Cautious optimism in the back pages for England’s chances v Italy & Real Madrid close in on Modric & Tevez

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “All the Manchester City players are my friends: James Milner, Joe Hart and Gareth Barry. But the player I fear the most? I don’t fear anyone. I just hope it’s going to be a good match and I think it’s going to be fun to play against my team-mates. They know me and I know them. I just hope it’s going to be nice and fun. But I just want to win. Even if they’re my team-mates, I hope they’re going to lose… I don’t know what you mean when you ask if I’m going to make you angry or happy,’ said Balotelli, who is expected to play tonight, even though coach Cesare Prandelli says he will not name the side until an hour before kick-off. Like all of my team-mates I want to put in a good performance and whether you’re entertained is up to you. I don’t think Mario the person needs to demonstrate [anything] to anyone. Because people who know me know what I’m like. I don’t have to demonstrate it to the English, Italians or anyone.” – Mario Balotelli.

Runner-up: “I don’t know what is meant when it is said we play like the Italian team. You would need to explain to me what qualities are in our play to ­suggest we have the same qualities we see in the Italians’ play. I’m not certain it’s such a different mentality for the knockout stages. There will be no change to our mentality in ­particular. We must prepare and be ready for the match and make sure we ­perform as we can do. What Italy have over us is they use their qualities and one quality is finding a way to win – even when at times they haven’t looked anything like winners. You take the 1982 World Cup. Up until the last couple of games they looked anything other than winners and they came home with the cup. That was because their players seemed to find a way to get the job done when it was necessary. We have to try to break the ­hoodoo. They have been lucky enough to break their hoodoo a lot more ­recently than we have been able to do. 1966 is a long time. Italy can point to much more ­recent ­success. We are going into a game that gives us a chance of putting one very unpleasant statistic away – that we haven’t beaten a major nation in the tournament knockout stage up until now. It would be nice if we could beat Italy and stop that statistic being thrown at us. But most importantly it would be very nice to win the game and get to the semi-final because we would have another chance to beat another big team in a tournament.” – Roy Hodgson.

England v Italy, Euro 2012 quarter-final

Roy should play Carroll to strike fear into Italians (Glenn Hoddle, Mail on Sunday) “Italy will have seen Carroll’s header against Sweden and they won’t want to face him, particularly with their best defender, Giorgio Chiellini, injured. I’m sure Roy will look at the situation closely and if it was me, I’d be very tempted to start with the Liverpool man. Italy played well against Spain and Croatia with three centre-halves but one of them, Daniele de Rossi, is a midfield player playing at the back. He is not a defensive header of the ball and Carroll can exploit that.”

Italy are not very Italian, they play with rhythm and flair (Gary Neville, Mail on Sunday) “Usually, Italian teams in the past, you would think as playing in stops and starts, being very cynical, creating fouls and playing in spurts. But this team play to a rhythm, out from the back. They are not very Italian. They are a very good football side and they have two good forwards, whoever they play.”

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That touch of Sir Alf is why there is such trust in Roy (Patrick Collins, Mail on Sunday)

Keep calm and carry on: Neville warns stars, don’t let the Italians wind you up (Matt Law, Sunday Mirror)

Why captain fantastic Steven Gerrard is my player of Euro 2012 so far (Ian Holloway, Sunday Mirror)

Roy Hodgson must keep players sweet for a fruitful campaign (David James, Observer) “So I don’t know what the mood is in the England camp, but I can take a guess. With England winning their group, most people would logically assume all 23 players are happy and pulling in the same direction. Certainly Roy Hodgson’s approach – on and off the field – seems to be working. The results are going the right way and the players have a wealth of healthy distractions on their doorstep in Krakow to prevent the kind of cabin fever that occurred in South Africa. Hodgson seems to take his players’ feelings into account – bringing in Dave Watson from Birmingham City to work alongside Ray Clemence as goalie coach, as per Joe Hart’s request, and positively cultivating the social hub that is the physio room.”

Dumping WAGs has given England a chance of glory (Roy Keane, Sunday Sun) “England are capable of winning Euro 2012 but I have one fear about tonight’s game — the jubilation which greeted their avoidance of Spain. If you were given a choice between playing the current world and European champions or Italy in the quarter-finals then of course you would choose the latter. But you would just be worried about the psychological effect that relief has on your players. Italy might be a less daunting challenge but they are no mugs and England still have to go and win the game. The bookies have Roy Hodgson’s side as slight favourites to win this evening but there is very little in it and that’s the way I see it.”

Right time to rewrite history (Steven Howard, Sunday Sun) 

England have to banish 58 years of hurt overseas to overcome Italy in Kiev (Paul Hayward, Sunday Telegraph) 

Ego-less England have team spirit and quality to beat Italy, says Gary Neville (Henry Winter, Sunday Telegraph)

If England keep the ball and starve Andrea Pirlo, they should beat Italy (Alan Hansen, Sunday Telegraph) “The most simple way to nullify the effect of the Juventus midfielder in Kiev is to starve him of the ball because, if he doesn’t have it, he is not the type of player who will do much damage elsewhere. But Pirlo is the player that England have to stop and they have to get close to him quickly, upset his rhythm and make him go in search of the ball. Pirlo looked unsettled in the early stages against the Republic of Ireland last week because both Keith Andrews and Glenn Whelan worked really hard to get on top of him whenever he had the ball. England will have Steven Gerrard and Scott Parker lined up against Pirlo and it will be a case of the nearest man having to get tight to the Italian.”

Italy & Super Mario

Italy face Mario Balotelli quandary – is he worth the risk? (Daniel Taylor, Observer) “Psychoanalysing Balotelli has never been an easy thing, but there is no libel in saying there are times when he seems to exist in a different universe. His goal against the Republic of Ireland on Monday was a beauty and a reminder why in Italy he is regarded as their best hope of beating England in Kiev . At the same time, Cesare Prandelli’s problem is the same one that Roberto Mancini faces for nine months of the year and it is that, as the City defender Pablo Zabaleta puts it, there is simply no point second-guessing what Balotelli might do next. ‘His brain is gone, absolutely …'”

No Peter Pan but Balotelli ready to fly (James Olley, Independent on Sunday) 

Spain 2 – France 0

Alonso provides firepower as strikerless Spain march on closer to retaining title (Jonathan Wilson, Independent on Sunday) “Control. The flair that once characterised Spain’s tiki-taka has faded somewhat, but they remain as effective and dominant as ever. Last night’s quarter-final victory was their seventh win to nil in a row in knock-out tournaments and, as in the previous six, they were rarely threatened as they recorded their first ever competitive victory over France. A philosophy based on ball possession has mutated from the excitement of four years ago into something more mechanistic. Tiki-taka has become ticky-tock. Neutrals may have preferred the more visceral thrill of their football in Austria and Switzerland, but there is something admirable still about their relentless pursuit of possession. Arsène Wenger has spoken of Barcelona’s “sterile domination” and while there is something slightly grudging about the term, in essence he is right. Spain, like Barcelona, are a hugely gifted side capable of using their gifts not to thrill but to win, less concerned by the creation of chances than by preventing the opposition creating anything.”

Xabi Alonso comes to the fore in funfair of Mexican waves (Richard Williams, Observer)


I won’t Bale out: Spurs relief as star pledges another year (Matt Law, Sunday Mirror)

Real Madrid have made a shock move to land Carlos Tevez. (Sunday Sun)

Olivier Giroud will join Arsenal for £12million this week (Sunday Sun)

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