Former England midfielder Ray Wilkins believes Roy Hodgson’s men will have to break down Italy’s defensive superiority if they are to defeat the Azzurri in the quarter-finals of Euro 2012.
Following England’s 1-0 victory over co-hosts Ukraine, the Three Lions face Italy in the last eight after topping Group D.
Despite securing their passage to the knockout stage, England are yet to show any real signs that they have the character and personnel to win Euro 2012, and the encounter with Italy will question both.
And Wilkins, who made more than 80 appearances for his country as well as plying his trade in Italy with AC Milan, believes the defensive philosophy that is adopted by Italians will prove difficult for England to break down.
"The philosophy is not to concede initially and then if they can go and score they will,” he told Yahoo!
"They've always been extremely talented and the Italians have enjoyed defending, as crazy as it sounds they are probably the only national side who still enjoy doing so.
“I think you will see them defend with a lot of players behind the ball and a bit of quality; if you look at the Juventus squad they've been exceptional this season and seven of their players will be in the squad.
“They've got experience in their midfield with players such as [Andrea] Pirlo and [Danielle] De Rossi as well as some younger players so I think the Italians will be a bit of a surprise.”
Wilkins added that Manchester City's talented 21-year-old Mario Balotelli is a huge asset to the Italian camp, regardless of his controversial antics both on and off the pitch.
“I love the way he plays,” said Wilkins. “I'm not so sure about his antics but certainly as a footballer he's talented, he's a great size: he's ideal for playing through the middle with two wider players either side of him if they play with three up front.
“So yes I think he is a fantastic addition to the team.”
For more insight from Ray Wilkins and other leading managers, plus coverage of Euro 2012, visit yahoo.eurosport.com
By Matt Maltbycomments