Azzurri challenge

As the final whistle sounded on Tuesday night, and it became clear that England were going to face Italy for a place in the Semi Finals of Euro 2012, gradually people began to turn their attentions towards the Azzurri’s top players, Cassano, Pirlo, and, of course, Balotelli.

Some would have felt a sense of relief that England had avoided taking on World and European Champions, Spain. In Kiev on Sunday, however, the Three Lions face a totally different challenge and one which could, perhaps, prove more unpredictable than the Seleccion.

Roy Hodgson himself admitted that he watched Spain’s clash with Croatia on Monday night rather than Italy’s with the Republic of Ireland, although he did acknowledge that the Italians are a top side, and a team that has had to have been to have got out of a group as tough as Group C.

Joleon Lescott has performed well so far for England in Poland and Ukraine, his contributions including the goal against France and a last ditch clearance after a Joe Hart save against Ukraine, he will likely be charged with marking, his club mate, Mario Balotelli.

The two players know each other well, Lescott has said that both would be trying to play on one anothers weaknesses, but playing against each other in a packed out Stadium will be a little different to playing against each other at Manchester City’s Carrington training centre.

Lescott et al, though, will be all to aware that in Balotelli Italy have a player who is capable of turning the game on its head. He scored crucial goals in big games for City this season, in the Manchester derby at Old Trafford and in the home game against Tottenham Hotspur in January.

Mario Balotelli can score all kinds of goals, and the England back line will have to turn in another resolute performance to stop him.

Below is a video of the goal that secured Italy’s passage to the last 8.