Prepare for Heartache, England: It'll Be a Penalty Knockout Again


England find themselves in a quarter final clash with Italy after topping a group many didn't even expect them to get out of. Despite a flat performance against Ukraine this is the best case scenario and things are going suspiciously well.

Ukraine's “ghost goal” is a good example of that. Yes it crossed the line, but Marko Devic was offside in the build up. That much easier call was missed, so it was incorrectly incorrectly ruled out, which in the end was correct. Who ever said two wrongs don’t make a right? England have never had such confusing luck.

Things are going our way so much that even if the goal had stood it wouldn't have mattered, because Sweden did us a favour by beating France to ensure that we avoided Spain. Again, suspicious. I don't trust this one bit.

This is by no means a vintage Italy side and Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini will be missing through injury, but they still provide a tough test. They're more expansive than previous incarnations and England will look to stifle them and make this a tight, hard fought game.

Cesare Prandelli has mixed up their formation throughout the tournament but I think they'll start with Antonio Cassano and Mario Balotelli up front again. The two lunatics work well together and we'll need John Terry, Jolean Lescott and Scott Parker working overtime on them.

Andrea Pirlo is also a concern. He can run a game with his passing, his set piece deliveries are always precise and he plays so deep that Wayne Rooney may be nullified by doing battle with him. This could also be the case with Daniele De Rossi should the Roma man be once again deployed as a libero in a back three, as he was in Italy's opener against Spain.

When England get to this stage of a tournament and meet an illustrious opponent what tends to follow is a glorious defeat where we battle hard and just come up short, with something happening to give us a sense of injustice that excuses the defeat. This hasn't happened for a while as we were outclassed by Germany in 2010 – disallowed goal or not – and couldn't even get to Euro 2008.

Recently even the glory has gone out of our defeats and I actually miss it, as if England have given me some sort of Stockholm Syndrome. Though we don't have much of a history against Italy at international tournaments this tie has “glorious defeat” written all over it.

I think it will go to extra time. We drew with France in the opener and in terms of quality they're the nearest team we've faced to Italy but I also think they'll struggle to break us down over the initial 90 minutes. Roy Hodgson has already had the team practicing penalties after training sessions and has stepped this up now we're in the knock out stages. A good start, because this screams penalty shoot-out.

Here's my exact break down of what I think will happen based on previous heartbreak:

In the first half England will take the lead through Steven Gerrard, who it must be said is having an excellent tournament. In the second half Mario Balotelli will equalise for Italy and be a nob about it in his celebration. It will finish at 1-1. Balotelli will be so pumped up he'll get himself sent off. England will up the pressure but fail to capitalise and it'll go to penalties. Joe Hart will save one but England will go out anyway. We'll all be gutted, destroyed by it, as we've so often been, but they'll have fought hard and Hodgson will earn some respect.

Of course I want England to win but they've conditioned me to fear the worst. Never have I so badly wanted to be wrong.