Ahead of his country’s opening World Cup game against their fierce rivals, Italy legend Alessandro Nesta has claimed that his compatriot Andrea Pirlo is better than England captain Steven Gerrard.

Italy will be playing against England in Manaus later today. And the member of Azzuri’s World Cup winning squad of 2006 Alessandro this is going to be an interesting encounter.

“Italy has seldom had a more difficult opening to a World Cup campaign, coming up against an England side nicely mixing youth with the experience of players like Steven Gerrard. The England and Liverpool skipper will be battling for midfield supremacy with my good friend Andrea Pirlo.” Pirlo was speaking to Goal.com.

Nesta feels that his former AC Milan and Italy team mate Andrea Pirlo is a genius and he is better than England captain Steven Gerrard.

“But while I think Gerrard is great, Pirlo is a genius – definitely the best around in his role.”

Group D of the World Cup has been termed as the Group of Death as apart from Italy and England, South American side Uruguay is also there who possess some world class strikers like Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani. And Nesta is fully aware of the importance of this game.

“So, how can Italy beat the English in the heat of the Amazon in a first match that is crucial for both teams? Simply, they’ll have to create good, intense possession; keep the match pace and, most importantly, make their opponents run. The heat will be intense, so you have to make your opponents tired and with Pirlo pulling the strings that’s what will happen.”

However, in spite of taking a dig at England captain, Nesta believes that he, along with Wayne Rooney, are the world class players who can turn the fortunes of this English side.

“Players like Gerrard and Rooney are important assets for England: they have fought hundreds of battles, and they know exactly what it takes to play in a World Cup. But I also like some of the younger players, especially Daniel Sturridge, he’s a rapid striker and he has had a great season.”

Nesta feels that current squad of Italy is much more talented than England.

“Hodgson’s England group is talented and skilled, but in my opinion Italy are much more solid. I believe Italy have something more and that’s why they will triumph. During my career I experienced many matches against English clubs and the national team. For example, in 1997 we won at Wembley thanks to a Gianfranco Zola’s goal. I sat on the bench that evening, but I was impressed by the energy, the fighting spirit and the effort of the English. They always seem to give their best at home, with more difficulties playing abroad.”