England v Italy: penalties could be Three Lions’ only hope


England enter only their fourth ever European Championship quarter-final priced at 9/5 to overcome the Italians in 90minutes and advance to a first semi-final at a major tournament since Euro 96.

However, it would seem that Roy Hodgson’s men will face an uphill challenge, considering the Three Lions have lost seven of their 10 quarter-final matches at major tournaments.

The Italians are also 9/5 to advance in normal time to play the Germans in the last-four, and they will be buoyed by the fact that in nine last-eight meetings at both the World Cup and Euros they have only been defeated twice.

Further comfort for the Azzurri is that England have only won one of their last nine against them and have lost a total of six in that period.

The draw should get some attention at 2/1 in this one as five of England’s last seven appearances in the quarters have gone to extra-time.

There has been much debate as to who will start up-front for the 2006 World Cup winners, with Mario Balotelli’s relationship with Cesare Prandelli fractured after he gestured at his manager after netting against the Irish.

However, the Man City man is likely to start and is 7/1 to open the scoring.

A man guaranteed to start is Andrea Pirlo, who has already scored once and is something of a set-piece expert, he is 14/1 to break the deadlock.

It is hard to look past Wayne Rooney at 5/1 to be the first to strike from an England perspective, but Steven Gerrard is a threat from long-range and he is at 14/1.

In the two quarter-finals that the Italians have tasted defeat it has come courtesy of penalties, so getting behind the English to record a dramatic win thanks to spot-kicks at 9/1 looks very tempting for those punters expecting Hodgson’s men to advance to the semis.