Virgina Water: Neither England nor Italy can afford to lose next month`s World Cup opener in Brazil, former Italy and Chelsea striker Gianfranco Zola said on Wednesday.
England and Italy have been drawn in Group D alongside Costa Rica and Uruguay, and Zola believes the sweltering conditions of the Amazon jungle could take their toll when the sides meet in Manaus on June 14.
“It (Manaus) is a tough place to go,” Zola, who was playing in golf`s BMW PGA Championship Pro-Am at Wentworth, told Reuters.
“I think it is going to be tight because I think all the teams are more or less on the same level.
“A lot will be to do with the conditions when they get there. I don’t think England is favourite or Italy is favourite. I also think, psychologically, it is important not to lose the first game.”
With England’s young guns still cutting their teeth and Italy going through a period of transition under manager Cesare Prandelli, Uruguay are tipped to top Group D, especially given their formidable striking duo of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani.
But Zola, who made 35 appearances for Italy, does not believe it is as clear-cut as many are predicting.
“I think the three teams stand the same chances really,” added the former Chelsea favourite.
“Uruguay has got quality players but Italy has got plenty and England has got a lot of young players so they can do well. I think they are on the same level so we will see."
The 47-year-old Zola, who left his position as manager of Championship (second tier) Watford in December, wants to get back to coaching in England soon, but in the mean time the diminutive Italian is enjoying his golf.
“It was good and I made a couple of birdies,” added Zola, who was partnered by professional golfer Francesco Molinari and former Chelsea striker Andriy Shevchenko at the Wentworth Pro-Am.
“Conditions-wise it was perfect, but the course is a little bit too long for me.”