In hindsight, that Mario Balotelli scored the winner that started England’s World Cup demise last summer makes the fact all the more galling.
But as Roy Hodgson takes his squad to renew the rivalry with Italy in Turin the lay of the land has certainly shifted.
Antonio Conte’s version of the national side certainly shouldn’t be feared. In fact, the 11/5 on a Three Lions win should be backed. Here’s why:
Since the Azzurri started the wheels in motion for England’s World Cup exit, the Three Lions have shown faith with both their manager and the majority of their squad from Brazil.
On the other hand, Italy have replaced Cesare Prandelli, who resigned, with Antonio Conte in their dugout and have a squad in transition.
Add to that Conte’s desire to implement a more combative style of play to the attacking, possession-based tactic his predecessor employed and it has resulted in media and fan discontent.
Key men like Andrea Pirlo and Daniele De Rossi are both injured while the most capped striker in the former Juventus manager’s squad is 14-cap Milan man Alessio Cerci.
Free-flowing in attack
Without Pirlo pulling strings, Mario Balotelli providing the X-Factor up front and a continued adjustment to Conte’s high-pressing 3-5-2 system, the verve has vanished from the Italians.
Although they are unbeaten with Conte at the helm, they have been far from convincing in collecting five wins and two draws since their World Cup exit. One-goal wins over Azerbaijan, Malta and Albania hint at their lack of potency.
Hodgson’s side, meanwhile, have developed a goal-scoring knack. Pace and power throughout midfield feeds a strikeforce boasting the top scorer in all Euro 2016 qualifiers (Danny Welbeck), the country’s soon to be record scorer (Wayne Rooney) and the hottest English striking property of the season (Harry Kane).
Jurgen Klopp succinctly alluded to the Italians-love-defending cliche when his Borussia Dortmund side travelled to Turin in the Champions League:
“We are facing one of the biggest challenges in football; beating an Italian side who only need a draw,” he said.
That iron halo seems to have slipped under Conte though, as the side have kept just two clean sheets in their last five, while Hodgson’s men have only conceded twice since the World Cup.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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