4.53pm: Speaking of opinions, here's Shane Wiltshire's, who is currently kicking it in downtown Shenyang, China, on tonight's impending affair.

Its midnight here, kick off is at 2.45am and I have class at 10.20. Hope England win for my students sake! Prediction:1-1 and us to win on penalties.

I've a feeling Shane's students won't be learning much tomorrow either way, especially if he is supping on some Tsingtao, which I learnt the hard way causes severe hangovers and makes you miss visits to the zoo in Xi'an to see pandas.

4.49pm: 8clap has these thoughts on Pirlo's candid comments.


Nice to hear what a footballer really thinks but I'm surprised by his candor, even bullishness.

Every night, I fall to my knees and pray that we will one day live in a world where footballers are not saturated in cliche and PR speak and come out and really express their opinions, just as Pirlo has done. Football would be a lot more interesting then, can we all agree on that? Good.

4.44pm: Maybe you missed this during the week so it's worth another posting. James Dart got his YouTube on and dug up highlights of various football-based encounters between England v Italy throughout the ages. Click here to get down with all that.

4.28pm: Fancy a well written tactical preview with plenty of nice pictures? Well I have just the thing for you.

4.24pm: Some predictions from below the line. Agent80 says:

I'm predicting a heroic 1-0 defeat tonight, in a way I would rather we did go out now as the stress and embarrassment of playing an imperious German side is too much to bear. That said, I hope Germany go on to win the tournament, they have been the best team by far and it would be nice to see Spain brought down a peg or two.

ClaudeIvan (who has the coolest picture going) reckons the following is how tonight will pan out:

Have a sneaking suspicion that it's going to pens. In which case surely England's due to win one?

1-1 after extra time.

Pirlo shackled, Rooney free, De Rossi to show enough snarl and bite to make Gatusso look like Mother Theresa.

4.16pm: Some stats to pass off as your own knowledge when you're watching the match later.

• The Azzurri remain unbeaten in competitive games under Cesare Prandelli: 13 games, nine wins and four draws

• Italy have only been knocked out at the quarter finals of a major tournament on two of the nine occasions that they have reached this stage – both times on penalty kicks (Euro 2008 v Spain and World Cup 1998 v France).

• England have lost seven out of ten quarter-final games at major tournaments, with 1966, 1990 and 1996 the only exceptions.

• England have managed just one win from their last nine games against Italy – two draws, lost six.

• Italy and England scored three goals each from set-pieces, the joint-most in the group stages of Euro 2012.

• England had the best shot conversion rate in the group stages (21.7%).

4.09pm: In case any of you were wondering about England team news for tonight, just chatting to Dominic Fifield and he reckons there'll be no changes to the team that faced Ukraine in the final group game.

4.01pm: Steve Clowes has pointed me in the direction of these pull-no-punches quotes from the love of my life Andrea Pirlo.

People talk about England playing the Italian way, but that's rubbish. Only Italy can play the Italian way. And we do not care for anyone who tries to impersonate us. It's like trying to play against Spain the Spanish way. I have seen some of England's games in this tournament. They have been more practical than impressive, and we are confident of beating them.

"They have weaknesses that we can exploit, particularly in the midfield. They are missing some key players and I think we will have the measure of them in that area. They also look very nervous at times in defence and, France aside, they have not had to play too many big nations.

"I think they were more adventurous under Fabio Capello and I would have been more concerned if he was still in charge. It is very odd to see an English side play counter-attacking football. Maybe they will adopt a different approach against us, but I doubt it because in some ways they are very predictable.

"They have been very fortunate in getting this far. Against France they were completely outplayed, then they struggled against Sweden and were extremely lucky to win against Ukraine."

It's hard to argue with that isn't it? Or is it?

3.55pm: STOP THE PRESS! (I've never actually heard someone shout that here in GU Towers, just in case you were wondering). Maybe Andy Carroll should start against Italy, after all he has form against Buffon. See the above video, courtesy of @101greatgoals, for further details.

3.51pm: MrBull stuffed his optimism for tonight's game into one big seven-point-bumper post below the line. just in case you missed it, here it is.

