With the quarter-finals having been decided, and Portugal already progressing to the final four at the expense of the Czech Republic, most have tipped England's tie with Italy as potentially the tightest of the lot. With that in mind we take a closer a look at where the game could be won and lost and analyse whether the core of each side possess similar traits.
The first issue to address is a potential shift in stereotypes. Hodgson's England play a very drilled and rigid 4-4-2 formation, focusing on defensive solidity, where the Italian's have been far more fluid and creative as a unit. This does not mean that Prandelli's side isn’t an organised team though, and they, like England, have a decent balance of energy, pace and experience.
A look at the attack sides in the tournament so far indicates that Italy are perhaps the most varied team when they are in possession. They look to mix up their attacks and do so down the left side (35%) marginally more than the centre and right (both 32%). In comparison England focus most of their play down the wings, with only Germany and Ukraine attacking through the middle a lower proportion of the time than England's 25%. In comparison, Hodgson's side attack down the right 41% of the time, which is the third most at the tournament.
The goal types of both sides further suggest that this game will be very compact in open play, with a piece of genius likely to be the only way through. However, both sides have scored a tournament high of 3 goals from set-pieces, with the delivery of Gerrard and Pirlo proving key thus far. An encouraging sign for England is that Italy have netted just once from open play despite the guile and creativity of Cassano and Pirlo. Finishing has been an issue, with a chance conversion rate of just 8% so far, while England's 16% was the best of any side in the group stages.
Moving on to a few individual comparisons, two of Europe's top goalkeepers will be showcased on Sunday, with relative up-and-comer Joe Hart against one of a generation's finest in Gigi Buffon. The players' stats from their respective table-topping sides prove that each were in top form, with Hart the busier, making 2.55 saves and 0.97 high claims per game compared to Buffon's 2.26 and 0.74 respectively. However, the Juve stopper saved an excellent 82% of the shots on target he faced, helping his side keep 21 clean sheets, while Hart's still impressive 74% led to 16 clean sheets in comparison.
At the back, both sides have an experienced head in John Terry and Andrea Barzagli, and their stats from last season were similar. Terry just edges Barzagli for tackles (1.81 to 1.8) and clearances (5.84 to 5.14) per game, while the Italian completed more interceptions a match (2.63 to 1.94). In the air, Terry is slightly more dominant, winning 73% of his aerial duels to Barzagli's 65%, though the similarities continue when noting that the Juventus centre-back won just one more aerial duel in total (54 to 53).
Continuing up the spine of each side into the main defensive midfield position, Scott Parker and Daniele De Rossi share the same grit and determination on the field. The Spurs midfielder made significantly more tackles per game last season (3.69 to 2.13), with De Rossi often fielded in the heart of Roma's defence as he was in the opening matches here. The Italian edges it for interceptions (3.16 to 3.07) and also averages more passes per game at club level (66.3 to 59.3), though Parker's accuracy just comes out on top (90% to 88%) suggesting there is little between the pair.
Moving on to each side’s key creator and perhaps the area from which this game will be won and lost emerges. Steven Gerrard and Andrea Pirlo both have 2 assists in the tournament, though the latter undoubtedly came into the competition in superior form. Pirlo averaged a huge 86.4 passes per game for Juventus last season, compared to Gerrard's 49.7, with his accuracy also the better of the two (87% to 83%). His 3.38 key passes per game more than doubled the Liverpool man's 1.61, while his cross accuracy was also superior (34% to 24%).
England will therefore be hoping that Gerrard continues his captain's performances from this summer, as he has undoubtedly been the star man for The Three Lions so far. The duo's statistics have been more comparable over the group stages, with Pirlo's 86% pass accuracy down on Gerrard's 87% from 56.3 and 49.7 passes per game respectively. The England skipper has also upped his creativity, though an average of 2.3 key passes per game is still just down on Pirlo's 2.7, while the tables turn for cross accuracy, with Gerrard's exceptional 47% eclipsing Pirlo's 33%.
With Wayne Rooney now back in the fold for England, his role in the national side is similar to that of Antonio Cassano for Italy in some ways. Both look to drop deep and create just behind the main striker, with Rooney likely to be supporting Welbeck and Cassano partnering Balotelli. Rooney's role for United changed last season, pushing him further up field, though he still averaged 1.5 key passes per game. However, this is dramatically down on the 2.75 per game figure of the instrumental AC forward, whose season was cut short in its prime.
Despite this, Rooney still comes deeper for the ball in general, averaging 50.4 passes per game compared to Cassano's 32.2 last season, and his tendency to shoot is far higher, signifying the main difference between the two. Rooney mustered a mammoth 4.68 shots per game last season, to Cassano's modest 1.25, though the chance conversion rates of each are similar, with the England man again just edging it (17% to 15%).
So, with the majority of England's backbone, on paper, of a similar ilk to that of Italy, why are Prandelli's side expected to dominate proceedings? The fact of the matter is the FA knew that they were appointing a results man in Roy Hodgson. With the side lacking the star players that it used to, the former West Brom boss has wisely played to the strengths of what is, on the main, a supremely experienced international side. Organisation off the ball is so key that it seems you either get a resolute defensive performance, or an exciting counter-attacking one, and very rarely both.
Meanwhile Italy have arguably struck a finer balance between the two. The energy of the likes of Marchisio make up for the legs of Pirlo, while the genius of Cassano is offset with the unpredictability of Balotelli, with genius certainly a word less synonymous with the City striker. While there is no sure winner on Sunday you can bet that Italy will do most of the pressing in the opposition half. Whether they can up their creativity that extra ounce could be the decider this weekend.