Pirlo plans to dictate opener
Italy midfielder Andrea Pirlo has warned England that he plans to dictate play against them like he did at Euro 2012, but admits he expects a tougher test this time.
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Despite their quarter-final clash needing to be decided by penalties after a 0-0 draw, Pirlo was instrumental in Italy’s dominance of the game and he calmly slotted home his spot-kick in their 4-2 shoot-out win.
The two sides meet again in Manaus as their World Cup campaigns get underway in Group D, but England boast a much-changed squad with a more youthful look this time around.
Pirlo, who recently admitted he is likely to retire from international football after the tournament, says that Italy have been keeping a close watch on Roy Hodgson's side and believes they are in better shape than when they met in Kiev two years ago.
"England have a great team which is much better now than back at Euro 2012," he said.
"They have young players who run a lot, very physical, but we know how to face them and we are studying them. Italy always have good games against England.
"One of my targets is to play like I played in Kiev, to control the game and help my team win.
"I don’t like to have players tackle me, I don’t have fun. But I always try to find different solutions. I don’t get nervous."
The 35-year-old, who has just penned a new two-year deal at Juventus, has been given a license to roam forward in recent Italy outings, but he refused to give any clues away as to his position against England after tormenting them from deep in Kiev.
"I am not going to make it easy for you, to tell you where and how I will play," he said.
"The important thing is to play as a group like we did when we won the World Cup in 2006 and 1982."