Why we will be flying back home tomorrow.

i. England aren't a tournament side.
ii. We're not comfortable keeping possession of the ball.
iii. Not scoring enough goals, in fact Rooney is so out of form it's amazing nobody hasn't noticed.
iv. We constantly ball watch in awe of the opposition.
v. The FA are only interested in making money, through shirt sponsorship deals, see point 3.
vi. We're not comfortable playing anything other than the 442 system.
vii. Other teams look at their teammates whilst passing, we still look at the ball. We also don't seem to be able to trap a ball and bring it down comfortably with the necessary degree of control required.

3.39pm: By the way, here's Gazzetta's predicted Italy lineup for tonight's match: Buffon; Abate, Barzagli, Bonucci, Balzaretti; Marchisio, Pirlo, De Rossi, Montolivo; Balotelli, Cassano.

3.37pm: Over on the Twitter, the excellent @barcastuff has this pointless really exciting stat for you stat fans out there.

Xavi (734) yesterday overtook Zinedine Zidane (707) as the player with most successful passes ever in Euro history

3.28pm: Erica Naito-Campbell, in Erica's own words, "rather fancied the picture" until Erica "realized it wasn't of a very patriotic pregnant woman. (It was the hairy nipple that gave it away.)" By gave it away, I'm sure Erica means induced projectile vomiting that will not stop until England win another World Cup.

3.26pm: Back to the big question of the day. It's wryape's turn to provide an answer as to what type of rap Roy gets down with. He's reckons it's A Tribe Called Quest's jazzy little number, Jazz (We've got) (Jazz! Jazzy! Get it? Eh? Eh? *Pokes elbow in side* Ah, forget about it. Just enjoy the track)

3.13pm: "My eyes, my eyes! Kill it with fire!" screams Jack Lee, perhaps making a sly reference to that classic Simpsons scene (or not). Not much love out there for the new picture. How odd.

3.12pm: SusScrofa has got his dancing shoes on and is tapping away below the line.

I'll be watching in an Irish pub in S. California owned by a man from Belfast. Next door is an Italian bar owned by brothers from Turin. I confidently expect to be morris dancing down the street in a few hours, quite likely congratulated with a shower of Guinness and marinara sauce.

3.06pm:England fans have taken over the Swedish corner in fan zone in Kiev, reports Rob Harris, before adding ""We are the champions" playing here slightly prematurely." Yeah, I had a giggle at that one too.

3.04pm: Ryan Dunne is not a fan of the new pic. "Far be it from a Glorious Glasgow Rangers fan like myself to diss a Union Jack tattoo but: bleuuuchhh!" Glorious Glasgow Rangers? Yeah, I had a giggle at that one too.

2.49pm: Like the new picture?

2.42pm: A nagging ankle problem for Bastian Schweinsteiger and the continuing issue of a mole in the camp have cast a small shadow over Germany's preparations for their Euro 2012 semi-final in Warsaw on Thursday. So says this story anyway and who am I to question it?

2.40pm: Down under, BluMoon has given his detailed, and quite possibly very correct, prediction for tonight's game:

I can see England conceding early tonight with Balotelli the likely scorer. I'm seeing some sort of defensive error leading to the ball landing at his feet about 12 yards out and a quick shimmy from Mario before slotting it into the corner. It'll no doubt remain a cagey affair from then on until just into the second half when, from an England corner, the ball will be blasted up field and Balotelli will lay it off for Cassano who'll knock it through Hart's legs to make it 2-0. Italy will shut up shop and England will bring on Carroll, who'll have an immediate impact heading a set-piece back across the goal for Rooney to tap-in. There'll then be 10 minutes of England lumping it at the Italian box with someone (Rooney) missing a sitter with about two minutes to go. Everyone will be devastated but commend England on the fight they showed after going two behind. England fans will then all support Germany because they're playing exciting football and don't possess either Balotelli or Ronaldo. Germany will get to the final, only to lose 1-0 in a turgid affair decided by a very un-Spanish goal (a Piqué header from a corner). As Spain won, the general consensus will thus be that it was quite a boring and predictable tournament and Spain will march one more step towards the antipathy that is usually shown towards serially dominant teams.

