England, Italy prepare for World Cup rumble
Posted under: 2014 FIFA World Cup, England, England News, Italy, Italy News, News
England and Italy were preparing for a heavyweight World Cup clash in the heart of the Amazon on Saturday as Spain struggled to come to terms with their record thrashing by the Netherlands.
Ever since last December’s draw, England’s collision with Italy in the steaming former colonial outpost of Manaus has loomed as one of the picks of the World Cup’s first round.
The Group D match is a repeat of the two teams’ quarter-final at Euro 2012, when Italy outplayed England before prevailing on penalties.
However England have rebuilt a new-look side in the years since that loss and manager Roy Hodgson has promised a bold approach against the Azzurri.
“We always look to be dominant,” Hodgson said on the eve of the game.
The playing surface at the Amazonia Arena had been the subject of concern in the days leading to the game, with the FIFPro players union leading criticism.
But both Hodgson and Italy counterpart Cesare Prandelli said they were happy with the pitch after training on it.
“We think it’s fine. It’s very flat. I don’t see any reason for any concern,” Hodgson said.
Prandelli was similarly nonplussed. “It’s not exceptional, but it’s good,” Prandelli said ahead of the game, which kicks off at 6pm local time 22:00.
Elsewhere in Group D on Saturday, Uruguay make their bow in the competition with a match against Costa Rica in Fortaleza.
In total four games are scheduled on a busy third day of action, with Colombia kicking Group C off against Greece in Belo Horizonte at 1pm (1600 GMT).
Japan and Ivory Coast will contest the final day of the game in the coastal city of Recife at 10pm (0100 GMT).
As the tournament got into full swing, the shockwaves from Spain’s record 5-1 defeat against the Netherlands continued to reverberate.
The loss — Spain’s heaviest for 51 years — was the worst ever suffered by the defending champions at a World Cup.
It has also left Spain fighting for their lives just to remain in the tournament as they prepare for a difficult test against Group B opponents Chile next week.
Spanish goalkeeper and captain Iker Casillas took the blame for what he called his worst night.
“I have to ask forgiveness for the match we played in general and me in particular,” he said. “I was not good enough.”
Spain’s newspapers on Saturday wailed with anguish after the loss, describing it as a “humiliation.”
Madrid sports daily Marca mourned “a historic catastrophe”, dubbing the Netherlands’ performance “a goal-scoring spree of Biblical proportions.”
“This is not just any old defeat. It is a historic disaster. There is no precedent of this scale in the history of the World Cup,” Marca wrote.
“A ridiculous start,” screamed Barcelona-based daily Sport on its front page, calling the match Spain’s “worst nightmare.”
Yet while Spain were left licking their wounds, football fans across the world have been cheered by a positive start to the tournament which had always had the makings of a classic.
A dour competition in 2010 had averaged just 2.21 goals per game — the lowest figure since the 1990 finals in Italy.
However the four games played in Brazil so far have seen goals flying in, with teams displaying a refreshing commitment to positive attacking play.
The goal average so far stands at 2.75 per game.
Former France and Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier told a press conference Saturday that positive play would be rewarded.
“I can feel it’s going to be a World Cup with positive, open and attractive play,” said Houllier, a member of FIFA’s technical study group.
“The team that wins will really attack and take risks. It looks like teams are here to score goals.”
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