The last time Italy played against England, in the quarter-finals of the 2012 Euro, they shot 20 times on target and hit the post twice—all without a goal. The Azzurri had to rely on the cheekiness of Andrea Pirlo in the penalty kicks.
This time it is different. The start of every World Cup is a question for Italy; they either rise slowly or collapse spectacularly. Italy have not won an international game since September, when they beat the Czech Republic and qualified for the World Cup in Brazil.
They cannot really afford to take their time in Manaus.
This is where they will play England on Saturday, on a field that is patchy at best and in conditions that could reach 99 percent humidity. (It looked like the organizers decided to spray brown areas with green paint.)
This is the state of the pitch in Manaus. England will face Italy here on Saturday. pic.twitter.com/c9qlljvauK— 2014 World Cup (@2014WC_Brazil) June 12, 2014
Coach Cesare Prandelli has worried about the fitness of his players for the past year, and that is probably because eight players had asked for a substitution during one hot and sweaty game in the Confederations Cup, per the Los Angeles Times.
“At the start of every tournament there is always pessimism in Italy,” Prandelli told reporters on Monday (h/t The Guardian). “This is a team that, in terms of fitness, has the chance to get to the latter stages of the World Cup.”
Here we ask a few more questions about Prandelli’s team and their chances against England.