In a sport that dates back centuries, so much of a team's approach to the game reflects the culture of the countries in which it is played. An international side's style of play is ingrained into a national identity that goes much deeper than any one coach's particular tactics.
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Two of the historical powerhouses of soccer with two of the most perceptible philosophies go head-to-head in the quarterfinals of Euro 2012 on Sunday, with both sides looking to turn their backs on tradition.
Italy has long been known as the country of catenaccio. In a system based above all on resolute defense, exemplified by defenders that will bend the rules in order to gain any advantage over their adversary, a 1-0 victory was to be savored almost above any other result.
Of Course Italy has long been moving away from a strict definition of that outlook, but in many casual observers mind, Italian soccer still equated to boring defensive play.
Since taking charge two years ago Cesare Prandelli has moved drastically apart from catenaccio, to a system based on possession and pressure high up the pitch. Rather than pure grafters, the midfield is packed with players who are comfortable on the ball, such as Claudio Marchisio, and of course the fulcrum of the side, the wondrous playmaker Andrea Pirlo.
Prandelli's new Italy burst into wider consciousness at these finals with a hugely credible performance in securing a 1-1 draw from Spain. Far from the ultra-defensive sides that generally frustrate Spain, Italy gave them as good as they got and looked good value for their lead early in the second-half.
Another discernible feature from Italy's play has been the decision to beginning their first two games with three at the back; a tactic now rarely deployed in international soccer. But Daniele De Rossi has proved the perfect fit in the middle of a back three, with his defensive capabilities ideally complimented by his ability to start attacks from deep.
Prandelli reverted to a traditional back four against Ireland and, although they won, it resulted in Italy's poorest performance of the competition to date. The side also suffered a huge blow with a thigh injury picked up by key defender Giorgio Chiellini.
That could mean De Rossi coming back into a back three or else Chiellini's Juventus teammate Leonardo Bonucci partnering Andrea Barzagli in the center of defense.
Whichever formation Prandelli deploys it is hard not to see Italy gaining a stranglehold on the center of the pitch with either three or four midfielders who will all play very narrow.
Very much keeping with tradition, England will be fielding a strict 4-4-2 in Kiev. But the style of that system is markedly different from the archetypal swashbuckling approach associated with the English.
Despite the influx of foreign talent in the past 15 years that has come to supersede home-grown players, the Premier League still primarily obeys very English characteristics of a thundering tempo and prioritizing of attack over defense.
In his short time in charge, though, Roy Hodgson has done his upmost to instill in his squad a tactical discipline and an emphasis on defense.
The continued selection of James Milner epitomizes this approach. Far from a maverick winger, Milner is a steady midfielder who spends much of his time in his own half providing cover for Glen Johnson.
It must have been quite a shock to someone who remembers the up and at them approach of England sides past to see Hodgson's men deploying two strict lines of four as a wall on the edge of the area to keep out a relative underdog in Ukraine.
There is no reason to believe the approach against Italy will be any different. The Italians will very much be coming up against English catenaccio.
It has all the ingredients of a desperately tight encounter. Both sides are currently in transition with a group of players that will not rank among the finest in their histories.
Italy and England each have their weaknesses. For all Italy's neat approach play, at times they have looked a little toothless up front. Antonio Cassano has generally looked good, but he and likely partner Mario Balotelli will need to fire against a dogged English defense.
England's backline is far from impregnable, however. Two goals were gifted to Sweden in a matter of minutes with lapses in concentration that are inexcusable in a team built on defense. It is that weakness at the back, caused in part by Hodgson not having enough time to drill his side, which could well prove the decisive factor in a contest that may require extra time to decide the outcome.
England 1-2 Italy
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