Wayne Rooney has cranked up the pressure on Italy by claiming England have moved ahead of Cesare Prandelli’s men.
England are set to meet Italy in their FIFA World Cup opener in Group D on Saturday, in a match that could have a big impact on who qualifies for the knockout stages.
The two sides met in the quarter-finals of UEFA Euro 2012, with Italy emerging as winners on penalties on that occasion having largely dominated the game.
However, Manchester United striker Rooney believes that Roy Hodgson’s young squad has improved significantly since then.
“I think we’ve moved ahead of Italy,” he said at a press conference. “We have a youthful squad so it will be interesting to see how we have progressed.
Much talk has surrounded England’s ability to shackle Andrea Pirlo, who enjoyed a fine game in the Euro 2012 meeting between the teams.
Yet Rooney added: “Really the Italians should be looking at how to control us.
“We’re not too focused on Pirlo. He’s fantastic and they’ve got some great players, but so have we, so they should be more worried about our team.”
Danny Welbeck missed training for England on Wednesday due to a thigh problem, but Rooney played down talk of his club colleague being unavailable for the clash with Italy.
“He’ll be ready for Saturday, he’s just not risked anything,” explained Rooney.