De Rossi hails Gerrard
Italy star Daniele De Rossi has hailed Steven Gerrard as his "idol" as he prepares to face the England captain in the Euro 2012 quarter-finals.
De Rossi: Hails Steven Gerrard
De Rossi revealed he dreamt of playing more like Gerrard, who has shone for the Three Lions during Euro 2012.
Roma vice-captain De Rossi started the tournament in a three-man defence for Italy but reverted to his favoured midfield position in Monday's decisive Group C win over Republic of Ireland.
The 28-year-old admitted he preferred an anchor role and revealed he would attempt to model his game on that of Gerrard.
He said: "Steven Gerrard has always been my idol. Since 10 years ago, he is among the best in the world.
"You see Gerrard defending and attacking here and there. I would like to be able to play more like that."
De Rossi, who admitted he had yet to see England at Euro 2012, also described Gerrard as their "symbol".
He added: "They have other very good players playing on the flanks and it's a really compact team.
"They have a manager who has been managing in Italy as well, so they know how to play defensively and in attack."
Indeed, De Rossi described England as a very "Italian" team, with former Inter Milan boss Roy Hodgson having succeeded Fabio Capello as manager.
The midfielder expressed sympathy over former mentor Capello's controversial departure just four months out from Euro 2012.
He said: "Of course, I really feel sorry for him. I really wish him the best for the future.
"I'm really grateful to Capello because, when I was playing for the young team of Roma, he helped me a lot to get to the national team.
"Fabio Capello is the coach who helped me most in my career.
"To say I owe it all to him isn't going far enough."
Sunday will see England face Italy in a major finals for the first time since the 1990 World Cup.
But while the Italians have since gone on to reach two World Cup finals - winning one - as well as the final of Euro 2000 - their opponents have an awful record in knockout football.
They have won just three such matches in the past 22 years but De Rossi rejected suggestions they were a softer target than France, who they pipped to top spot in Group D.
He said: "They are both very great teams. So I can't really say it's better to play against England or France.
"Maybe against Ukraine, it would've been better.
"England or France doesn't make any difference because they are both great teams."
One thing England and Italy have in common is an appalling record in penalty shootouts but De Rossi was relaxed about the prospect of spot-kicks on Sunday.
Laughing at the suggestion England were even more useless at them than Italy, he said: "To be honest, I haven't paid attention to this record.
"During a penalty shootout, you have to be calm. Lots will depend on your goalkeeper as well.
"We're not preparing for the game in order to go to a penalty shootout."
Italy did at least manage to win the 2006 World Cup on penalties, although they crashed out of Euro 2008 two years later after a shootout with eventual champions Spain.
De Rossi added: "We will try to kick our penalties like in the World Cup in 2006 and not like four years ago against Spain."
Italy won the World Cup six years ago amid a match-fixing scandal in the country's domestic game, much as they had done in 1982.
Italian football is currently engulfed in another such scandal and De Rossi said: "This does not give us a greater motivation to play.
"This is a group composed of great players, professionals, who can really creat team spirit.
"Maybe this is a feature of Italian people, who can overcome great difficulties very well."