• World Cup

Pirlo to get special treatment

ESPN staff
June 10, 2014
England have taken their dancing shoes to Brazil

Jack Wilshere has hinted that England's team for their opening World Cup game against Italy will be built around trying to stop Andrea Pirlo.

Playmaker Pirlo may be 35 years old but the memory of his show-stealing perofmance against England during his country's Euro 2012 victory against them in Kiev has left its mark on manager Roy Hodgson and some of the players.

England's secret weapon

Rickie Lambert has been feeling the heat in Brazil © Getty Images
  • Temperatures are expected to exceed 30 degrees celsius and humidity levels will surpass 70% in Manaus on Saturday, but Jack Wilshere says England have a weapon to combat the climate.
  • Giant turbine fans will be installed in their dressing room and spray out water on the players while creating a breeze. "We have cooling systems in the dressing room,'' he explained. "It's like a fan and cold water comes out. I'm not sure what it is but it's good. I've never seen it before. We went on tour in Malaysia and were struggling for air. We're prepared for it, myself and as a team."
  • England have clearly been concerned about the climate and have put their players through a grueling preparation regime, including exercise bike sessions in saunas and training in multiple layers in the heat of Portugal and Florida.
  • "We've prepared," said Wilshere. "We trained hard in Portugal, we trained with the extra layers, we went to Miami and stepped it up a little bit. We're fully prepared.''

Much of the talk in the build-up to Saturday's Group D game in Manaus has been about Pirlo and Wilshere believes England one of the team will be made responsible for nullifying his threat, in the style of a man-marker.

"We have seen in the last two games that we had the Italy game in mind in the way we wanted to play," Arsenal midfielder Wilshere said. "We played the two in midfield with one ahead and it will be his job to screen Pirlo.

"There will be times in the game when he gets on the ball and then we just have to narrow in and stop his forward balls.

"I watch him [Pirlo] in the Champions League. He is a great player. He is like Steven Gerrard on our team. He is the anchor, he picks the ball up, he's a playmaker, he gets the play started and we saw that a couple of years ago in the Euros, he was great in that game. We know that he is getting on, but we know that he has quality."

The chances of another of Italy's threats, Mario Balotelli, scaring Hodgson's players with his range of approaches, however, seems less likely.

Wilshere has told him to forget any plans he may have to wind England up.

When asked whether England should be wary of the Balotelli, who scored 30 goals during two-and-a-half turbulent years at Manchester City, attempting to rile them, Wilshere said: "First and foremost, we have to worry about him as a player. He is a great player. We have seen that in the past."

Balotelli left City for AC Milan last year after a colourful spell at the Etihad Stadium, during which he became renowned for his ill-discipline and bizarre off-field antics, such as throwing darts at youth team players.

But Wilshere is confident England's defence will be able to shackle the Italian. He said: "We have got players who have played with him like Joe Hart, and we have defenders who have played against him in the Premier League. I don't think that will be a problem.''

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