Italy ‘vulnerable to counter-attacks’

Luxembourg boss Luc Holtz noted how Ireland opened up Azzurris’ defence

Midfield playmaker  Andrea Pirlo l arrives for a news conference at the Casa Azzurri in Mangaratiba ahead of Italy’s World Cup opening game against England on Saturday. Alessandro Garofalo/Reuters

Midfield playmaker Andrea Pirlo l arrives for a news conference at the Casa Azzurri in Mangaratiba ahead of Italy’s World Cup opening game against England on Saturday. Alessandro Garofalo/Reuters

Wed, Jun 11, 2014, 23:00

England’s best hope of making a winning start to their World Cup campaign is to expose Italy’s vulnerability to counter-attacks, believes Luc Holtz, the manager who guided Luxembourg to a draw against the Azzurri last week.

The side Italy manager Cesar Prandelli selected for the friendly in Perugia was very similar to the one expected to line up against England in Manaus, but Italy laboured to build a lead against Luxembourg before conceding an 85th-minute equaliser to draw with the team ranked 112th in the world.

While counselling against reading too much into pre-tournament games, Holtz says his team found Italy full of menace going forward but fragile defensively.

“If Italy have a weakness it is that they can be hurt on counter-attacks,” he added.

“We noticed that even before they played against us – they drew 0-0 with the Republic of Ireland the week before but the Irish could have scored two or three times on the counter-attack – so we tried to exploit it too.

“For England, then, it could be all about the quality of the transition from defence to attack. If that is the way Roy Hodgson chooses to play, he will need players who are fast and clever in the way they run into spaces.

Problems

“From what I’ve seen, [Daniel] Sturridge does that very well. That seems to be how to create the most problems for Italy.”

While Holtz gives England hope of penetrating the Italian defence, he does not have any magic formula for stifling Andrea Pirlo, who orchestrated Italy’s domination of England at the last European Championship.

“It is very difficult to stop him,” says Holtz. “Okay, he doesn’t move fast, but he plays fast. We tried to stay close to him and pressurise him as soon as he got the ball but he sees things quicker than other players and plays the ball before you can do anything about it.

Things might not have come off for him against us but there’s no doubt that he is still a player who can decide a game in an instant.

“Because Italy have so much of the ball it is essential to be very disciplined against them in defence,” he added.

Holtz also wonders whether the extreme temperature in Manaus will persuade the Italy manager to alter his approach. – Guardian Service

We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.