Yet another incredible World Cup match-up was turned on its head this morning when Italy announced that one of the world's best keepers, "Gigi" Buffon, will be forced to miss the game with an ankle injury.
This could have been a slow paced, patient sort of game, but now in all likelihood, England will pick up the pace to test the backup keeper, PSG's Salvatore Sirigu. Expect plenty of quick counters from the Brits, although in contrast to the Dutch deep pressure against Spain, the English may be content to launch rockets from farther out, hoping for some easy put backs against an untested keeper. Look for their shot total to rise above their average.
On the other side, play should accelerate as well, knowing that they don't have Buffon to bail them out when the defense breaks down. Andrea Pirlo will be the key to the attack. It's likely that Daniele De Rossi will play the base of the midfield for the Azzurri, allowing Pirlo to push forward more often. If he can find the ever-dynamic Mario Balotelli anywhere near the box, it will spell trouble for the English. Watch for the Pirlo-Balotelli connection everywhere on the pitch. If that tandem finds a rhythm, the Italians just may be able to overcome this unfortunate injury.
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