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Italy's "Gerrard" hopes to explode against England

Daniele De Rossi is arguably Italy's most English-style player, relying on power rather than finesse, but the midfielder acknowledges he has not yet "exploded" ahead of Sunday's Euro 2012 quarter-final against England.

Sometimes described as the Steven Gerrard of Serie A, the AS Roma player started the first two games at Euro 2012 in the unusual position of central defense before returning to midfield in the 2-0 win over Ireland which sealed second spot in Group C.

De Rossi is happy to be in the middle of the battle where he looks set to lock horns with England captain Gerrard, a player he rates highly just like Roy Hodgson's side.

"Gerrard is the symbol of their team, he has been playing for 10 years. Gerrard is the symbol of this 'universal' player because he can play well in defense and in attack," he told a news conference on Wednesday.

"Unfortunately, I haven't seen England much (at this tournament). They have young, very strong wingers. It won't be easy.

"The coach has had a career which also brought him to Italy. They know how to be defensive but to attack. They are a strong side."

The once wild child of the Italy squad has calmed down markedly in recent years but asked why he had not yet "exploded" in a positive sense in Poland and Ukraine, De Rossi was candid.

"I don't know, really I don't know," he said.

"I don't know in what role or what formation I will explode."

Coach Cesare Prandelli hinted he played De Rossi in a new three-man defense for the group openers to make his side wake up after three friendly defeats before the tournament, but he is likely to stick with the 4-3-1-2 system from the Ireland game.

Italy could have met France in the last eight but De Rossi said there was no preference between the two, even if England will bring lots more fans to Kiev than France would have done.

Hard-up Italian fans are also notoriously bad travelers.

"Italy is living through a delicate time (economically). England have a tradition of bringing lots of followers en masse," he said, shrugging the issue off as a problem for the Azzurri.

De Rossi also hailed former England manager Fabio Capello, who left under a cloud in February, for nurturing him during their time together at Roma but he thought the late change in England coach made little difference.

However, he added that in terms of preparation and motivation "Capello could scare you".

(Editing by Ed Osmond)