Under Roy Hodgson, England have been hard to break down and hard to beat, while Italy seem to always be that way.
Rewind two years and fans of both sides will quickly recall a 0-0 draw at the European Championships, and games between England and Italy since their 1980 meeting in that same competition average almost exactly 1.5 goals. Throw in the heat and humidity of Manaus and it’s pretty obvious that playing under that 1.5 spread at odds of around 6/4 will be a popular bet, one with plenty of statistical logic. I certainly wouldn’t put you off and the timing of this game in the schedule also lends itself to a tight, tense stalemate, given that both sides would be reasonably content with a point in the knowledge that two wins in their last two matches would ensure qualification.
However, this Italy side might just surprise a few with the nature of their play and while unreasonable to expect all-out attack in this scenario, they do have a lot of quality in the final third – such that Serie A top scorer Ciro Immobile is struggling to get a starting place in the team. Not only do Mario Balotelli and Immobile offer a serious goalscoring threat, but the midfield anchored by Andrea Pirlo and Daniele De Rossi is more cohesive than England’s and much more efficient when it comes to ball retention – a potentially decisive factor in stifling conditions. Antonio Candreva was one of the names to emerge from last year’s Confederations Cup and can do more damage than Raheem Sterling, who is expected by many to start for England and is another reason why this may not be the crawl so many are expecting.
Italy have a very strong head-to-head record against England and providing they approach this game with the view that victory would be a giant step towards the last 16, I expect them to win .I certainly find it very hard to envisage England keeping them out and scoring themselves, so this draw no bet option looks close to bombproof.
Finally, a few stats to consider; England have only won two of their last 11 internationals against Italy (D3 L6), losing to them on penalties in the quarter-finals of Euro 2012. The one previous World Cup meeting between these two former winners came in the third place play-off in 1990; Italy won 2-1. Italy have scored in each of their last 14 games at the World Cup, the longest current run. The last time they failed to score was on 3 July 1998 against France.
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