• 'We need to stop England playing football'
• Coach unconcerned by lack of goals among Italy forwards
If Roy Hodgson's brief on taking charge of England was simply to weld together in record time a team that might garner a patina of footballing respect at Euro 2012, he can consider that test passed with honours given the high praise bestowed by the Italy coach, Cesare Prandelli, ahead of the teams' quarter-final in Kiev on Sunday evening.
"We have prepared for this game by watching England's games in the tournament so far and we have noticed England are one of the most disciplined European sides," Prandelli said during a press conference that was distinctly Anglo-Italian in more ways than one.
"They play all together within a space of 40 yards and we need to stop them playing football. They will produce a high tempo and they will put their foot in. We need to be very prepared."
Further confirmation that football is an endlessly surprising business: here was an Italy manager discussing with reverence the defensive organisation of an England team. "The team we are taking on has a lot of characters and a lot of good players," Prandelli said. "They are very organised, they don't just play all over the place. We must have no psychological hang-ups and remain completely focused all the game and be ready to take our opportunities."
Taking opportunities is, on paper, a potential area of concern. With 29 to date, Wayne Rooney has four more international goals than Italy's Euro 2012 strikers combined. The Italian journalists present were quick to press Prandelli on this, but his response was sanguine: "It is not a problem. I believe we are coming into things at the right time. We are a lot younger and we do have the quality to succeed."
Further links between the two countries were apparent here: if the English football press has gained a reputation for mob-handed belligerence that, if accurate in its entirety, would place it somewhere between a Stasi interrogation gang and a school of flesh-eating piranha, Italy's football media can be equally tough. In spite of which Roy Hodgson could be seen waving happily to friends in the Italian newspaper corps from his time in Milan as he left the room before Prandelli's emergence.
Then, of course, there was Mario Balotelli, a shared Anglo-Italian obsession who in truth stole the show entirely from his manager and his team-mate Andrea Barzagli. For Prandelli it is a matter of both judgment and instinct as to whether Balotelli's familiarity with England's players will be a spur or a hindrance.
Here Balotelli spent the press conference either mumbling gnomically or trying to make Barzagli giggle. At one point, listening to a question about whether the England goalkeeper Joe Hart has an advantage knowing something of his game, he could not help letting out a slightly alarming cackle.
Italian volatility against English discipline. These championships continue to surprise.