14th August 2012
Rejuvenated England side square off against Euro 2012 runners-up Italy at Wankdorfstadion in Bern, less than two months after Azzurri eliminated them on penalties in the European Championship quarter-finals. The Three Lions aim to get revenge on the severely weakened Italy, with both sides preparing for the start of the 2014 World Cup qualifiers.
It’s been a while since England last traveled to a major tournament without their fans having huge expectations, but given the disappointing build up to the 2012 European Championship, the poor atmosphere surrounding the national team was hardly surprising. Nevertheless, Roy Hodgson’s side produced several promising showings in Poland and Ukraine to reach the tournament quarter-finals, but were eventually stopped by red-hot Italy, once again crashing out of a major tournament after penalty shoot-out. Decent performances at the biggest stage helped improve the atmosphere in the squad and gave the fans hope that England could do well in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers. Even if the first qualifier against Moldova is less than a month away, Roy Hodgson decided to leave some of his starters out of the squad, with Wayne Rooney, John Terry, Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney all rested. Micah Richards, Gareth Barry, Daniel Sturridge, Joe Hart, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott miss out through injury, but Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley return to the side.
Just like England, Italy, too, arrived to the Euro 2012 amid low expectations after another match-fixing scandal rocked the Serie A championship. However, while the media were ruing over the destiny of Italian football, especially following the 3-0 defeat to Russia in their final warm-up game, Cesare Prandelli and his men believed in what they were doing and were soon rewarded for their valiant efforts. The Azzurri shocked everyone by outplaying very good Spain and Croatia sides in the group stage, while victories over England and Germany in the knockout rounds were nothing more than they deserved. In spite of the 4-0 defeat in the tournament final, Italy returned home as winners, having done much more than they were expected to. Cesare Prandelli has opted to leave some star players out of the side, with Pirlo, Bonucci, Barzagli, Maggio, Marchisio, Cassano and Balotelli all missing out, while calling no less than eight uncapped players.
With both sides missing a number of regular starters while featuring plenty of inexperienced players, there is every chance we will see a very open game in Bern, with plenty of chances at both ends. Online bookmakers do not seem to feel that way, which is why there is a great value in betting on over 2.5 goals.
Verdict: Over 2.5 goals
Best Odds: 3/2