5 Things England Needs to Do to Avoid a Loss to Italy in Manaus

Editor’s Note: The following is the work of Jake Rudman, a freelance writer and contributor at LastWordOnSports. Follow him on Twitter — @Jake_Rudman.

1. Turn up on-time

Historically, teams who turn up late, or not at all, for football matches tend not to fare that well. England, along with numerous officials and delegates, have been struggling to traverse the traffic-addled streets of Brazil, although admittedly much of the congestion was caused by Ross Barkley. It took them twice as long as planned to get to their first day of training in Rio–not exactly ideal for preparation. Would it really be too much to ask to get them each an individual helicopter? The Germans have stumped up for their own purpose-built training facility in Sao Paolo. Are we trying to win this thing or what?

2. Sort Pirlo

Many fear that Hodgson’s plan was to employ Welbeck in the hole so he could boss Italy’s ancient anchorman and throw a spanner into the workhorse that makes the Azurri tick. His power, athleticism and fitness was to hustle and harang Pirlo, precluding him from spraying passes over, under and around our creaky defence – or so went the theory. Well if ever there was proof that theories are good for nothing, this is it. Welbeck is now a doubt to face Italy and even if he were passed fit at, say, 80%, he wouldn’t be the engine we need to prevent Pirlo’s playmaking production (try saying that one ten times at speed).

3. Convince Cesare Prandelli not to play Immobile

Cahill’s got Balotelli’s number – or so he says. Cassano is so past it he thinks a tablet is something you use to write down important moral principles and their attacking midfielder Claudio Marchisio only mustered four goals this year. So that’s their frontline dealt with, then. Hang about, though, who’s this Immobile fella and what’s he doing running around so much? A clinical hat-trick and two assists in their final warm-up friendly against Fluminese has drawn comparisons with 1990 Golden Boot hero Toto Schillaci, putting him in starting contention. He was Serie A’s top scorer last season with 22 goals for Torino and has recently joined Dortmund for £16 million.

How Roy might persuade his opposite number to avoid playing their new superstar striker I don’t quite know. England’s press conferences are currently so riddled with dread that Leighton Baines will offer the president of Argentina a televised debate on the proprietorship of ‘Las Malvinas’ that there is scarce room for mind games but perhaps he could get on the blower to Fergie and ask for a few handy tips on subtly coercing opposition managers into playing the wrong lineup.

4. Axe Ox

We must forget players who clearly aren’t fully fit, even if they claim to be. We’re going to need all the fully-energised substitutes, water breaks and microclimate miracles we can muster to deal with the double whammy of scorching heat and paralysing humidity in Manaus.

There’s no point removing Alex Oxlade-Chaimberlain from the squad just yet, however, because no player on the reserve list would plug the hole he would leave behind. Jermain Defoe is the closest comparison but utilising him this last-minute in any role other than the advanced striker one to which he is accustomed would be throwing him in at the deep end – and he’s really short.

At full strength, Ox can unlock defences. He’s not as good as Welbeck, or Barkley, or Lallana, or even Lennon for that matter but what he can provide is spark. Plus we’ve all been banging on about this youthful squad stuff – we may as well give it a chance.

5: Watch the VT

England were trounced last time around. The fact that they lost on penalties yet again was as devastating as it was flattering. Balotelli had a mare, De Rossi hit the post and they had a goal disallowed. Sort it out, Hodg.


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