Euro 2012, England vs. Italy: 4 Reasons to Believe vs. the Azzurri
After surpassing expectations in the group stages, finishing with seven points, racking up two victories and one tie, England have some more work to do to advance again.
While it wasn't pretty, England found a way to scrap out the results, making the sensationalized English media's doubts look downright silly.
Now their fans are brimming with confidence, and rightfully so, for the following reasons.
Wayne Rooney Is Back
Although they did okay without him, the United striker is an integral part of the England squad, and they definitely need him to perform to have any chance against Italy.
Rooney, a world-class attacking option, brings finishing, passing and defending ability to a group of attackers that many, at first, thought to be weak.
After scoring in his return vs. Ukraine, the signs are there that Rooney can still succeed and lead England to victory—although he did look quite rusty, otherwise.
Ultimately, he wasn't impressive in his Euro debut, but we all know he can take over a game, and scoring will only add to his confidence.
While Italy can boast playmaker Andrea Pirlo, England aren't short on stars either— notably Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard.
In just three games, Gerrard has three assists—one more than that of the Italian maestro.
Aside from the statistics, Gerrard's passing vision and strong defensive play are essential to England's success, as he hasn't sat a single minute so far.
No one knows what will happen against Italy, but it will rely in large part on the play of England's captain.
Italy Is Inefficient with the Ball
How about these for some statistics:
Italy has 51 percent average ball possession and 71 percent of passes completed.
England has 23 percent average ball possession and 66 percent of passes completed—last overall.
Despite England's disgraceful numbers, they have still managed to score five goals to Italy's four, and have racked up two wins while the Azzurri finished with just one.
For England fans like myself, these numbers are extremely encouraging. They show us that, with a little more possession, England could do some real damage.
Nonetheless, Three Lions diehards will be fine with an Italian domination of possession, so long as England get the win-- since they have never been known for a tiki-taka style of play.
This Group Is Different
I heard a stat that said England only won a mere 50 percent of their games they had scored first in, but that percentage has already improved in this tournament.
It could improve even more.
Unlike past England teams known for losing leads and eventually matches, this squad seems to be more resilient.
They showed their perseverance and heart in a 3-2 comeback win versus Sweden and a 1-0 win in a virtual away game versus Ukraine.
With an inexplicable new-found resiliency, along with vibrant youngsters such as Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcottt, England fans need not panic if they fall behind.