Speaking ahead of England’s opening World Cup Group D fixture versus Italy, manager Roy Hodgson has spoken of his game plan to quash the threat posed by veteran playmaker Andrea Pirlo.
Hodgson admits the Three Lions let themselves down when they faced the Italians in Euro 2012 as they failed to handle the opposition’s star player, who is now 35 years of age.
Speaking in Rio, he insisted that his England side are better prepared this time around. The 66-year-old now expects Italy to be on the back foot when the two teams lock horns in Manaus on Saturday, although he still recognizes Pirlo as a major threat.
“What are we going to do this time against Pirlo?” he said. “First, we’ll play a lot better, we’ll play with more energy because we’ll have more energy because it will be the first game in the tournament. We’ll be even more compact than we were in that game.”
“We’re going to make certain also that Italy have a lot more to concern themselves with our attacking play, because one of the problems we had in that game is that we weren’t functioning well as an attacking unit. So Italy had too much of the ball and we were doing too much defending.”
“One of our plans this time is to make certain we do a lot more attacking and that Italy find themselves wondering what they’re going to do about people like Steven Gerrard or Wayne Rooney.”
“How are we going to stop Pirlo? What we’re going to do first of all is we’re going to play better against Italy this time than we did then.”
Essentially, Hodgson is looking to counter the midfield maestro’s intricate passing game with a brutal onslaught of England attacks.
Rather than focusing on the player as an individual, he’s eager to concentrate on the Three Lions’ overall display. Clearly he’s hoping that Pirlo’s form will suffer at the hands of an improved all-round team performance.
However, midfielder Jack Wilshere’s recent comments suggest the team have given some consideration to the 35-year-old on an individual level.
The Arsenal midfielder revealed that the side have used the warm-up games as an opportunity to prepare for the threat the Italian is expected to pose, "We had two in midfield with one ahead of you and it will be his job to screen him."
He added, "There will be times in the game when he gets on the ball and then we just have to narrow in and stop his forward balls.
"He is a great player, the anchor. He picks the ball up, he's a playmaker. He gets the game started and we saw that a couple of years ago in the Euros. He was great in that game. We know that he is getting on but we know he has the quality."