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 By Kevin Palmer

Jagielka warns of Balotelli threat

Phil Jagielka believes Italy striker Mario Balotelli can be a major threat to England's World Cup hopes in their opening game of the tournament in Manaus next weekend.

- #World Cup Rank: No. 20 - Mario Balotelli
- Group D Preview: Europe's biggest test
- Bertozzi: Will Italy's defence be a problem?

Balotelli is well known to the English players following his eventful spell at Manchester City and Everton star Jagielka believes the AC Milan frontman needs to be respected.

"He is a character, but he scores goals," Jagielka said of Balotelli. "He has fantastic ability and a fantastic shot on him, particularly the way these balls [being used for the World Cup] move.

"We will be desperate to make sure he is not able to strike from distance. Hopefully we will make the right decisions and get the points."

Balotelli's former City teammate Joe Hart is relishing the chance to lock horns with the Italian once again, as he suggested Roy Hodgson's side have a defensive unit that will shine at the World Cup.

"I enjoyed working with Mario," Hart said. "He's a great guy. He's obviously a big personality and a talented player.

"Italy are full of talented players and we've got a lot of work to do on them this week. We've had to keep an eye on Peru, Ecuador and Honduras [World Cup warm-up opponents] and now we move on to Italy.

"We have defended well since Roy's come in, even before that. There are some great players to choose from and the main thing is as well as being solid at the back we look dangerous going forward."

Mario Balotelli's habit of international goals will be needed for Italy to claim a fifth World Cup title.
Mario Balotelli is considered Italy's most dangerous weapon.

England's tactical analysis for their World Cup campaign will include contributions from former national team regular Gary Neville, with the ex-Manchester United captain now a regular analyst on British TV as well as a member of Hodgson's coaching set-up.

Jagielka has confirmed that Neville's input has been vital in the preparation for England's Group D matches, with the finishing touches to those plans set to be made in the coming days.

"We have an idea already about the strikers we will face because we know them, but there is so much video to get hold of," added Jagielka. "We have three video analysts and Gary Neville is more than capable of taking us through a video or two.

"It will be like [his TV analysis], but with a personal touch. We have all the equipment we need and we cannot look too far ahead as we have the Italy match. Hopefully we get that game out the way then look at Uruguay and then Costa Rica."


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