Heavy-eight battle: Italy face resurgent England
Three Lions need to check the more free-flowing Azzurri. The penalty predicamentindia Updated: Jun 24, 2012 02:04 IST
Roy Hodgson has told his players they have no reason to fear Italy, their opponents in Sunday's Euro 2012 quarter-final, and said for the first time that England can rid themselves of one of their "nasty statistics" and think seriously about winning the tournament.
Hodgson and his players will arrive in Ukraine Saturday knowing that England have never beaten, with the exception of Denmark, a previous World Cup or European Championship winner outside Wembley in the knockout stages of a major tournament.Their progress to the last eight has already banked the FA £10.1m. That would be almost doubled if they win the competition, but Hodgson said he was unaware about the financial rewards. "It would mean a lot more to us, as football people, if we win it. I have no idea what it is worth. It's the last thing on the players' minds. But in terms of when we retire from football, in many years hence, it would be nice to see a medal hanging round our necks."
All even here
Hodgson, who plans to start with the same team who beat Ukraine on Tuesday, was noticeably confident about England's chances, saying they should consider themselves as "at least 50-50" to reach the semi-finals and not be alarmed by anything they have seen so far. "Italy have been stable without actually tearing the tournament up. Spain have had a few scares along the way. They certainly didn't make life easy for themselves against Croatia and will be thinking it could have gone the other way.
"We're not underdogs in any way. We have good-quality players who are recognised worldwide and, certainly, would get into a lot of the top European teams. I don't know [the Italy manager] Cesare Prandelli but he is entitled to look at our team and say: 'This won't be an easy game.' Certainly, we go into the game knowing we have good players. We're aware it's a tough task but I'd be surprised if any of our players feel inferior.
"It's been a fairly smooth process for us. Things were up in the air [before the tournament] because our preparation time was so short and we lost four senior players to injury, which added to the negativity. But we've put that to one side now and it's more a positive than negative feeling."