Sunday, 24 June 2012

England and Italy… Rooney and Balotelli

Hello, I’m Callum Rivett, and welcome to my latest blog for The Football Front. This week it's the turn of the quarter finals to capture my fleeting glances, and what a quarter final it looks to be. 

            Who thought England would finish top of the group with two wins and a draw against France? I certainly didn’t, and I think this is because the expectations had been lowered to the point that we thought we may not even get out of the group.
            We have avoided world champions Spain, which is welcome news to every English fan, but unfortunately face a tie with favourites Germany in the semi-final if we beat Italy. The Germans are, unsurprisingly, an efficient bunch, and have proved so by winning four out of four matches. Their only weakness could be their defence - an average Greek side scored two, albeit one from a penalty. 
            Roy Hodgson has built up a fantastic team spirit within the camp, and that can only have a positive effect. The Italians are nothing special, but then neither are we. Both sides are defensively minded, and will sit back and look to hit the opposition on the counter. 
            Those techniques are fine against opposition that like to attack and are a better side than yourself. But what we could be looking at is a match where the two sides are waiting for the other to attack, both sitting back, both scared of going forwards. 
            Then again, since it’s a quarter final and winner-takes-all match, we could have the most exciting and enthralling match of the tournament on our hands. Two very evenly matched sides, no big expectations, but with a team full of hard-working, classy players. We have Rooney; they have Balotelli. We have Hart; they have Buffon. 

            Both us and Italy boast world-class talents, but both have a loose fuse. Rooney and Balotelli can be either heroes or villains. Both have been sent off numerous times, but they have both scored numerous times. Balotelli is effectively the Italian Wayne Rooney. You can see the raw talent, the enthusiasm, but there is something else, something dark. A violent, idiotic side: Rooney’s kick against Montenegro, Balotelli’s sending off versus Arsenal, Rooney’s stamp on Carvalho, Balotelli and the bib. 
            Ultimately Balotelli is more idiotic than aggressive, and Rooney vice versa, but the talent there is undeniable. Under the guidance of Roberto Mancini, Super Mario can flourish to become a world-class talent, but only if Man City can control his wild side. He’s arrogant, but not in a moronic way. He gives 60% of his wages to charity, so it is obvious he is actually not as stupid as he makes out. 
            There is only one word that fully describes Mario Balotelli: entertaining. 
            These two will be the focal points for the media come Sunday, and they could hold the key to their country’s success. England will have to dominate Italy’s defence - which is weak - to win, and I believe that if we get to half-time at 0-0 then we have a superb chance to get to a semi-final, something that doesn’t come along that often. In fact, I wasn’t even born when England last got to the semis, but I know the story of that 1990 game against Germany. Gazza’s tears, Pearce’s penalty, Lineker’s 80th minute equaliser… 
            We have a real chance of making a semi-final. We are on the same level as Italy, and it should be a balanced match which whets the neutrals appetite, and drives both country’s supporters to the brink of despair and back again. 
            It’s tiring being an England fan: the heart-aches, the quarter final exits, the constant underachievement. 
            But now it’s different. Now there are no expectations. The nation believes, not expects.

Follow Callum on twitter: @CJRivett12. You can find more of Callum's work here.

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