I haven´t been listening, but have the England supporter´s taken a header off the deep end in a shallow pool again? They´re in the quart-finals again, they´ve won their group against a dismal France, a hobbled Ukraine and a disinterested Sweden, playing the sort of paint-by-numbers football that Uncle Roy Hodgson revels in. Plug in a Danny Welbeck or an Andy Carroll up front depending on the system that Prandelli plays. Wayne Rooney behind either of them to link in with the flat, two banks of four playing deep and hit wingers wide on the counter. It´s what Giovanni Trappatoni was doing years ago at Juventus. They´re sure to win the thing, right? It´s what England do. Bring football home. Right, sorry, but football´s been away and it´s not likely to return to the land of crumpets and honey.
Cesare Prandelli´s Italy is however running under the radar. He has a group of Italians that are talented, young enough, and finally had stepped out football-wise from under the shadow of Calciopoli and Lippi´s World Cup winning 2006 side only to be dipped back into the mire of this last betting scandal that has tainted Italian football yet again.
It is obvious that people are taking Italy lightly and that is certainly where Italy likes to be. I wouldn´t want to be England trying to defend against Di Natale or Cassano up front with Balotelli waiting in the wings. They have an inspiring midfield with Marchisio and De Rossi, but it is the ever-green Andrea Pirlo that makes Italy tick and he´ll be England´s bête noire, their dark beast that can´t be handled.
It will be a slow and stilted game, which is what Hodgson likes, and Italy will struggle to score, but they have the weapons to sneak one by and then do what no other teams in the world know better to do: they will deflate the ball and coast to the semi-finals.
read more: EURO 2012: England v Italy