One of football’s oldest rivalries will return on 7 May at the Banks’s Stadium, home of Walsall, as England Under-17s take on their Italian counterparts in the UEFA European Under-17 Championship.
The two teams share Group A with Switzerland and Israel, and this is both teams’ penultimate match of the group stage.
With the senior team having four World Cups and one European Championship under their belt, the Azzurri are without question a member of the international football elite.
Alongside Germany, Brazil and France, Italy’s track record is one of the best in the game and they’ve taken part in some dramatic tussles with tonight’s opponents England since first squaring off in 1933.
Haven’t we met before?
It seems only fitting to start with the Euro 2012 quarter-final in Rome, a night filled with Italian drama.
Roy Hodgson's Three Lions were outplayed by the attacking prowess of the Azzurri in Kiev, but after 120 minutes England’s organisation and resilience forced a penalty shoot-out.
However, like so many times before, England were left heartbroken.
Andrea Pirlo’s audacious chip epitomised Italy’s unwavering confidence, whilst Ashley Cole and Ashley Young’s unsuccessful efforts signified another shootout disappointment.
The Stadio Olimpico in Rome played host to another dramatic affair in 1997 as England needed at least a draw to book their place in the following year’s World Cup in France.
England had failed to qualify for the previous World Cup and the nation was in a state of fear that history was about to repeat itself.
Led by Paul Ince, the Three Lions delivered a masterclass in defensive resolve to secure a 0-0 draw, but like many Italian teams, the Azzurri nearly had the last word.
In the final minute Christian Vieri leapt to meet Alessandro Del Piero’s perfect cross and nodded it narrowly wide.
The international stage is not the only place where English fans have encountered Italian flair.
Some of Italy’s most dynamic and high-profile players have graced the Premier League and made their mark.
Perhaps the most loved of all Italians, particularly by Chelsea fans, is the mercurial talent of Gianfranco Zola.
Known for his mazy runs and scoring ability, Zola helped Chelsea win two FA Cups, one League Cup, a UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup and a UEFA Super Cup from 1996-2003 and even received an OBE for his services to football.
A different kind of goalscorer was bought to English attention in 2010 when Mario Balotelli joined Manchester City.
The striker was reunited with former manager Roberto Mancini but courted plenty of controversy during a three-year tenure.
For example, in December 2012, Balotelli chose to fight against his club’s decision to fine him two weeks wages, due to his poor disciplinary record, only to drop the action one day before the hearing was meant to begin.
The road to the Finals
With plenty of Italian superstars having made an impact in England, these Italian youngsters have some big shoes to fill.
Their road to the finals began by topping a qualifying round group including Georgia, Latvia and Montenegro before their elite round group saw them notch victories over Iceland and Turkey, although Netherlands proved too strong in a 2-0 defeat.
However, they progressed as one of seven best runners-up and will now hawk their wares against an England team looking to go one better than last year’s runner-ups.
See the stars of tomorrow in the UEFA European Under-17 Championship as England take on Italy at Walsall FC on 7 May, KO 3pm. Visit www.TheFA.com/U17Euro for tickets and further information.