their Euro 2012 quarter-final two years ago if they are to avoid wilting in the Brazilian sun.

Pass master Andrea Pirlo, now 35, made more passes than the entire England midfield that night and covered more kilometres than any English player. Italy enjoyed 64% of the possession in Kiev as they knocked England out on penalties. Keeping the ball and conserving energy are simply imperative this time around, with only five days recovery until the Three Lions meet Uruguay.

Hodgson has selected a squad built on pace, energy and youthful attacking flair. Only six of England’s 2010 World Cup squad and 11 of their Euro 2012 party remain.

“When we get the ball we are going to go for it, we are going to attack,” Hodgson has said. “But we are also going to make it clear to them that they can’t go gung-ho at any time.”

The class of 2014 are England’s second-youngest World Cup squad in history,  behind the squad of 1958 squad – which was one of just two occasions the Three Lions have failed to make it out of the group stage. The other, of course, was 1950, the only previous time the World Cup was played in Brazil.

Hodgson believes his team is in perfect shape for their opening World Cup game: “We are physically fit, mentally fit and we are tactically prepared,” he said.

“That is all you can ever hope for. Now we are ready. Now we will play and let’s hope it goes our way.

“The players will go into the game knowing what they have got to do. I know they will feel well prepared and are looking forward to the game. Bring the game on.”

Italy manager Prandelli wants his side to cope with the challenging conditions in Manaus by controlling possession.

He said: “Controlling the midfield will be the key. I am looking for 90 minutes of intelligent football played at a steady pace because nothing less will do against such a strong rival.” MATCH FACTS

The only previous World Cup meeting between these two nations came in the third-place play-off in 1990 when Italy won 2-1.

England have only won two of their last 11 internationals against Italy, losing six plus the penalty shootout defeat at Euro 2012.

Roy Hodgson’s side won 2-1 when the sides last met, in a friendly in Switzerland in August 2012.

England have only lost two of their last 16 World Cup games (W7, D7), excluding penalty shoot-outs.

Wayne Rooney, England’s top scorer in qualifying with seven goals, is yet to score in a World Cup finals. This will be his ninth appearance.

Leighton Baines provided three assists during qualifying, more than any other England player.

England have lost only one of 15 matches played overseas under Hodgson (W6, D8).

Eighteen-year-old Luke Shaw is the second-youngest player at the World Cup behind Cameroon’s Fabrice Olinga.

Italy emerged unbeaten in World Cup qualifying for the fourth time in their last five attempts.

Only Brazil (20) have appeared in more World Cups than Italy and Germany (both 18).

The Azzurri have scored in each of their last 14 games at the World Cup, the best current run of any team. The last time they failed to score was in the quarter-finals against France in 1998.

Italy have conceded 14 goals from outside the penalty area at the World Cup, more than any other nation since 1966.

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