2.32pm: Spain are getting their excuses in early ahead of being knocked out of Euro 2012 1-0 by Portugal. The physio Javier Minano has said that Portugal 'have something of an advantage' in semi-final as they have a day or two more in bed than their Iberian neighbours. The full story is but a click away.

2.24pm: Remember that guy Keith from the Office? Course you do! He was the one that dressed up like Ali G and dished out the sort of gems that made you snort out loud, like this one and this one. Well anyway, he has recorded a good-luck video message for Stevie G and boyz tonight.

2.14pm: Afternoon all, lunch done. Lunch-time listening done and done. Now let's get back to this football business, shall we? Who has some score predictions for tonight's game?

1.25pm: OK folks, Daniel's webchat is just about to get going so I'm off to grab some lunch. See you in a bit.

1.20pm: Don't forget about Daniel Taylor's webchat. It's kicking off in 10 minutes if you want to get your questions in for him.

1.14pm: There is a crop circle field in Verona, Italy cut to resemble Mario Balotelli. Don't believe me? Click here.

1.07pm: Geoffrey Saunders is 1,000,000 per cent behind hellomartin's suggestion. "Rooney has done nothing in an England shirt for 6 years that justifies his place. Nothing the other day and much worse than Carroll when he has played for England." Shall we just forget that winning goal then?

1.05pm: "That conservative exterior is just for the cameras. When he closes the door on the dressing-room this is Hodgson's choice for the pre-match play-list," eye-spies David Wall.

1.02pm: Moving the chat in the direction of tonight's game, hellomartin, has a somewhat controversial suggestion for us all to get busy about.


Am not convinced we should even play Rooney, he is vastly over-rated and we also have to listen to all that fawning clap trap from the ITV commentators through the whole game. Start with Carroll, he is in infinitely better form.

12.45pm: Over on a popular social networking service and microblogging website, Jamie Bale is crossing his fingers, knocking on wood, rubbing as many rabbit feet as he can get his hands on and hoping that this number from Ice Cube might be Hodgson's exit music this evening.

12.39pm: España, in the shape of Niall Mullen, has a response to the earlier epistle from football fans, in the shape of F0Xinthebox.

Dear Football Fans,

I'm sorry that you feel that way but we do not really want to be part of any club that has you as a member. You say that you liked us under Uncle Luis. Do you mean our 0-0 win on penalties over Italy or our 1-0 win over Germany in the final? The truth is that other teams became intimidated by our beauty. They are too scared to ask us out on dates and stand at the back of the dance hall with the hard lads making snide comments about our dancing. They are petrified of putting themselves in the vulnerable position of potentially being shown up by our mad skills. So they threaten to kick our heads in.

And if we've reacted to that by doubling down on what we're best at then so be it. The dearth of courage is not with us. As France showed last night they altered how they played, not us. And in doing so they betrayed their proud history and surrendered meekly. If you want to leave us for Germany then fine. But don't forget to look at her performance against us 4 years ago when they too changed their very nature to a negative any stultifying extreme. As for England, you're welcome to her. If you enjoy her peculiar brand of clumsiness and confident self-hatred then we were never meant to be in the first place.

We will keep doing what we do and if you keep coming at is with the same tedious defencive style no matter how you normally do then maybe the fault isn't really with us? In short, 'football' fans, it's not us, it's you.

España.

12.27pm: Gary Hickman is in sunny Stuttgart and is having all his German mates around for cans tonight to watch the match. "They have even bought England shirts for the match. This is partly because we had a bet in the WC 2010 where I said if Germany beat England I would be a German fan for the rest of the tournament. I have to wear the complete kit and there are pictures to prove it. That hurt but serves me right for living in Germany and making stupid bets." It sure does, Gary, it sure does.

12.25pm: EnricoPalazzo has brought out the smile in me by suggesting this number could be Hodgson's entrance music.

