If you had to pick another major international team that was close to England in terms of style, I think most people would throw Italy into the mixer. Traditionally both sides have been built on solid defences, hard working midfields and a target man quick man combo up front. So if Italy are so similar to England, should they have anything to fear, or would facing Spain who ‘might not like it up em’ have been a preferable quarter final match up?
Looking at previous meetings, we beat the Spanish last time, but you need to go back to 97 to find a decent result against the Italians (and that was just a draw, for all you YouTube aficionados out there HERE is a link to that excellent match including Ince’s bloody head). Winning each game that comes your way is all that can be done though, so let’s look at the head to head record between England and Italy. It’s close, but overall Italy lead by 9 wins to 7 in the 22 games played. Pretty close, but Italy have the form having won the last two matches.
Whilst Italy got through their group with a lot of praise for their combination of solidity and flair, it’d be fair to say that England have received only minimal praise for what was a similar group campaign. Both undefeated, same goal difference, England actually scored (and conceded) and an extra goal (of course they maybe should’ve conceded at least one other HERE, even though there was an offside in the build up). Maybe our group was slightly easier, but not much, and it’s inconceivable that Ireland would’ve been quite so poor if one of their games was against England.
So we’re through in functional rather than spectacular style and face up against an Italian team who are receiving considerably more praise. But is that praise justified, or are England simply being modest about their own ability? Have the press finally cottoned on to the idea that telling us our team are world beaters flys in the face of reality, and they’ve now done more to temper expectations? Better to overachieve than underdeliver, but do we actually have a chance? Of course whilst we might be undefeated in a while, and scored some goals in the group stages, there was never a sense that they would overrun a team, or pass them into submission. Do we have the skills required to break down a defence that, whilst it isn’t of the standard of the ones that included Nesta Cannavaro and Maldini, doesn’t concede many and won’t be unduely worried about an arrial bombardment. History may so no, but that’s part of the beauty of sport and tournaments in particular. The best team doesn’t always win, in fact the favourites rarely win as other teams develop during the tournament who are then legitimately the best team and therefore the rightful winners. Would it be so strange if that team turned out to be England? Granted they might not win many fans across the globe with their style when compared to Spain, but they’ve grown into their matches thus far. With small improvements in each subsequent game and the fabled ‘heart’ (trademarked and copywrite England Football team, all rights reserved) why shouldn’t this team of premier league stars (and Downing........oh and Buttland) go all the way?
Where once there was expectiation, now there is hope. Hope trumps expectation, there’s more of a surprise in victory and less of the heartache in defeat.
We at TheGamblingTimes will be hoping for an England win.
Much to be positive about then, so how does that translate into the odds that are on offer? Well they’re pretty much the same. 19/10 for both at BetVictor (although Betfair are edging the best odds for Italy at 2/1). How much this is down to the insane amounts of money placed on England to win whenever they play, and how much is actual thinking around the game is open to debate. There are a few interesting bets available, StanJames go 9/2 that there’ll be a penalty shoot out. If you fancy a long shot on this being a very clean game then PaddyPower will offer you 70/1 on there being no bookings. Don’t forget to check back on match day for the TGT review of all the games promotions and bonuses too.
Do England have a chance? Would you trade the ’98 world cup squad for the current crop? What’s your favourite England goal so far? Or even just your predictions for the match, get it all below the line.