Hodgson: No change in mentality for Italy
Mon, 25 Jun 2012 4:44a.m.
England Coach Roy Hodgson said his team remains focused as they prepare to take on Italy in their Euro 2012 quarter-final clash.
Speaking at a conference at the venue for the match, the Kiev Olympic Stadium, Hodgson said there would be no change in the way England will approach the game.
The Three Lions have played to their defensive strengths so far, winning Group D with two victories and a 1-1 draw against France, and Hodgson said reaching the knockout stages make little difference to their thinking.
"I don't think this is going to change our mentality particularly," Hodgson says. "We just must make certain that we are prepared for the match that we're ready for the match and when we go out on the field, we are capable of doing what we set out to do."
England and Italy have dreadful records in penalty shootouts, with the Azzurri's 2006 World Cup final triumph a rare bright spot in an otherwise sorry tale of woe.
The chances that the game in Kiev goes the distance appear quite high; with players and pundits all saying the two defensively-minded sides are evenly matched. The average bookmaker odds on the first 0-0 of the tournament are just 11-2.
Their painful experience with spot kicks began in the 1990 World Cup when both teams were eliminated in semi-finals which have become etched in the tortured psyches of every Italian and English soccer fan.
Euro 96 in England promised much for the host nation after they actually beat Spain on spot-kicks in the last eight, but another semi-final meeting with Germany went to penalties following a 1-1 draw and again ended in heartbreak.
Hodgson refused to go into details as to what he would do if England have to suffer their seventh shoot out in a little more than 20 years, but hinted there could be some "headaches" if this happens.
"I certainly wouldn't think it's a mistake if you've got someone on the bench who's particularly good at penalties and you want to change out somebody who may be isn't so good at penalties," he says. "But of course the question is, how late in the game you will leave it?
"The longer you leave it, you're going to be asking yourself the questions - is the player warmed up? Is the player ready? Has he had enough touches with the ball? So there will be a lot of headaches on the bench if we're making those types of decisions but I'd rather prefer to consider the game as a game which hopefully we will be able to do well in over the 90 minutes and I'll cross the bridge of penalties when I come to it."
The last time England made it to the European championship semi-finals was 1996 and Hodgson said he was keen to get rid of what he calls a "nasty" statistic.
"The fact is you don't change statistics by talking," he adds.
"You change statistics by getting on to the field and play and hopefully winning again that maybe you may have done for a long time, and then you hopefully put that statistic to bed for a short while and people can't continue bringing it out when you're in this type of situation."
Clashing for the first time in more than a decade, England have met Italy only twice at major tournaments, with the Italians winning a 1980 European Championship group game 1-0 in Turin and a 1990 World Cup third-place playoff 2-1 in Bari.
Both teams, enjoying unbeaten runs in competitive fixtures lasting 11 and 13 games respectively, are built on sound defence and counter-attack.
England skipper Steven Gerrard said the team had improved with every game at Euro2012, and they would look to use that momentum against Italy.
"I think the level of performance of the team and the squad so far in the tournament gives me the confidence and the belief," he says.
"I think in previous tournaments, I think the reason we've gone out is because the level of performance has been under what we're capable of. I think we've got stronger as the tournament has gone on and hopefully that will be the same tomorrow night."
Gerrard said although both teams feature prominent Premier League and Serie A players, the match was all down to two countries fighting for a place in the semi-finals.
"This game is certainly not about me or (Andrea) Pirlo or Wayne Rooney or (Mario) Balotelli - it's about England v Italy and I think the chances in the game are 50-50. I think it's a very even game," Gerrard says.
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