EURO 2012

Abate fears England wingers

Italy's soccer player Ignazio Abate answers to reporter's question
Italy defender Ignazio Abate is expecting a tough time from England's wingers.
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Italy defender Ignazio Abate is wary of England's wingers ahead of Sunday's European Championship quarter-final.

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All but one of England's five goals at Euro 2012 have come from corners or crosses and they are likely to test their opponents in similar fashion at Kiev's Olympic Stadium this weekend.

AC Milan left-back Abate could find himself up against Ashley Young if Italy play a four-man defence and he said: "England have quick players who find it easy to cross and have great attackers who are very strong.

"But, with serenity, we have to impose our game, even if we all have to suffer a bit together."

Abate is expecting England's main threat to come from Wayne Rooney, who scored the winner in Tuesday's victory over Ukraine on his return from a two-match ban.

Asked if Italy are favourites to reach the semi-finals, the 25-year-old said: "I don't know. They too have great enthusiasm and an attacker like Rooney, but we are confident that we have a great squad.

"The English are physically strong. We must defend and attack well.

"They started as underdogs, but now believe they can get to the final. We too must nurture this dream.

"We have no fear. There is tension, but we need to be as relaxed as possible, and aware of our potential."

Stopping England will be all the more difficult after Italy's most experienced defender, Giorgio Chiellini, was ruled out of the game with a thigh injury.

Abate said: "Giorgio is a very important player with international experience and strong physique but I'm sure whoever replaces him will be good enough to have a great game."

Italy were already without Domenico Criscito, left at home as he fights to clear his name of match-fixing allegations.

Fellow defender Leonardo Bonucci has also been implicated in the latest scandal to rock Italian football but he kept his place in the squad and is set to start on Sunday.

The 25-year-old, who denies any wrongdoing, would not be drawn on whether he feared missing the tournament.

"I was just thinking about playing football," said the Juventus centre-back, who has been questioned by prosecutors in Bari.

"I said everything I needed to say in Bari."

However, Bonucci did admit the controversy might have the same effect as similar scandals in 1982 and 2006, when Italy won the World Cup.

He said: "Not only in terms of football, Italian people when they have some difficulties are very good at overcoming them."
 

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