Roy Hodgson banks on Jordan Henderson stopping Andrea Pirlo's peerless passing

  • Henderson must keep Pirlo quiet in England's World Cup clash with Italy
  • The Group D match in Manaus is biggest of Henderson's England career
  • Wayne Rooney will drop deeper to stop supply line to Pirlo
  • Jack Wilshere played 'Pirlo' role in training to test Henderson

By Neil Ashton


On the flip chart outside England’s dressing room in Miami last week, Roy Hodgson had made it clear that the players were not to discuss the strengths of individual Italians.

Gianluigi Buffon, one of the greatest goalkeepers in the history of the game, was off limits. So, too, was former Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli. The same rule applied to Andrea Pirlo.

During routine interviews after England’s 0-0 draw with Honduras in the Sun Life Stadium, Jordan Henderson, Phil Jagielka, Joe Hart, Leighton Baines and Glen Johnson were all on message. On Saturday, in the Arena Amazonia, Henderson will be obliged to carry out a different set of instructions on behalf of the England team. He must keep Pirlo quiet.

Getting stuck in: The combative style of Jordan Henderson (left) will be a key element of England's game plan

Getting stuck in: The combative style of Jordan Henderson (left) will be a key element of England's game plan

Sitting deep in midfield alongside captain Steven Gerrard, the plan is for Henderson to pounce on Pirlo the moment the Italian maestro is in possession of the ball.

England’s opening match of the 2014 World Cup has become the biggest game of Henderson’s short international career.

Pirlo is a human carousel, constantly dictating speed and tempo for his team as he attempts to finish his career with the Azzurri by winning his second World Cup.

When the ball arrives at his feet, he is capable of switching the emphasis of Italy’s attack in a flash or fizzing the ball into a team-mate.

With that in mind, Hodgson will attempt to cut off the supply line by detailing Wayne Rooney to drop into a deeper position the moment England lose possession.

The human carousel: Andrea Pirlo (second right) mesmorises England's players during Euro 2012

The human carousel: Andrea Pirlo (second right) mesmorises England's players during Euro 2012

Hodgson wants to reduce the temptation for Italy’s defenders - Matteo Darmian, Giorgio Chiellini, Gabriel Paletta and Andrea Baragli - to keep feeding Pirlo.

Full of running: Henderson's energy will be key to stopping Pirlo

Full of running: Henderson's energy will be key to stopping Pirlo

When they can find the Italian maestro, it will be Henderson’s job to stop him twisting in the centre of the pitch and distributing those penetrating through balls.

Earlier this week it is believed that Jack Wilshere was asked to play the ‘Pirlo role’ in training a number of times to test Henderson’s flexibility and suitability to the role of keeping the Italian quiet.

If Henderson can do a number on Pirlo, then England’s chances of winning their opening group game will be dramatically enhanced.

It is a big night for the Liverpool midfielder, but he will have the security blanket of Gerrard alongside him. Together they are a formidable presence.

‘I can only do my best when I am called upon and make sure that I train hard,’ said Henderson.

‘I have been preparing myself well and if I do play I will make sure I give everything I have got.

‘We are a very close group and we want to do well.’

In the build-up, Hodgson’s training sessions at England’s military training base in Rio de Janeiro have been short but intense.

He has taken many of the sessions himself because his assistant manager Ray Lewington has had a knee operation.

It is there that Hodgson has worked on attacking and defensive duties with his team as the countdown continues to this testing opener.

Dynamic duo: Together Henderson and Steven Gerrard (right) are a formidable presence

Dynamic duo: Together Henderson and Steven Gerrard (right) are a formidable presence

‘It benefits me to have been playing different roles for Liverpool and England,’ added Henderson.

‘I have gone through some different experiences but it has been nice to be playing in the middle for a lot of the season.

‘Steven Gerrard has been a big influence. He leads on the pitch, or sets an example to all of us on or off the pitch by talking to players and encouraging them.

‘He is a top player and he is a top person as well.’

On Saturday, Henderson will have the chance to come out on top.

 

The comments below have not been moderated.

Where were all the Pirlo bandwagon fans pre-2012. They go on about how he scores brilliant penalties. What about the awful penalty he missed in Istanbul when Dudek saved it. Pirlo is a good player but im sick of hearing about him. The English have a fascination with him.

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WHere were all the Pirlo bandwagon fans pre-2012. They go on about how he scores brilliant penalties. What about the awful penalty he missed in Istanbul when Dudek saved it. Pirlo is a good player but im sick of hearing about him. The English have a fascination with him.

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surely rooney is best for this job? he will play in the same area of the pitch and leave the passing to those who actually touch the ball?

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Henderson doesn't have the legs for it.

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Obviously netballs more your thing

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If there is one player in the England squad who has the legs for that role it's Henderson.

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Pirlo would not get near Gerrard for quality or ability. Jump on the bandwagon Gerrard is absolute quality and if he plays on to the next euros will be the most capped English player of all time. I. e legend anyone who disagrees does so purely out of hatred and bitterness and not as an England fan. World class I think someone like Zidane recognises quality and he rates Gerrard as one of THE greats.

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I like Gerrard and hope Pirlo has a stinker but I'm sorry Pirlo is absolutely world class, one of the true greats and Gerrard isn't in the same class. Hope I'm proved wrong tonight mind.

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Zidane doesn't rate Pirlo because of the Germany 2006 finals, anyway Pirlo's World Cup medal would disagree.

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Peerless! is this where we all worship pirlo again? He has about three days to pick a pass playing in the slowest most boring league in the world. Endo get in his face and breathe all over him. Fire and passion will win this game defensive caution will cost it. I wonder which way Woy will go?

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JOKE HART loves chips. Just ask Pirlo.

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pirlo is world class ,whatever league he is in whatever the conditions it simple fact,and even if england can stop him,more then likely he will have marco verratti beside him who can do the same but with more pace,england wont know what to do when faced with two play makers

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I don't get why we are so scared of Pirlo, yes he is clearly a quality player, but we didn't have anyone specifically selected to track Pirlo in Euro 2012 and Italy didn't break us down in 120 minutes. We've now got a lot of better attacking players than we had 2 years ago. I'm confident we'll get at least a point, as long as Hodgson doesn't sit with 11 men behind the ball all game.

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Pirlo wishes he was ever as good as Henderson.

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Pirlo's World Cup medal would disagree

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Oh god help us.

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Pirlo would not get near Gerrard for quality or ability. Jump on the bandwagon Gerrard is absolute quality and if he plays on to the next euros will be the most capped English player of all time. I. e legend anyone who disagrees does so purely out of hatred and bitterness and not as an England fan.

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"Pirlo would not get near Gerrard for quality or ability" ------ If you're going to do a wind-up, you've got to be far more subtle than that.

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Doesnt pirlo play deeper so surely the head of the midfield will need to be on him?

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That is true,using henderson in that role would then leave space in the english midfield. teams that have stopped him usually have one of the front men playing as a disruptive attacking midfielder to get at him.they seem to be concentrating on him so much ,what will they do if verratti is playing to and have to deal with two playmakers

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