Following months of anticipation, Saturday will finally be the occasion when England kick off their World Cup campaign. The Three Lions fell victim to the Italians the last time that the sides faced each other in the quarter-finals of Euro 2012, following a penalty shootout. Since then, it would be fair to say that both teams have undergone wholesale changes and we’ll now take a look at just how players from both sides stack up against each other.
Of course, we won’t know the full team until about 22.15 on the evening of the game. However, if the qualifying matches and friendlies have been anything to go by, it would appear likely that the following men will be taking to the field on the 14th.
Joe Hart v Gianluigi Buffon
One of these goalkeepers is coming to the end of their career, while it could be said that the other is just reaching his peak. Gianluigi Buffon has been arguably the greatest keeper in the game for the last decade, although he has suggested in the past that his opposite number has every chance of one day succeeding him. Buffon prevailed when the two countries met in Euro 2012; with his experience thwarting England’s penalty takers. Many would still class the 36-year-old as the better of the two shot-stoppers, although two years after their last meeting it will be interesting to see who comes out on top this time.
Gary Cahill v Giorgio Chiellini
Similar in age, height and even appearances through the course of the campaign, one could suggest that there is very little between Gary Cahill and Giorgio Chiellini. In terms of playing styles, Chiellini is regarded as one of the toughest characters in the sport and certainly takes no prisoners, while Cahill relies more on his technical ability and reading of the game. Funnily enough, neither of these players started in the Euro 2012 meeting; with England’s Cahill not even named as a substitute.
Steven Gerrard v Andrea Pirlo
One of the most interesting head-to-head’s will arrive in midfield, with veterans Steven Gerrard and Andrea Pirlo poised to be pitted together. It’s very likely that this will be the last time either player dons a major international tournament and Gerrard will be hoping that his opposite number doesn’t get the freedom of the park that made him such a threat in the Euro 2012 meeting.
It would be fair to say that both have completely contrasting playing styles; with Pirlo seen as the laid back playmaker while Gerrard has based a lot of his game on being a box-to-box man, even though he is dropping deeper as his career progresses. It will be interesting to see whether Gerrard is deployed as the man to stop Pirlo running the show like he did in the game two years ago.
Wayne Rooney v Mario Balotelli
In a lot of ways you could see that both of these strikers have a lot of similarities. Both have plenty of aggression, and there have been occasions where this has caused unwanted attention. However, it’s also this type of character that makes both Rooney and Balotelli the threats they are, with their strength and power being key to their ability. They have 31 goals between them domestically this season, while the stats above show just how prolific they have been for their domestic countries over the years.
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