Can the spirit of ‘97 inspire England’s Euro 2012 vintage?

The year is 1997, the game is Italy v England, the manager is Glenn Hoddle and a young(er) Roy Hodgson is his interpreter as the Three Lions prepared to face the Azzurri in their final qualifier for World Cup ’98.

England needed to avoid defeat in the Olympic Stadium in Rome, an arena in which no team had taken even a point against the Italians in 14 attempts.

The nation was gripped as one of the most fondly remembered 0-0 draws in the country’s history was played out, making the heart jump right up until the final whistle.

This Sunday, Hodgson leads his men into another Olympic Stadium, this time in Kiev, and has the task of masterminding another heroic performance against Italy.

But can he draw on the ingredients that led to success a decade and a half ago? England can be backed at 7/4 to go one better and win after 90 minutes.

If Hodgson’s side are to be successful in Kiev, one or more of his current crop of players may also have to put their body on the line and don the proverbial crimson mask.

Euro 2012 quarter-final: England v Italy – bet now!

The Three Lions defended stoically that night in the Eternal City, putting their bodies on the line and ensuring that David Seaman’s sheet was kept well and truly clean.

Paul Ince became the iconic figure of the match as he sported a bloodied and bandaged head following a clash with Demetrio Albertini.

If Hodgson’s side are to be successful in Kiev, one or more of his current crop of players may also have to put their body on the line and don the proverbial crimson mask.

My money’s on Scott Parker. The Tottenham midfielder showed his dedication to the cause against Ukraine when he attempted to stop a shot along the ground with his head.

Sol Campbell took one for the team on that balmy night in Rome when he picked up a booking, meaning that he would miss England’s World Cup opener.

Ashley Young, James Milner, Ashley Cole, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and captain Steven Gerrard are in the same boat – will any of them have to sacrifice their place in the semi-final to aid the team?

Right at the death in ‘97 there were two moments that could have redefined history.

First, substitute Ian Wright rounded Angelo Peruzzi and hit the post, and just moments later, Christian Vieri missed a headed chance at the other end with barely seconds remaining.

England don’t do calm and simple, so whatever happens, stay cool and remember to expect the unexpected. It also might help to grow your nails to give yourself plenty to bite on the night.

Punters with long memories will recall that Italy picked up five bookings in their attempts to snatch a win over Hoddle’s men and Angelo di Livio was sent off.

There will be plenty of people assuming Mario Balotelli is going to do the same on this occasion and one red card to be shown in Kiev is a decent 16/5, while two or more can be found at 12/1.

Having failed to qualify for World Cup ’94, England’s joy was clear to see in Rome. Having not qualified for Euro 2008, will that joy be replicated on Sunday?

After the stalemate 15 years ago, Hodgson said: “This result means an awful lot for English football.

“If we are capable of coming to a place like this and in a game of this nature, and getting the desired result when all the pressures are on you and everything is conspiring against you, then it shows that you are capable of doing it when it comes to the finals.”

Let’s hope Gary Neville is saying something similar on Sunday evening, unless he’s still screaming Wayne Rooney’s name at the top of his lungs as he famously did for a certain Fernando Torres at Camp Nou just a few short weeks ago.

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