England boss Roy Hodgson has instructed his charges to play without fear against Italy, insisting the team are “not underdogs in any way" as they aim to progress to the semi-finals.
Hodgson and his England side arrive in Ukraine on Saturday, ahead of Sunday’s quarter-final showdown with the Azzurri in Kiev. Despite taking a poor record in major tournaments against previous World Cup and European Championship winners into the match, but Hodgson remains confident of England's chances.
"Italy have been stable without actually tearing the tournament up,” said Hodgson. “Spain have had a few scares along the way. They certainly didn't make life easy for themselves against Croatia and, if they are totally honest, will be thinking it could have gone the other way.
"We're not underdogs in any way. We have good-quality players who are recognised worldwide and, certainly, would get into a lot of the top European teams. I don't know [Italy manager] Cesare Prandelli but he is entitled to look at our team and say: 'This won't be an easy game.'
“Certainly, we go into the game knowing we have good players. We're aware it's a tough task but I'd be surprised if any of our players feel inferior.
"It's been a fairly smooth process for us. Things were up in the air [before the tournament] because our preparation time was so short and we lost four senior players to injury, which added to the negativity.
“But we've put that to one side now and it's more a positive than negative feeling. The thoughts are all positive now. We will be ready. We'll go for the result. We believe we're a good team and we'll go out and play well. That's the pure, simple thinking."
Hodgson is tipped to name the same starting XI which defeated the Ukraine on Tuesday for the clash against Italy.© PA