World Cup 2014 Group D preview: England v Italy
Italy are somehow 13/8 favourites with Coral to beat England, despite being on a winless run stretching seven matches. Cesare Prandelli just cannot help himself when it comes to tinkering tactically, but to no tangible reward in recent times.
Roy Hodgson’s Three Lions, who are unbeaten in four, thus look good value at 21/10 for victory against the 6/4 Group D favourites. There’s precious little in it in terms of head-to-heads, with the Azzurri winning nine and England eight.
A further seven encounters have been drawn, so that must be considered too at odds of 19/10, while a repeat of the goalless scoreline from the Euro 2012 quarter-final is 11/2. Punters should expect a close contest as three of the last four meetings have been decided by a single margin.
It is the penalty shoot-out exit at the last major tournament that leaps to mind for England fans ahead of this encounter. Thankfully, this group game does not need such a lethal lottery to settle it, but Italy retain a stronger flavour from that day with nine of the starting XI still on Prandelli’s roster.
Roy Hodgson, meanwhile, has retained just six players which started that Euro 2012 last eight encounter. His team selection, however, is far more predictable, with only a couple of positions yet to be nailed down.
Danny Welbeck or Raheem Sterling should start wide left, while there might be a place for James Milner in midfield, if Hodgson chooses to man-mark Azzurri playmaker Andrea Pirlo. Welbeck is a shorter price at 5/2 for a goal anytime, while teenager Sterling is 3/1 in that market.
Prandelli tried out three different formations in Italy’s final official World Cup warm-up friendly. The search for a winning formula eluded him, though, as his charges drew with Luxembourg. It is not worth the Three Lions’ time, or that of punters, trying to fathom what setup the Azzurri will start with.
What is of more interest are key players’ scoring odds. Pirlo, so dangerous from dead balls, is 5/2 for a goal anytime, and 5/1 favourite in the FIFA Man of the Match market. Combative midfielder Daniele De Rossi, meanwhile, netted against Hodgson’s side in their last meeting. A repeat performance from the Roma destroyer is 7/2 here.
Mario Balotelli adds that unpredictable X-factor, which is cause for concern, and England players have been candid about that in the build-up. He is 11/2 to net the opener, and 5/1 to be Group D’s top scorer.
The form of Borussia Dortmund-bound Ciro Immobile in an exhibition match against Brazilian club Fluminense will not have escaped Prandelli’s notice, or that of Hodgson either. He hit a hat-trick and a repeat feat is 33/1 here, but a more sensible 7/4 in the anytime scorer market.
After one clean sheet in eight, Italy’s defence may let them down again here. AC Milan full back Mattia De Sciglio has been ruled out with a thigh problem, so Giorgio Chiellini looks set to play on the left-hand side.
Four of the Three Lions’ last six goals have come from strikers, so punters will inevitably look to Wayne Rooney, yet to score at a World Cup finals; Daniel Sturridge and Rickie Lambert. Why not combine the England talisman breaking his duck on the global stage with victory, and be rewarded with enhanced odds of 11/2 (there is a maximum stake of £10 and available for a limited time only)!
Alternatively, back Sturridge to net against Italy, and Edinson Cavani of Uruguay to be on target against pool minnows Costa Rica, as a boosted 7/1 scoring double. Both of these bets are brilliant value because Rooney is 6/4, and the Liverpool frontman 7/4 in the anytime market.