Johnson: England have improved

  • Last Updated: June 8 2014, 12:20 BST

Glen Johnson believes the pace and attacking ability at Roy Hodgson's disposal makes this England side unlike any other Italy will have faced before.

Johnson: Plenty of attacking options ahead of the Italy game
Johnson: Plenty of attacking options ahead of the Italy game

The countries meet for the 25th occasion this weekend in their Group D opener at the Arena Amazonia in Manaus, having first met in 1933.

Italy were the opponents in England's last match at a major international tournament, when they bowed out on penalties after a 0-0 draw at Euro 2012.

Johnson is one of the six that started in Kiev available this weekend and warned the Azzurri their new attacking capabilities makes them a completely different proposition to two years ago.

"I think we had a good team when we played Italy last time, but now we have more players who can hurt them attacking-wise," the Liverpool right-back said.

"We have a bit more pace in the squad as well so hopefully we will get further on.

"I don't think Italy will have met an England team like this before. The team we had before was a good side but maybe it was slightly defensive.

"If we can defend well now and use some of the pace and ability we have going forward we can cause problems."

Johnson and his team-mates arrived in Brazil on Sunday morning, having travelled overnight following their 0-0 draw with Honduras in Miami.

It was a match Liverpool team-mate Raheem Sterling missed following his harsh red card against Ecuador on Wednesday, although manager Roy Hodgson insists his absence would not impact his chances of starting against Italy.

Asked if the winger could be England's secret weapon, Johnson said: "Hopefully he can. That would ideal if people don't know what he is capable of and people underestimate him a bit.

"That would definitely work in our favour. Hopefully it can work in our favour. Hopefully people will underestimate him and then he can prove them wrong.

"I think he has looked good all year. He is a young kid who is willing to learn about the game and he should just get better."

The other notable absentee in Saturday's ill-tempered, storm-interrupted draw with Honduras was Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

The Arsenal midfielder will be given the maximum amount of time to get over a medial ligament injury sustained against Ecuador, with the players rallying around him as his rehabilitation continues.

"We have to get our head round what type of injury it is," Johnson said. "There are a few question marks around how bad it is and how quickly he can recover.

"He is well in with the squad, well in with the lads and we try and keep him as happy as possible.

"He is just as involved as he was apart from the training sessions. Personally he will be gutted and we are gutted for him because you don't want to be picking up injuries now.

"I am sure he will be mentally strong and we will be by his side. He was great the other night and you don't want to lose any player especially with the quality he has got."