Sunday, 24 June 2012

England v Italy: Head-to-head


Ahead of the Euro 2012 quarter-final between England and Italy, we rate the teams' players and coaches out of 10.

Steven Gerrard and Andrea Pirlo
The marks we have handed to the players we expect to take to the field in Kiev reflect their performances at Euro 2012 so far, rather than their overall ability and quality.
England unexpectedly topped Group D thanks to France's slip-up against Sweden on the final day of group fixtures while Italy finished second in Group C behind Spain having held the world and European champions to a draw in the opening game of the group.
Manager: Roy Hodgson - 9
Was not the country's first choice when being handed the job just weeks prior to the start of the tournament but Hodgson has quickly pulled fostered a strong team spirit and unexpectedly took England through as group winners. Drawing on his extensive experience - at international level as well as club - Hodgson has engendered a atmosphere of calm at the same time he has made his side hard to beat, if somewhat unimpressive in attack.
GK: Joe Hart - 7
One of England's few world-class players, Hart has been solid rather than spectacular so far at Euro 2012. There were question marks over his attempt to save Samir Nasri's goal for France in England's opening game but otherwise the Manchester City keeper has been in good form.
RB: Glen Johnson - 5
Exposed against Sweden and again somewhat unconvincing against Ukraine, Johnson has been one of the weaker members of the England squad to date and has done little to justify his inclusion ahead of Micah Richards, who failed to make the squad. His attacking streak is an asset for England but he remains defensively vulnerable at times.
CB: Joleon Lescott - 8
The centre-back is only in the team following an injury to Gary Cahill sustained in a pre-tournament friendly but Lescott has hardly put a foot wrong for England. He has continued his excellent form across the season for Manchester City and has struck up a fine partnership with Terry in the heart of the England defence.
CB: John Terry - 9
The way Zlatan Ibrahimovic sped past him in Kiev was a matter of some concern, but otherwise the Chelsea captain has been fantastic. It was Terry who cleared from just behind the line as Ukraine were denied a goal in Donetsk and Terry who has produced all manner of blocks and tackles to form the basis of England's robust rearguard action.
LB: Ashley Cole - 6
One of the world's finest in his position, Cole's mark comes down a notch or two due to a rather unconvincing Euro 2012 campaign so far. The Chelsea defender hasn't made any horrific errors, he never really does, but has looked a touch out of sorts so far. There is plenty more to come from a player who has often reserved his best form for major tournaments.
RM: James Milner - 5
No one covers more ground than England's right-sided midfielder but his use of the ball in Poland and Ukraine has been poor and aside from providing cover for Johnson it is hard to see what Hodgson sees in him. Milner's crossing is a sporadic threat but he has provided little real threat despite starting all three games to date.
CM: Scott Parker - 7
Against Ukraine, Parker blocked shots with both his groin and face, neatly summing up what to expect from this stereotypically English player. He personifies commitment, bravery and unyielding effort for his team's cause, but in truth little else in a technical sense. England's midfield battler, he performs an important role for Hodgson.
CM: Steven Gerrard - 9
England's player of the tournament so far, Gerrard has contributed three assists in three games and has risen to the challenge of captaining his country. All too often his form disappears in major tournaments but in a more reserved midfield role Gerrard has excelled, his delivery from wide positions being England's most potent weapon at present.
LM: Ashley Young - 5
A big disappointment. Young was anonymous in his first game when playing as a second striker off Danny Welbeck and toiled again when tasked with playing out on the left against Sweden. He improved marginally against Ukraine but must be in real danger of losing his place to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who made way when Young was reassigned to a wide role.
ST: Wayne Rooney - 7
We can only judge the striker on one game so far and he scored the winner. Though Rooney looked rusty in the first half against Ukraine, he emerged a far better player in the second and having scored 34 goals for Manchester United last season does have a strong run of form to draw upon as he looks to make an impact in the knockout stages.
ST: Danny Welbeck - 7
Scored one of the tournament's most breathtaking goals so far with his backheeled volley on the spin against Sweden and has impressed with his clever movement in the final third. Though he was somewhat isolated during a difficult first half against Ukraine, the 22-year-old's form has been a real positive for England so far.
