England begin their World Cup adventure this evening, with Italy the opponents for Roy Hodgson’s side in the asphyxiating conditions of Manaus, the capital city of the state of Amazonas in the north of Brazil.
The two teams can expect humidity of around 96 percent at the Arena Amazônia, while the pitch conditions may prove to be equally as difficult to cope with as the elements. But it does, of course, provide a leveller, although these teams are separated by just a single place in the FIFA World Rankings.
England and Italy last met almost two years ago in the quarter-final of Euro 2012 - a game in which Cesare Prandelli’s side triumphed courtesy of a penalty shootout on their path to the final, which they lost against Spain.
Some players remain on both sides from this encounter, of course, but England could feasibly start with seven different personnel from the XI that started in Kiev, and there is optimism the Three Lions may pose more of a threat going forward on this occasion and they will be boosted by the news that veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon has been ruled out by injury.
The teams are:
England: Hart, Johnson, Jagielka, Cahill, Baines; Gerrard, Henderson; Welbeck, Sterling, Rooney; Sturridge.
Italy: Sirigu; Chiellini, Paletta, Barzagli, Darmian; De Rossi, Pirlo, Verratti; Candreva, Marchisio; Balotelli.
Ashley Young and Theo Walcott were not on the plane this time, with loss of form and injury ending their respective World Cup ambitions, while Andy Carroll has been placed on standby rather than earning a place in the 23 for Brazil.
Youngsters can shine
In their places are the likes of Raheem Sterling, Adam Lallana and Daniel Sturridge - all young, fresh and, most importantly, coming into the tournament of the back of excellent seasons for their clubs. There is plenty to be excited about.
But there remains a spine of experience, with captain Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney potentially the most key players under Hodgson’s tutelage. Rooney, still searching for his maiden World Cup goal, was prolific in the qualifying campaign, and he will surely play an important rule in any potential success England will enjoy this summer.
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