at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Krakow, Poland – England midfielder Scott Parker insists his recent clash with Mario Balotelli is ancient history as he prepares to battle the Italy striker in Sunday's European Championship quarterfinal.
Balotelli received a four-game ban last season after he was adjudged to have stamped on Parker's head during Manchester City's victory over Tottenham in the Premier League in January.
However, Parker is adamant there is no bad blood with the volatile Italian centre-forward as England and Italy face off in Kiev on Sunday with a place in the semi-finals at stake.
“It's football – this is what happens in football,” Parker said. “Whether Balotelli meant to do what he did or not, I don't know.
“He got punished for it and obviously has served his punishment. That was just part and parcel of football. I am not holding any grudges, I don't think anything, that's just the way it is really.”
Parker, who has forged a successful central midfield partnership with Steven Gerrard, meanwhile believes England's team spirit can help them into the last four of a major tournament for the first time in 16 years.
Parker said England could learn from Chelsea's improbable victory in the Champions League this season as they sought to progress.
“I think we have a real togetherness and commitment in the squad and ultimately that can get you a long way,” he said.
“We've seen that last year with Chelsea and other teams. I think fundamentally, they are the main key ingredients of why we can go and progress further, albeit it's going to be a very tough game against an Italian side that are very well prepared and organised with individual qualities.
“If we carry on doing what we are doing we can maybe upset them.”
However, Parker acknowledges he is likely to have his hands full trying to contain a classy Italian midfield for whom the veteran playmaker Andrea Pirlo remains the attacking fulcrum.
“As a kid and when you play football, you want to pit your wits against the best and Pirlo is one of those,” he said.
“The clips I have seen of him in this tournament, his passing ability, his control of the game is fantastic. I am really looking forward to the game. You always look forward to playing against the best.
“The front players are very tricky as well so it is going to be a tough game.” – Sapa-AFP