June 21, 2012
Italy-England matchup a rarity
By Mike Zeisberger, QMI Agency
DONETSK, UKRAINE - For two of the more "glamour" teams in the sport, Italy and England have been rare bedfellows in the soccer world.
In a quirky sidebar to their quarterfinal clash here at Euro 2012 Sunday afternoon at Kiev's Olympic Stadium, these two icons of the sport have not faced each other in an international tournament in 22 years.
To trace their last such meeting, you must flip the pages of the history books all the way back to 1990, when the host Azzurri beat England 2-1 in the third-place game at the World Cup, which was won by Germany.
Indeed, it truly is a peculiar twist when you consider that the only other time they clashed at a World Cup or European Championship came in group play at Euro 1980, a match won by Italy 1-0. They haven't actually faced each other since the Italians posted a 2-1 victory in a friendly in 2002.
This time around will be particularly special for Italian midfielder Daniele De Rossi, who gets the opportunity to go up against one of his heroes, English captain Steven Gerrard.
"Gerrard has always been my idol and he's a player who's been at the top level of the game for 10 years," De Rossi said. "But they've also got many interesting young players, especially on the wings. And (England coach Roy) Hodgson has experience in Italy, so they know how to defend, too."
For Italy's Alessandro Diamanti, facing England is only something he envisioned as a computer-game matchup.
"I thought a match like this could only be played on PlayStation. It's a dream," Diamanti said. "Their football is 30 years ahead of ours, but on the pitch we're stronger."
That remains to be seen.