Euro 2012: Don’t try and wind up Balotelli, Neville warns England

Gary Neville has warned England's players they risk getting sent off themselves if they try to wind Mario Balotelli up on Sunday

mario balotelli
Balotelli scored in the 88th minute against Ireland Photo: Kelvin Gillmor

mario balotelli

Gary Neville has warned England not to use wind-up tactics to frustrate Mario Balotelli when the Three Lions take on Italy in the quarter-finals on Sunday.

The Manchester City striker was sent off twice last season as the 21-year-old’s disciplinary problems continued to overshadow his performances.

But Neville does not believe that England will benefit from trying to incite Balotelli and has instead urged Roy Hodgson’s side to focus on maintaining their own composure.

“It’s too big a game. Referees nowadays stamp on every little thing that happens – pulling shirts, standing on people’s toes,” said Neville.

“Those days are gone. You are just going to get banned for two, three or four matches.

“In past tournaments, when we have got a player sent off it has been a big problem.

“We are concentrating on the way we keep our own composure and discipline and making sure we don’t disappoint ourselves rather than what the other team will do.

“I’ve never gone into a game of football at any level when we’ve mentioned we will try to wind somebody up.”

Pre-match facts: England v Italy

• Italy took nine attempts to beat England for the first time, Fabio Capello scoring in a 2-0 home friendly victory in 1973. The Azzurri nevertheless hold a slight head-to-head advantage with a record of W9 D6 L7.

• Although the nations first played in 1933 they did not meet in a competitive fixture until 1978 World Cup qualifying, trading 2-0 home wins – but it was Italy who made it to Argentina. The Azzurri have won four of their six competitive meetings, England just one.

• Hodgson has had coaching spells in Italy at Internazionale (1995-97, 1999) and Udinese Calcio (2001). In 1999, when serving briefly as caretaker coach back at Inter, he worked with Andrea Pirlo.

• Hodgson enjoyed a famous win against Juventus during Fulham’s run to the 2010 Europa League final, overturning a 3-1 first-leg loss with a 4-1 home victory in the round of 16. Claudio Marchisio played for Juventus in the first leg.

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