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Hodgson may have last laugh if young guns outrun Italy's veterans

The tactical approaches of England and Italy's wily coaches Roy Hodgson and Cesare Prandelli will come under the microscope in tomorrow's Group D clash.

The contrasting qualities of youth and experience will compete to tame Manaus's punishing humidity as a fresh-faced England, largely unburdened by past failures, play a wizened Italy with a squad still imbued with their 2006 World Cup success.

England, whose qualifying campaign was underpinned by Hodgson's natural caution, look set to put their faith in a pack of attacking youngsters with only a handful of caps between them but with energy in abundance and plenty of hard running in the tank.

Italy, by contrast, still revolve around midfield metronome Andrea Pirlo, a veteran of their victory over France in the final eight years ago, to set the tempo for a possession game where the ball is jealously guarded and energy conserved.

Pirlo is one of three current Italy players with World Cup winners' medals, along with 36-year-old goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and 30-year-old midfielder Daniele De Rossi. Italy's legacy of success, having reached the final in two of their last four major tournaments, contrasts strikingly with England's record of persistently flattering to deceive.

Yet one advantage of England's new-look side is there will be no hangover from 2010, where they exited the World Cup in a 4-1, last-16 defeat to Germany.

Captain Steven Gerrard, right back Glen Johnson and striker Wayne Rooney are the only likely starters to have survived that dismal performance. With Hodgson dropping hints that he could include Liverpool's 19-year-old trickster Raheem Sterling in a forward line that is set to feature relative international novices Daniel Sturridge and Adam Lallana, England are looking to the future rather than the past.

The fact that expectation levels are at a low ebb could also work in favour of a side that retains enormous attacking potential.

"We can win the World Cup," said Pirlo earlier in the week. Perhaps the difference between England and Italy is that none of Hodgson's men could utter that prediction without it being greeted by laughter.

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