TEAM TOTAL: 84/120.
Manager: Cesare Prandelli - 7
The former Fiorentina boss has been the most tactically diverse of any coach at Euro 2012, starting out with a back three and then switching to a back four for the final group game against Ireland. An opening draw with Spain was impressive, though Italy were held to a draw by Croatia before finally securing qualification with a win over Ireland. Prandelli has done an excellent job since replacing Marcello Lippi in 2010 but as yet Italy are matching expectations.
GK: Gianluigi Buffon - 7
Still undoubtedly one of the very best goalkeepers in the world, Buffon has not had to be at his spectacular best for Italy so far in Poland and Ukraine but neither has he been found wanting. Buffon commands his area imperiously and his big frame and sharp reflexes make him incredibly hard to beat.
RB: Ignazio Abate - 6
Came in to face Ireland in place of the more attacking Christian Maggio as Prandelli switched to a back four and is likely to keep his place for the England game. The AC Milan defender has plenty of top-level experience and demonstrated against Ireland that he is a safe pick at full-back.
CB: Andrea Barzagli - 7
Returned from injury to play against Ireland. The centre-back played a key role in Juventus' unbeaten title victory and is a favourite of Prandelli. He may well have played in a back three alongside club-mates Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci but Chiellini's injury means that is not possible for now. He coped well with Ireland's aerial assaults and tided up well for the Azzurri in a calm performance.
CB: Leonardo Bonucci - 6
His place seemed in doubt prior to the tournament when he was linked with the match-fixing investigation gripping Italian football, but the Juve defender has featured in all three games so far. He was dropped against Ireland with Barzagli returning but then came on as a substitute for the injured Chiellini. Made a number of important tackles in the first two group games.
LB: Federico Balzaretti - 7
Another beneficiary of the switch to a back four, the Palermo full-back looked full of intent against Ireland and provided an attacking threat down the left. Balzaretti had a two-year spell at Juventus between 2005 and 2007 but has otherwise spent his career outside of Italy's elite clubs.
DM: Daniele De Rossi - 9
Was shunted into an unfamiliar defensive role for the first game against Spain but coped superbly with the challenge of keeping out world football's most talented side. The Roma vice-captain has been in fine form for the Azzurri so far and slotted naturally back into midfield for the Ireland match. His snappy tackling and sharp passing has been a prominent feature of Italy's play.
CM: Claudio Marchisio - 7
His versatility makes him an asset across midfield and the Juventus star has played to a good level at Euro 2012. Marchisio has demonstrated in Poland and Ukraine he has an eye for goal but is yet to register on the scoresheet. It is more his energy and application, whether in attacking or defensive phases, that has been impressive.
CM: Andrea Pirlo - 9
Another player who came into Euro 2012 off the back of an unbeaten season with Juventus, Pirlo has been the star of the show for Italy. His performance up against a daunting Spain midfield was sublime as he created Antonio Di Natale's opener with a glorious run and pass. Pirlo then curled home a free kick against Croatia and continued to provide a threat from set-pieces against Ireland. However, the 2006 World Cup winner is best known for his wonderful passing ability and vision on the ball.
CM: Thiago Motta - 6
The naturalised Italian, born in Brazil, is a versatile performer and can play at the base of midfield or further forward, as he has done for much of the tournament so far. His performances at Euro 2012 have been unspectacular to date but he remains a valuable player in Prandelli's starting line-up, even if his place in Sunday's game is in doubt due to injury.
ST: Antonio Cassano - 8
Impressed with his creative play against both Spain and Croatia, linking up well with Pirlo in midfield and his attacking partner on each occasion, and scored Italy's opening goal in their group win over Ireland. The Milan forward's participation in the tournament was in grave doubt when he required heart surgery in November but he has always been a favourite of Prandelli and is rewarding the coach with some vibrant performances.
ST: Antonio Di Natale - 7
Made an important contribution when coming off the bench to score against Spain in the opening game and sufficiently impressed Prandelli to win a place in the starting XI for the final group game against Ireland as Mario Balotelli had to make do with a place on the bench. The Udinese striker is 34 and would probably not have made the squad had Giuseppe Rossi been fit, but in his final major tournament is playing with some style.
TEAM TOTAL: 87/120

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