ENGLAND MANAGER Roy Hodgson feels his side are more than capable of dealing with the threat posed by Italy playmaker Andrea Pirlo.
Although England were ultimately beaten on penalties when they last faced Italy in a major tournament, at the 2012 European Championship, Pirlo proved difficult to contain during the 120 minutes prior to the shoot-out.
However, Hodgson feels fatigue was a major factor in that fixture and expects England to operate with greater energy when they open their FIFA World Cup campaign against Italy in Manaus on Saturday.
“How are we going to stop Pirlo? What we’re going to do first of all is play better this time than we did then,” said Hodgson.
“The Italy game was actually our worst performance of that tournament and all the players would agree with me. We didn’t think we played anywhere near as well as we could.
“Against a tiring team Pirlo had a very good game because he’s a very good player. But we did show incredible character, incredible determination and incredible fight because, although we weren’t playing well, we kept a very strong Italian team at bay for 120 minutes and actually gave ourselves a chance of winning on penalties.
“It was a stage of the tournament when we were weary. Our squad was quite small. Steven Gerrard was injured. Both he and Scott Parker in normal circumstances might have come off at half-time.
“What are we going to do this time? First we will play a lot better and we will play with more energy because we will have more energy as it will be the first game in the tournament. We will be even more compact.”
Hodgson is confident England can not only stifle Pirlo but, in addition, cause plenty of problems for Italy’s defence.
“We’re also going to make certain that Italy have a lot more to concern themselves about with our attacking play, because one of the problems we had in that game (in Euro 2012) is that we weren’t functioning well as an attacking unit,” he added.
“One of our plans this time is to make certain we do a lot more attacking and that Italy find themselves wondering what they’re going to do about people such as Steven Gerrard or Wayne Rooney.”
England and Italy will also face Uruguay and Costa Rica in Group D at the World Cup.