12.18pm: Two sides of the Germans supporting England question. A jolly-sounding LancerRed types:

I'd like to confirm: I am German and I will fully support England today. As will all of my family. And probably a lot of people I know.

The reason isn't any family link to England (unless you count my great-grandmother who married someone from Cornwall) but it is simply out of sympathy (England and the UK are generally regarded as cool here) and of course due to our abysmal tournament record against the Italians (our true nemesis. I will never forget how the ruined the "summer fairy-tale" of 2006 for us with those last-minute goals). Also, to be honest, I really want an England-Germany semi-final because the discussions on here will be amazing, both before and afterwards

Whereas a more nonchalant icebreaker shrugs his/her shoulders and types:

I'm German and I don't care who we play next.

Italy or England? Does it really matter? Germany are going straight to the final, aren't they?

12.11pm: Ryan Dunne has just paused last night's pod to give his two-cents on the Hodgson-rap question: "I'd vote (given his love for highbrow literature) Common for Roy: classy, highfalutin', studiously cool but, in the last analysis, a tad underwhelming."

12.09pm: Been meaning to link to this story for a while, just getting around to it now. Sad news I am afraid. Yesterday saw the passing of the former Northern Ireland and QPR captain Alan McDonald at the age of 48.

12.06pm: Julian Craven has this suggestion for the type of rap Roy Hodgson might be into. Good tune this one.

12.02pm: You just can't move for the love for the England side these days. steven34237, who is below the line and in Ukraine at the same time, has this to say to y'all: "most of Ukraine is getting behind England and before any wise ass remarks i do actually live in Ukraine so i speak with a little local knowledge!"

11.56am: If Roy Hodgson was into rap music (and he might just be), who do you think he'd listen to?

11.50am: The AP wires have more on that Nasri story I mentioned earlier.

The France coach Laurent Blanc says midfielder Samir Nasri showed a "a lack of respect" by aiming an expletive-laced rant at a journalist following the team's 2-0 defeat to Spain in the European Championship quarterfinals.

Nasri was walking through the post-match interview area when the heated exchange took place after the journalist asked him for a reaction to Saturday's defeat. Reports added that Nasri, as the dispute escalated, then challenged the journalist to take their argument further.

Speaking on French television Sunday, Blanc said "it's very unfortunate" and "I told [Nasri] what I thought of it." Nasri, who came on as a second-half substitute against Spain, had a tense relationship with French media throughout the tournament.

I want to like Nasri, I really do, but boy does he make it hard.

11.35am: My inbox is now chock-a-block with weather updates from around Europe. Joshua Newman is in a boiling Rome. Julian Craven is in a dull and cloudy Berlin. And Steve Clowes, who is in a thundery Bucharest, tells me the Romanians "will be supporting England." What has happened? How long did I sleep last night? Have I woke up in the year 2080 to find that everyone likes the England football team?

11.27am: By the way, just in case you didn't know, one of the nicest guys on the desk and our chief football writer, Daniel Taylor, will be answering any questions you have – Euro 2012 related questions, not what-should-I-do-with-my-life questions – from 1.30pm. So get below the line and get them in. There's a prize for the best one.* But do come back here when you're done.

*There is no prize.

11.22am: Below the line, Jlabbacher (who I think may be German, or at least live in Germany) backs up Alex Banks's idea that the Germans will be breaking out England flags tonight and waving them in support of their old chums.

I don't know if most germans will support England tonight but I think many of us will do. Because of our abysmal record against Italy in later stages of a tournament many belive that England may be an "easier" way to reach the final. Compare our record against England to our record against Italy and it makes sense.

By believe, I'm sure Jlabbacher means are certain.

11.01am: Let's get distracted from the Spain debate for a moment shall we to embrace one of the first emails of the day that was brave enough to take on, and beat, the Guardian Spam Detector. It's an interesting one from Alex Banks in "a rather cloudy, dull Germany." OK, that bit wasn't interesting, but what he says next kinda is: "Most of the Germans are supporting England tonight." Most? Really? That can't be true can it? Any Germans out there want to back up Alex's claim?

