Reports emanating from England’s camp in Kiev suggest that Roy Hodgson is set to name the very same XI that started in their 1-0 group D victory over Ukraine last week.
Despite a less-than-assured display against the co-hosts that nevertheless secured passage to the quarter-finals as group winners, Hodgson has apparently opted not to shake things up as they face Italy in the national stadium.
Wayne Rooney marked his comeback to the starting line-up with the winning goal but was evidently rusty, though with a full tournament game under his belt, and a goal to boot, expect a more reassured display from the man who scored 34 goals for Manchester United last season. He’s the 5/1 favourite to open the scoring this evening.
His inclusion is of course no surprise. Instead much of the talk centered around Hodgson’s choice of strike partner for Rooney, with the possibility of re-introducing the physical and aerial strengths of Andy Carroll raised.
That would have meant dropping Danny Welbeck, a player who started the tournament in strong fashion – scoring a cute winner against Sweden – but who failed to gel with Rooney and winger Ashley Young against Ukraine. Hodgson is clearly confident that, with all three used to playing together day in day out at Man Utd’s Carrington training ground, their familiarity will eventually translate to on-field cohesion at just the right time in this evening’s encounter.
Welbeck is 8/1 to score first but the real bet of the night could still centre on Carroll, who is almost certain to feature late in the game should, as expected, things remain tight between two closely-matched sides.
Should the Welbeck and Rooney front two fail to impress or simply tire against a well-marshalled Italian defence, Hodgson will surely fancy Carroll bringing an altogether new proposition to the table, much in the way he unsettled Chelsea’s usually-solid back four late on in the FA Cup Final. It’s 11/2 for Carroll to score and England to win this evening.
Italy’s defence is already at a disadvantage before kick off, with Juventus centre back Giorgio Chiellini out with a thigh strain meaning Leonardo Bonucci should return to Cesere Prandelli’s side.
Should England progress this evening (10/11 – Italy are the same price to go through), expect it to include some extra time and even penalties. For while the Italians may have had variable luck in group stages in recent tournaments, they’re not so inconsistent when it comes to the knockout stages – the last time the Azzuri lost inside 90 minutes in a knock-out game the winning team was one that no longer exists; the USSR in Euro 88.
Indeed, if you exclude penalties, they’ve lost only two knockout ties in their last 24 years of tournament football. It’s for that reason that the majority of Germans will be cheering on the English this evening – the three-time World Cup and three-time European Championship winners have never beaten the Italians in competitive football.
England are 10/1 to win after extra-time and 9/1 to win on penalties. With the Italian media enjoying the irony of Hodgson’s side being the more likely side to execute a “Catenaccio” performance this evening, few would be surprised to see the game produce the tournament’s first 0-0 draw, at 6/1.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.