Wilshere ready for Balotelli factor

Jack Wilshere, pictured, says England will be ready for Mario Balotelli

Jack Wilshere, pictured, says England will be ready for Mario Balotelli

First published in National Sport News © by

Jack Wilshere has told Mario Balotelli to forget any plans he may have to wind England up on Saturday.

England stepped up their preparations for Saturday's World Cup opener against Italy with their first full training session in the baking Rio heat on Monday.

On Thursday England will travel to Manaus where they will begin their World Cup campaign against Italy 48 hours later.

Given that he spent two-and-a-half turbulent years at Manchester City, the England squad are well aware of Balotelli's goal-scoring capabilities.

Balotelli scored 30 goals during his spell at the Etihad Stadium, but he was more renowned for his ill-discipline and bizarre off-the-field antics like throwing darts at youth-team players.

When asked whether England should be wary of the 23-year-old attempting to rile them up, Wilshere, who was on the bench when Balotelli was sent off against Arsenal in 2012, said: "First and foremost, we have to worry about him as a player.

"He is a great player. We have seen that in the past.

"But we have got players who have played with him like Joe Hart, and we have defenders who have played against him in the Premier League.

"I don't think that will be a problem."

Another potential problem first brought up following the draw in December is the climate of Manaus.

Temperatures are expected to exceed 30 degrees Celsius and humidity levels will surpass 70 per cent, according to forecasts.

To help them deal with the intense heat, England will install giant turbine fans in their dressing room.

"We have cooling systems in the dressing room," Wilshere said.

"It's like a fan and cold water comes out. I'm not sure what it is but it's good. I've never seen it before.

"It's good. We went on tour in Malaysia and you were struggling for air. It's different heat in Malaysia, it is hot over there but the humidity was over 90 per cent and in Manaus it will be around 75.

"We're prepared for it, myself and as a team."

The use of giant turbines is another example of England's attention to detail.

Hodgson and his vast staff have done everything they can to get the players fit for the match.

Exercise bike sessions in saunas, training in multiple layers in Portugal, Florida and now here in Brazil, have helped the squad prepare well.

All of these things should make Manaus more tolerable for Hodgson's men, who will take malaria tablets for the trip to the jungle on Tuesday.

"I don't think Manaus causes any fears," Wilshere said.

"Maybe before when we saw the draw, but now we've prepared. We trained hard in Portugal, we trained with the extra layers, we went to Miami and stepped it up a little bit.

"Now we are feeling really good and we've got things in place - like the cooling systems in the dressing room which is going to help us and we're fully prepared."

Wilshere appears to be losing his battle with Jordan Henderson to start against Italy.

But the Arsenal midfielder looked good against Ecuador on Wednesday and he is just glad that he has come to Brazil injury free after years of frustration.

"I am getting stronger and stronger every day," he said as he took time out from Italy preparations on Monday afternoon to visit the Complexo Esportivo da Rocinha, a sports complex in an out-of-town slum.

The Football Association says England have donated a "significant five-figure sum" to the complex so it can refurbish its run-down facilities.

"I have kids myself as well, so it opens your eyes a lot," he added.

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