at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Manaus, Brazil - Italy have the know-how to beat a much improved England side boasting plenty of attacking talent on a good pitch that should produce a spectacular clash in the Amazon city of Manaus, coach Cesare Prandelli said on Friday.
The 56-year-old Italian added that he would keep his squad guessing until the very last minute who will start Saturday's Group D clash in the expected hot and humid climate.
“It's always good to leave a few lingering doubts among the players because they have to feel that they are competing until the very last moment before I name the team,” he told a news conference on Friday.
“We will be up against an England side different from the one we beat on penalties in the Euro 2012 quarter-finals, with a wealth of attacking talent as well as an organised and creative midfield.
“Their players have great personalities and psychological strength. But we have prepared for this game to win and are confident that we have all the ingredients required to come out on top in what should be a pulsating clash,” Prandelli said.
“We have seen lots of goals in the opening few games and I believe this will be the tournament's trend. We are looking forward to treating the fans to a soccer feast after such a great reception they gave us here and in last year's Confederations Cup,” he added.
“We had been told that the pitch was in very bad condition but actually I think it is very good and I have no concerns about it.”
Prandelli was asked why goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, one of three Italian players in the squad who won the 2006 World Cup, finished practice early.
“He twisted his ankle very, very lightly and came off only as a precaution, meaning that he will definitely start tomorrow,” he said.
The other survivors from 2006 are defensive midfielder Daniele De Rossi and playmaker Andrea Pirlo who is expected to pull the strings and carve out the supply routes for Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano.
“Pirlo is the incarnation of the Italian team spirit because he is still as enthusiastic as he was on his first international appearance and he has more than a 100 caps for the national team,” Prandelli said.
“He leads by example and shows in every training session that he still wants to be the symbol of this team.”
Commenting on England captain Steven Gerrard's remarks that the English had a stronger squad and a better team than the Italians, Prandelli said; “Everybody thinks they are the bigger team and naturally England also have every reason to be confident because they have so much depth and their forwards are very apt at creating and using space.
“Controlling the midfield will be the key and what I am looking for from my team is 90 minutes of intelligent football played at a steady pace because nothing less will do against such a strong rival.” - Reuters