Ignazio Abate has warned his Italy team-mates of the threat posed by England striker Wayne Rooney ahead of their Euro 2012 quarter-final.
The Italian admits the Manchester United forward has the potential to create all kinds of trouble for the Italy defence.
“England play a lot on the flanks, are quick on the counter-attack and get to the other end of the pitch with relative ease,” Abate told Uefa.com.
“They deliver a lot of crosses and have Wayne Rooney, a striker who is a great header of the ball. He is a complete player, one of the best in the world. It’s an incredibly tough challenge, but it will be hard for them too.”
Despite being odds-on to pick up a win against England, Abate is not so certain Italy have what it takes to overcome Roy Hodgson’s men and advance to the semi-finals.
“I don’t think we have been favourites since the start and we are still not now that we’re in the quarter-final,” he said.
“We have overcome the tricky obstacle of the group stage and now we feel that with the heart we have shown we can become something of a depth charge in this tournament.”
Abate said Giorgio Chiellini’s recent injury could cause Italy coach Cesare Prandelli to choose a different formation on Sunday.
“This side consists of many great champions and our ability to switch formations during the course of a match has never been a problem. In fact, it’s another sting to our bow,” he said.
“The coach has a great relationship with all of us and he is always there to talk to, he is a real tracksuit manager, a good teacher and a good talker: the whole squad enjoys working with him and results have reflected that.”
Abate has not allowed the huge nature of the occasion to sidetrack his aims, but the 25-year-old is well aware that the entire nation will be watching Sunday’s match.
“It’s an incredible feeling, you get shivers when you’re preparing to walk out of the tunnel and when you listen to the national anthems, as you never know when your next chance will come,” he said.
“We are trying to transmit this passion of ours to the whole nation. We are a group of simple guys who are working together to realise the same dream of winning something important.
“With hard work and heart we will try our best to keep the whole nation dreaming.”
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