England vs. Italy: Date, Time, Live Stream, TV Info and 2014 World Cup Preview

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England vs. Italy: Date, Time, Live Stream, TV Info and 2014 World Cup Preview
Matt Dunham/Associated Press

One of the World Cup's classic encounters takes place on Saturday as England battle 2006 tournament winners Italy.

Both teams will be looking to get off to a strong start, knowing they are still to face the South American challenge of Uruguay, Luis Suarez and Co.

The game takes place in the Amazon city of Manaus where playing conditions will be incredibly challenging for the two European nations, with intense heat and humidity expected.

Here is how you can catch this important Group D match:

 

When: Saturday, June 14, at 11 p.m. BST (6 p.m ET)

Where: Arena Amazonia, Manaus, Brazil.

TV: BBC1 & HD (UK only); ESPN (US only)

Live Stream: BBC iPlayer (UK only); ESPN Player (US only) 

 

Wayne Rooney and Mario Balotelli To Be Dropped?

Antonio Calanni/Associated Press

They are the two talismanic figures of their generation for their respective countries, but there is a small chance that both Wayne Rooney and Mario Balotelli could be dropped for the clash of England vs. Italy.

Balotelli is faced with being deposed in the side by striker Ciro Immobile, who was top scorer in Serie A last season while plying his trade at Torino.

John Cross of the Mirror writes that Italian World Cup legend Salvatore "Toto" Schillaci has suggested the time is right for Immobile to start against England and that Balotelli's place is not cemented.

Schillaci said, per Cross:

There are the right conditions for Immobile to be Prandelli’s trump card. He has played and scored a lot this season, he is in excellent shape and has great enthusiasm just as I had in 1990. He is fast, sees the goal like few others and he does not have the spotlight on him.

Could he start in place of Balotelli? There are only a few players in the team with guaranteed starting places, such as (Andrea) Pirlo and (Gianluigi) Buffon.

Matt Dunham/Associated Press

And the pressure is starting to build on Rooney, with many observers preferring the youthful capabilities of Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling in the centre.

Rooney's fitness and form have been in question for months, dating back to Manchester United's poor Premier League campaign, and there is a growing feeling that his inclusion will be because of reputation rather than merit.

However, United coach Phil Neville defended the player, saying he is England's best player. The former England full-back recently spoke highly of Rooney to BBC Sport, per the Independentand said the player was purely the victim of "scapegoatism:"

I just think it is a witch-hunt we don't need. Everything has been going so well with the team's preparation that people are looking for a negative now. But there isn't a negative with Wayne. There is a side of the English mentality to say 'let's look for a scapegoat and somebody to criticise'. But Wayne is our best player and that's a fact.

Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Rooney may not be included in his preferred role, but if Roy Hodgson plays a 4-2-3-1, the player might well be deployed on the left-hand side, for his work rate and support play. Balotelli's place is much more at risk with Immobile in form and firing.

But if Italy feel that Balotelli's knowledge of English football is beneficial, he may get the nod on this technicality. 

Both players will need to be at their best as they have flattered to deceive on the international stage too many times. The tournament represents Rooney's last chance to really prove he is a world-class talent in an England shirt. He needs to show he can perform at a major tournament whilst out of his comfort zone, which currently resides at club level.

 

Manaus Amazonian Pitch Deemed Unsuitable

Themba Hadebe/Associated Press

After years of preparation by Brazil to host the World Cup, it appears they are going to serve England and Italy with a pitch unfit for the occasion.

The global player's union FIFPro described the Amazonia Arena's surface as "unsuitable." 

BBC Sport reports that the union said in a statement: "The players deserve a quality playing surface. This isn't the case in Manaus. Nobody wants to see the players and the spectacle in general suffer."

BBC Sport goes on to say the pitch has been sprayed green to hide the defects it displays and that the head groundsman has condemned the pitch, saying it is in "bad shape."

Ian Herbert of the Independent took to Twitter to highlight that his newspaper had spoken of the awful pitch conditions back in March:

Themba Hadebe/Associated Press

With the tropical and humid conditions, coupled with a crumbled and decaying pitch, the opening of Group D could be a turgid and dull affair.

Who will win the Group D match?

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The problems will be the same for both sides, but luck will come into the equation as one bad bobble could change the result.

Both teams are likely to sit deep as the sides try and come off the pitch in one piece with no injuries. A draw seems a likely result, allowing both teams to escape the jungle with their campaigns intact. 

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