• Defender says Group D opponents ‘have created a good mix’
• ‘We will arrive in the best physical and mental condition’
The Italy defender Ignazio Abate has claimed England could prove to be the “revelation” of the World Cup as the teams prepare to meet in Saturday’s Group D fixture in Manaus.
The Azzurri arrived in Rio de Janeiro late last week to begin their preparations at their base in Mangaratiba, although they will travel north on Friday, about 24 hours after England have settled in Amazônia. The countries met at Euro 2012, with Italy winning on penalties after a goalless draw, yet only five of Roy Hodgson’s team from that quarter-final in Kiev are likely to start this time.
“England have changed a lot, they have created a good mix and they could be the revelation of this World Cup,” said Abate, who played in the Euro 2012 final, where Italy lost to Spain. “It will be a very difficult match but I am convinced we will arrive in the best physical and mental condition. I think we need to erase what has been done previously and start again with great humility.
“At the Euros we started with a lot of scepticism, no one bet a euro on us, but then we got to the final, thanks to our desire to surprise. That should be the task in the World Cup, too. We can’t think we are a great team who can play within itself or wait for an individual to come up with the goods. As long as we don’t lose our humility and willingness to make sacrifices we can cause anyone problems.”
The Milan full-back’s sentiments were echoed by the centre-half Giorgio Chiellini. “In Kiev we played one of the best matches we have played but, over these two years, we have both [teams] changed,” said the Juventus defender, a mainstay of an Italy side who have failed to win since September and who drew their final friendly at home to Luxembourg before departing for South America.
“We are rejuvenated but I think the identity remains the same. They [England] have brought a group in, a Liverpool contingent, who have done very well. Maybe as individuals they have changed more than us but their way of playing remains the same. It will be a tough match, they have great individual players like [Wayne] Rooney and [Steven] Gerrard.
“Certainly, the weather factor will also be very important. Everyone has been scared of this Manaus, so we are curious to see what it’s like to play there. It’s already been two weeks that we’ve been working hard. There is still a week to go before the match, we are all looking to prepare as well as we can. There will be a bit of adaptation to the heat and temperature but we will be ready for next Saturday. Everything has been prepared in the best way possible.”