ENGLAND’S defenders will analyse every aspect of Mario Balotelli’s game over the next few days as they look to nullify the threat posed by Italy’s danger man in Manaus.
England landed in Rio de Janeiro yesterday morning and immediately began working on a plan to stop Italy striker Balotelli.
Manchester City fans will remember Balotelli most for his off-the-field antics, but they too know how dangerous a player he can be.
The striker, who scored 18 goals for AC Milan this year, possesses raw pace, power and aggression – a lethal combination that has the potential to derail England’s World Cup campaign at the first hurdle.
That is why England’s back line will spend the rest of the week looking at ways to stop the striker in a series of video sessions laid on by coach Gary Neville, who is accustomed to picking players’ games apart in his role as an analyst for Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football show.
“We have an idea already about the strikers we will face because we know them, but there is so much video to get hold of,” England defender Phil Jagielka said.
“We have three video analysts and Gary Neville is more than capable of taking us through a video or two.
“It will be like (Monday Night Football), but with a personal touch – he cannot tell you off here!
“We have all the equipment we need and we cannot look too far ahead as we have the Italy match. Hopefully we get that game out the way then look at Uruguay and then Costa Rica.”
Balotelli’s antics during his two-and-a-half years at City have been well-documented.
There is little chance of City ever owning a player who set his house alight with fireworks or throws darts at youth players again.
Despite his carry-ons in Manchester, Jagielka feels it important to remember the player is an internationallyrenowned striker too.
“He is a character but he scores goals,” the Everton centre-back said. “He has fantastic ability and a fantastic shot on him, particularly the way these (World Cup) balls move.
“We will be desperate to make sure he is not able to strike from distance. Hopefully we will make the right decisions and get the points.”
Jagielka will start alongside Gary Cahill at the heart of England’s defence on Saturday in Manaus, where the forecast is for temperatures to reach 30 degrees Celsius.