The wait is over and England finally get their World Cup campaign underway on Saturday, where they are looking to exact revenge on the Italian team who knocked them out of Euro 2012. It is set to be an intriguing encounter as both teams sweat it out in the humidity of the Amazon, desperate to get off to a winning start, or perhaps more importantly to avoid defeat.
Roy Hodgson’s England come into the World Cup on the back of two draws and one win in their pre-World Cup friendlies, and the lack of expectation for this England team to succeed has almost inadvertently created a sense of expectancy amongst an England camp with less pressure than usual. The emerging talents of Ross Barkley, Raheem Sterling and Adam Lallana will be keen to carry their club form into the World Cup, whilst Wayne Rooney has one last chance to deliver on the world stage. England face a tough task in getting out of what has been dubbed the ‘group of death’, but Roy Hodgson’s men appear to be quietly confident that they can produce a shock, starting with this crucial group opener against the Italians.
Cesare Prandelli’s World Cup preparations were rocked by two disappointing draws against Republic of Ireland and Luxembourg, and an injury to key midfielder Riccardo Montolivo who suffered a fractured tibia. Italy did however manage their first win since 2013 with a 5-3 victory over Fluminense last weekend, with a hat-trick from Serie A’s top scorer Ciro Immobile, who could be a threat if partnered with Mario Balotelli up front. Euro 2012 player of the tournament Andrea Pirlo will again be looking to control the tempo of the game, as he did the last time these two sides met in a major tournament, but Italy’s defence remains a weakness as 'keeper Gianluigi Buffon twisted his ankle in training and is ruled out of the England game. The Italians have their fingers crossed and hope the injury to their number 1 doesn't rule him out of the competition. It is sure to be a fantastic opening game in Group D as the Azzuri will also be looking to put right their poor performance in the 2010 World Cup, where they failed to win a single match.
England 2 (Jagielka, Defoe) Italy 1 (De Rossi), International Friendly, August 2012.
England 0 Italy 0, European Championships, June 2012.
England 1 (Fowler) Italy 2 (Montella x2), International Friendly, March 2002.
England have only won two of their last 11 internationals against Italy (D3 L6), losing to them on penalties in the quarter-finals of Euro 2012.
The one previous World Cup meeting between these two former winners came in the third place play-off in 1990; Italy won 2-1.
England have only lost two of their last 16 World Cup games (W7 D7, including two penalty shoot-out defeats).
Excluding shootouts, England have scored all eight World Cup penalties.
Frank Lampard has had more shots without scoring than any other player at World Cups since 1966 (39 shots, no goals).
Wayne Rooney has not scored a goal in 594 minutes of World Cup football for the Three Lions.
England talisman Rooney has scored in all six competitive games since Euro 2012, however (seven goals).
Italy have scored in each of their last 14 games at the World Cup, the longest current run. The last time they failed to score was on 3 July 1998 against France.
Seven of Italy's last 17 goals at the World Cup have been scored from corners (41%).
Italy have conceded 14 goals from outside the box at the World Cup, more than any other team since 1966.