A team’s opening fixture in a World Cup is a good indicator of how they will perform in the rest of the tournament, so England will look to start positively against Italy on June 14th in Brazil.
When the sides met two years ago at Euro 2012 in Kiev, Italy dominated possession and were by far the superior outfit, even though the game ended goalless.
Italy are unlikely to be out-passed in midfield with the ceaseless genius of Andrea Pirlo at the heart of everything they do, so England may look to counteract this with pace on the break.
Roy Hodgson’s team has much more youth and energy than it had two summers ago, and the likes of Raheem Sterling and Ross Barkley are popular choices to play big parts in Brazil.
Previous tournaments have shown that youth can be an effective policy as Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney proved at the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2004 respectively.
The Azzurri are more experienced with three survivors from their World Cup triumph in Germany eight years ago still in the squad: Pirlo, Daniele De Rossi and Gianluigi Buffon.
The extreme humidity in the host city, Manaus, could impact the intensity of the play and hinder any pressing game that England might have adopted. Therefore, Hodgson may field the likes of James Milner and Jordan Henderson with the hope that their fitness and high work-rate will hold some weight in midfield.
England are notorious slow starters on the big stage, having failed to score more than a goal in every opening game in a major tournament since Euro 2000 and with just one win in these six matches. However, optimists will be quick to point out that England got their 1966 World Cup campaign underway with a 1-1 draw against Uruguay before winning the Jules Rimet on home soil.