10.54am: On a serious note, F0Xinthebox has a point no?

10.45am: F0Xinthebox has just posted what might be my favourite below the line comment of all time. Here it is in all it's glory:

Dear Spain,

I'm leaving you. I've had as much as I can take with your obsession with big shiny things at the expense of our relationship. We were happy once when you won your first beauty contest in 2008. You had something of a complex back then but I believed in you and your confidence bloomed wonderfully. You were so much fun in those days: carefree and happy, and our love was spontaneously expressed. Maybe things changed when your Uncle Luis handed over the management of your career to your other Uncle Vicente. Things started well, it was as if Uncle Luis had never left. Then we went to South Africa and almost overnight from 'carefree' everything became about 'control.' Possessions became everything. That ugly gold cup that sits on your mantelpiece now seems to define you. I can't touch your hair or I might muss it up. Kissing is off limits because your lipstick might smudge. What happened to us, Spain? All you care about is winning that Euro trinket, and everything else be damned. Fun is out. If I so much as make a playful grab for one of your breasts you mutter something about me not messing with the gold fringed underwire of your bra while pushing my hand away. Eh? You some sort of robo-babe now, cold and mechanical? You may be efficient but you have no more warmth, no joie de vivre.

Good luck with things, but I'm moving on now. The German gal is young and has attractive laughing blue eyes. She wants to win but, like you once, she wants to win while having fun and making people happy. That English girl we used to laugh at for thinking she was better than she was looks pretty grounded now. She doesn't even wear makeup most of the time, but she looks much better for it. Sure she sometimes looks ragged and breathless and is unlikely to win but there's a certain charm in her new realism and sense of living in the moment. Maybe I'll ask her for a date tonight.
If you win, I hope you'll be happy. You'll be in the history books as statistically the best. And although you may be alone and not as revered as that Brazilian beauty who won Mexico '70 at least you'll have that shiny tiara you sacrificed our love for to cuddle in the still of the night.

Love, Football Fans

10.34am: My colleague Tom Lutz was watching last night's sterilisation of the sport we all love with some young relations of his. At the end of the match, the boy, aged 9, turned to Tom and said: "I don't think I like football anymore." You see what you've done Spain? You've only gone and ruined it for the kids. Thanks.

10.32am: I have a feeling that Samir Nasri does not like the press. Why do I have that feeling? Well he told one journalist to do one after the game last night. You can read all about it here.

10.21am: OK, so if that dose of the Velvet Underground hasn't lifted your spirits, these quotes from (the once mighty) Niall Quinn surely will. The former BEC Tero Sasana F.C. star reckons Andy Carroll's header against Sweden was as good as Zlatan Ibrahimovic's belter against France. No really. I'm not kidding.


When Carroll scored that header against Sweden, I was delighted. For me, that was as good a goal as we have seen at this tournament. People talk about Zlatan Ibrahimovic's swivel volley against France, but Carroll's was every bit as difficult

See.Told ya'.

10.16am: Don't say I never do anything for you. Here's the best song that the Velvet Underground wrote containing the word Sunday in the title.

10.13am: Below the line, sakibmadridista is far too positive for this time of a Sunday morning.

England will destroy Italy with an exhibition of attacking football filled with creativity and flair. 3 nil.

10.05am: Some links to kick the morning off for ya'.

Spain 2-0 France

Scott Murray, Paolo Bandini, John Ashdown and Paul MacInnes all grace last night's edition of Football Daily

Italy can dare to dream under Andrea Pirlo's direction, reckons Richard Williams. (Note, article comes complete with comedy Kevin Doyle picture)

Stevie G urges England to 'seize the moment'

Italy's Cesare Prandelli praises England's high tempo

9.50am: Yaaaaaaaawwwwnn. *Covers mouth* Sorry about that, I am still in the midst of recovering from the snoozefest that was Spain's 2-0 win over France last night celebrating Lionel Messi's 25th birthday. I can't be the only one out there who found all that a bit *whispers* boring, can I? Anyway, at least we have Italy 1-0 England (Balotelli, 54) to look forward to it, eh? Eh?