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Italy can repeat 2006 glory: Pirlo This is best England team I’ve played with, says Rooney

RIO DE JANEIRO , June 12, (RTRS): Italy midfielder Andrea Pirlo is hoping to end his international career by winning a second World Cup and believes the Azzurri are capable of repeating their success from 2006. “We can win the World Cup. I always play to win and I won’t be satisfied by just getting out of the group stage or into the quarter-finals. This Italy team has everything it need to go all the way,” Pirlo told reporters on Wednesday. Italy start their campaign against England in Manaus on Saturday and the classy and creative Pirlo has been impressed by what he has seen of Roy Hodgson’s team. Pirlo’s cool chipped spot-kick helped Italy beat England on penalties after a goalless draw in the quarter-finals of Euro 2012 but the midfielder knows they will be up against a very different team.

“England have improved a lot, they have rejuvenated their squad with young players who can cover a lot of ground. We have a very different style of play but we have a good record against them,” he said. With Paris St Germain midfielder Marco Verratti, dubbed by some as the ‘next Pirlo’, back in full training there has been speculation that Italy coach Cesare Prandelli may select both playmakers. “That is no problem. If you know how to play football you can play alongside anyone. We have tried out a new look with one midfielder playing deep in front of the defence and two free playmakers to create and it is one that I like and that could bring results,” he said.

Pirlo has enjoyed most of his success prompting from a deeper role but he would be comfortable returning to a more advanced position in the midfield. “It is not exactly the role I played when I was young, it is different, the midfielders rotate with a lot more movement to make it trickier for the opposition. But the important thing is to play well - there are lots of different solutions,” he said. The Juventus midfielder, who recently signed a new two-year deal with the Turin club, has already stated he will retire from the national team. “It is time to pass on the baton to others and in any case, if I ended up being called up and not playing, I’d be furious. So it’s better to leave,” he said.

Striker Wayne Rooney says the current England team is the best he has played in during his 11 years with the national team and that Italy should be worried about Saturday’s game in Manaus. “It’s probably the best squad I’ve been involved in so it’s great to be a part of. I am looking forward to this tournament and the future with England because it certainly looks bright,” Rooney told reporters on Wednesday.

“It is exciting. I think the younger players in the team bring a lot of energy and excitement and it is great to be a part of,” he added. England lost to Italy on penalties in the quarter-finals of the European Championship two years ago and the Italians are strongly favoured to emerge from a tough Group D that also includes Uruguay and Costa Rica. But Rooney believes that with the emergence of young players like Raheem Sterling, Ross Barkley, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana, the Italians will face a very different and improved England team. “I think they should really be more worried about our team,” he said. “In terms of Italy, it is more or less the same squad so it will be an interesting game for us to see how we’ve moved on and how we’ve progressed in those two years.”

“I think, really, the Italian players should be looking at us and how they can control our team,” he said, shrugging off concerns about Italy playmaker Andrea Pirlo, who controlled the game two years ago.
“We’re not really too focused on Pirlo. He has been a fantastic player and Italy have got some great players, but we also have them,” he said. Rooney has been a surprising focus of criticism in England based on his fitness and more broadly whether he deserves a place in the starting line-up. “I don’t care what anyone says. I am ready physically, I am focused and of course there is competition for your places, there always is,” he said. “You are playing for your country and I am ready for that. I am not worried. The manager has got a job to do. He picks the team and whatever side he picks I’ll respect that and do my best to try and help the team,” he said. Rooney has scored 39 goals in 91 games for England but has yet to find the target in eight World Cup finals games.

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