Italy find support in Portsmouth as England prepare for World Cup opener

Staff at O Sole Mio in Port Solent are getting ready for the World Cup match between Italy and England on Saturday.''Pictured: (back l-r) Vincenzo Attanasio, Mario Vaccaro, Sara Fontana and Saverio Mendicino and (front) Gianni Vaccaro.''Picture: Sarah Standing (141818-514)
Staff at O Sole Mio in Port Solent are getting ready for the World Cup match between Italy and England on Saturday.''Pictured: (back l-r) Vincenzo Attanasio, Mario Vaccaro, Sara Fontana and Saverio Mendicino and (front) Gianni Vaccaro.''Picture: Sarah Standing (141818-514)
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THE flag of St George will be flying high and proud today as World Cup fever grips the city.

But not everywhere will be adorned in red and white.

In some corners of the city, English-Italians will be flying the Italian tricolour and cracking open the red wine as they settle down for what should hopefully be a thrilling match in the hot and humid Amazonian jungle city of Manaus.

Highs of 21C in Portsmouth today will see many families firing up the barbecue before they gather round the television at 11pm for the big 
match.

And many of the area’s Italian restaurants are booked up as Italians – and also a good measure of non-Italians – enjoy some Mediterranean merrymaking before kick-off.

Giavanni Vaccaro, 49, manager of O Sole Mio at Port Solent, said: ‘Everyone is excited to see this match.

‘Everybody is waiting for it to get going – we have been waiting a long time for this. We can’t wait to kick the 
ball.’

The Italians have good reason to be confident of their chances – they dumped us out of Euro 2012 and England have enjoyed only three wins in the last dozen meetings, in 1977, 1997 and a friendly in 2012.

But Italians living in Portsmouth know that their boys are traditionally slow starters and Roy Hodgson’s team will provide a stern test and could throw in some surprises.

‘In my opinion, we are going to win the World Cup,’ said Giavanni, whose waiters and waitresses will be wearing green, white and red today.

‘It won’t be an easy game. If we win, it will be a bonus. Anything can happen.’

The rivalry is undeniable, but it’s edging towards the friendly variety for English-Italians like Giuseppe Mascia, 63.

He came to Portsmouth for a week 40 years ago – and ended up falling love with the south coast and an Englishwoman.

‘I think it will be a draw,’ said Guiseppe, who runs the Pizza House in London Road, Hilsea.

‘One-all or two-all would be lovely. A couple of goals and it will make everybody 
happy.

‘The next matches will be very important.

‘This is a big draw – it will be nice for both teams.’

And for Giavanni, Italy’s demise, which he is praying won’t happen, would see his allegiances fall squarely on 
England.

‘I have lived here for 33 years,’ he said.

‘I have lived in England longer than Italy.

‘But Italy is my country. If Italy goes out, I will be supporting England.

‘English people love their football, but it’s everything for us. It’s the number one sport in Italy.’

Meanwhile, across the Solent, thousands of people will be dreaming of World Cup glory.

Large screens have been set up so festival-goers on the Isle of Wight can watch the match after the headline act, the Red Hot Chili Peppers – an appropriately-named lead-up perhaps as the England team step out to begin their campaign in 33C of baking heat.

The flag of St George will also be raised over 10 Downing Street for the clash.