In this Group D encounter England take on Italy at the Arena Amazonia, Manaus, on Sunday June 15 from 7:30am AEST.
Two former conquerors of this tournament square off in a match that could see the loser facing the prospect of an early exit. With so much at stake, this colossal grapple on the banks of the Amazon River must not be missed.
Played 24, England 8 wins, Italy 9 wins, 7 draws
These two countries are no strangers from one another and between them possess a rich history and ledger to validate it.
Fifty-seven goals have been scored throughout the 24 duels to date, which would suggest that goals could once again be on the menu.
The Three Lions and Azzurri last met at the quarter-final stage of Euro 2012 when Italy triumphed on penalties after neither was able to penetrate the other side’s goal after 120 minutes, despite the Italians dominating for the most part.
A rivalry that always evinces boundless talent and emits consummate passion beckons in arguably the most anticipated match in the group stage.
England boss Roy Hodgson has ceded to the calls by many to opt for young blood to lead his line for the first time in memory in what is a major shift from times gone by. This will be sure to promote and revive English fans’ hopes that they can finally subvert the rigid and elusive Azzurri.
Four-time World Cup winners Italy also set foot in Brazil with the weight of a nation’s expectations resting on them, as they seek to avoid another disaster seen at the previous edition in South Africa and qualify past the group stages.
With Uruguay hotly tipped to progress, the onus is on these two teams to land the first and possibly most crucial blow from the outset.
The big issue
The most notable blow to Italy’s squad has been the loss of Riccardo Montolivo after the AC Milan maestro sustained a broken tibia in his team’s match against Ireland two weeks ago.
Italy’s somewhat aging midfield has come under scrutiny, with doubts expressed over Andrea Pirlo’s ability to play out matches.
With this in mind, his loss will be offset if Alberto Aquilani or Daniele De Rossi can slot into the position left void by the gifted 29-year-old.
The game breaker
Mario Balotelli has seldom been far from the limelight in both his native Italy or when living and playing in the country of this particular opponent.
A modest season by his standards will do very little to dissipate English fears as to his capability when given the opportunity.
He has demonstrated his knack of stepping up on the big stage in both Euro 2012 and the 2013 Confederations Cup and may replicate similar performances if able to retain his discipline.
An early goal would foster a combative bout and see both teams fully revealing their style.
England’s delicate mixture of experience and youth will need to be in its highest gear to unravel a fully capable and astute Italian defence.
The Italians’ customary treachery and know-how particularly in the middle of the park will keep them in good stead, while they have the potential to dominate their opponents the moment they’re given a minute amount of space.
A typically defensive encounter could otherwise play out as both teams attempt to avoid what could be a fatal defeat.
With class reigning all over the pitch, a fiercely fought contest will see both sides share the spoils: England 1- 1 Italy.