England defender Joleon Lescott said his understanding of Italy’s Mario Balotelli is unlikely to be a coup when they meet at Euro 2012.
Lescott was a commanding presence in a largely backs-to-the-wall performance against Ukraine, which ended in a 1-0 victory thanks to Wayne Rooney’s close range header, which guaranteed England a quarter-final place.
Roy Hodgson’s side will face an altogether different challenge in Kiev, particularly in the form of Lescott’s maverick Manchester City team-mate Balotelli, who opened his goalscoring account at Euro 2012 with a spectacular strike against the Republic of Ireland on Monday.
“Mario is a great player and we know each other well obviously from training against each other but Italy are not a one-man team and obviously they’ve got a lot of quality in there,” he said.
“I don’t know if that familiarity is going to help me, obviously if does it will help him in the same way. It’s not about me and Mario in the game though, it’s going to be about England versus Italy.”
After topping the group against the odds following France’s surprise defeat against Sweden in Kiev, Lescott revealed that confidence within the camp is sky high, but warned that England cannot afford to believe they have landed a cosy draw after avoiding reigning world and European champions Spain.
He added: “It’s nice to top the group and to go through but if people are making out like it’s a good thing to avoid Spain we know Italy is not going to be an easy game.
“Obviously confidence comes with winning games and getting results and we’ve done that since Roy’s come in and won a bunch of games we’ve made ourselves hard to beat and obviously that breeds confidence.”