Wilkins predicts penalty glory

Former England and AC Milan midfielder Ray Wilkins says he expects Roy Hodgson's side to defeat Italy on penalties on Sunday.


England face the Azzurri in Euro 2012's fourth and final quarter-final having unexpectedly topped Group D ahead of France.

Italy came second in Group C behind Spain but have played some impressive football in Poland and Ukraine.

Wilkins expects England to face a stern test in Cesare Prandelli's side but is tipping them to finally end their terrible run of penalty shoot-out defeats and reach the last four.

England face Italy in the quarter-finals – what have you made of them so far?

They are a little bit similar to us, in that they have come into the tournament with a bit of turbulence – in their case the alleged bribery scandal that saw Domenico Criscito pull out of the squad. Nobody gave them a prayer, and they are performing well, they look a decent team.

Andrea Pirlo has been outstanding, while Gianluigi Buffon in goal is still world class. They are missing the injured Giorgio Chiellini, probably their best defender, but Leonardo Bonucci will come in and he looks solid.

Their strikers are all performing well – Antonio Cassano and Antonio Di Natale started against Ireland and looked dangerous, while Mario Balotelli came off the bench and scored a brilliant goal.

Some people have suggested England might have stood a better chance against Spain, because there is a clear gameplan for playing them. Do you agree?

No. Going into the tournament, England’s target would have been to avoid Spain. They are extremely cultured and play wonderful football. They may not have hit the heights yet at this tournament, but their track record of success tells you they are no easy option.

How do you see the England-Italy game panning out?

The Italians are tournament-honed. Throughout the years they have peaked at the right time and are always there or thereabouts. They are good technicians with heart and guts, and it should be a classic.

I hope England can continue their positive trajectory. Wayne Rooney came back against Ukraine and scored but I think he’s got a lot more to give.

We have been practising penalties and I think we may need them to get past the Italians – I predict an England win in a shoot-out.

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