England take on Italy in Kiev on Sunday for a place in the Euro 2012 semi-finals and while many are predicting a tight, low-scoring affair, both sides possess a wide array of players capable of finding the back of the net. Though the Man Utd v Man City collision of Wayne Rooney v Mario Balotelli will set pulses racing, neither striker seems worth their low price (9/5 and 2/1 respectively) to score at any time, despite both having notched in their last group game.
Rooney missed a simple chance to put England ahead with a free header against Ukraine prior to his goal and generally seemed quite sluggish in his build-up play.
Balotelli, for his part, needs no introduction. He is as likely to get himself sent off as he is of putting his name on the scoresheet and the fact that he was found yelling in English after scoring against Ireland points to a player likely to fall for any clever baiting.
England do, however, have a super-sub likely to make a difference against a tiring Italian side in Theo Walcott.
The Arsenal man has shined for England at the competition in his brief spells on the pitch and his crucial second-half goal against Sweden saved Roy Hodgson’s men from an embarrassing defeat.
With the Italians likely to lose their way in the second half, he is good value to either simply score (4/1) or net the last goal of the game (8/1).
Rooney may be the superstar at Old Trafford, but his strike partner Danny Welbeck could be worth a look after his fabulous strike against Sweden. If selected ahead of Andy Carroll, his pace could stretch a defence which will sorely miss Giorgio Chiellini, who came off injured with a thigh strain against Ireland.
Welbeck is priced at 5/2 to leave his mark, while Ashley Young’s 7/2 should also be worth a flutter. If England can catch Italy’s sluggish 4-3-1-2 formation in possession – as Ireland often did – then the Red Devil can be backed to thrive on the counter. His clever running and speed could well make a difference.
Meanwhile, Italian striker Antonio di Natale can be counted on to carry on from where he left off against Spain, when he opened the scoring. Though Balotelli is the favourite to start in his place, Di Natale seems to thrive as a sub, when his limited pace is less of a problem against tiring defenders.
If the Udinese striker’s odds of netting last are interesting (6/1), then so are Andrea Pirlo’s of doing so at any time (4/1). Following his brilliant free-kick against Croatia, he is likely to receive a fair few more on Sunday, as England’s defence have conceded far too many in this tournament.
Talking of set pieces, while Italy have so far looked solid when defending them, the Three Lions nearly allowed Sweden’s Olof Mellberg to steal all three points through some appalling marking.
Antonio Cassano could be backed to repeat his wonderful feat against Ireland, where he pipped Shay Given to Pirlo’s corner to open the scoring. His odds of 5/2 to score at any time are interesting to say the least.
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