Alessandro Diamanti says Italy have no fear as they prepare to take on England in Sunday’s quarter-final.
France had been expected to finish top of Group D, but England ultimately finished three points clear and earned the right to face Italy, rather than defending champions Spain.
Bologna forward Diamanti, who spent one year in England with West Ham, told a press conference on Wednesday that he was confident the Azzurri would progress to the semi-finals.
“We will do everything we can to get through the quarter-finals,” Diamanti said. “English football as a business with the stadiums, everything around it and the behaviour of the fans is about 30 years ahead of us. However, on the pitch, Italy are stronger than England and our football is of a higher quality. We respect England, but we don’t fear them.”
Daniele De Rossi, meanwhile, was more complimentary about England and reserved particularly high praise for captain Steven Gerrard.
“Gerrard has always been my idol and has been playing at a high level for years,” De Rossi said. “England are very strong and play in an Italian style, also being very strong in defence. Perhaps we’d have preferred to face Ukraine, but this is fine.”
De Rossi said he had seen little of England at Euro 2012 but added: “They have young, very strong wingers. It won't be easy. The coach has had a career which also brought him to Italy.”
With centre-back Giorgio Chiellini ruled out of the match through injury, there are suggestions De Rossi could be moved further back into defence, as he was in Italy’s 1-1 draw with Spain.
The Roma midfielder said he was unsure where he would be playing against England but was more than happy to adapt to the new role if required.
“Cesare Prandelli has faith in me and he proved that by moving me to the defence,” he said. “He makes me interpret my role in a different way and I like that.”© ESPN