Steve Bull's friendly rivalry ahead of England match

As England football fans across the country are biting their nails ahead of tonight’s match against Italy, Mario Bennasciutti remains as calm as ever.

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Former England and Wolves player Steve Bull with chef Mario Bennasciutti

The half-English, half-Italian chef from Wolverhampton knows he’s onto a sure-fire winner, no matter the result.

With hours to go before the kick-off in Brazil, he has still not made up his mind about who to support, and says he may not make a decision until minutes before the game.

“It’s very difficult,” said Mr Bennasciutti, aged 53. “It’s a head and a heart thing. I’ve lived here all my life. England is my home really, but my dad brought me up supporting the Italian side.

“I was an Italy fan as a young lad but I slowly turned. I hope both get through and qualify for the final. That’s what dreams are made of.”

There is at least one person who might be able to sway the father-of-one’s decision – his boss, Wolves legend Steve Bull.

The former England footballer runs the Italian restaurant Bravaccio’s in Upper Green, Tettenhall, where Mr Bennasciutti works as head chef.

Wolves fan Mr Bennasciutti says he and his employer enjoy ruffling one another’s feathers over the football and so has even recruited a couple of the other chefs to support Italy tonight.

He said: “I can’t lose either way, but if I support Italy and they win, then I can give a wink to Steve. We’ve got a good England-Italy banter.”

Tonight’s match will mark the 25th time the two European sides have faced one another and it is expected to be a tight contest.

Mr Bennasciutti is tipping a draw for this time around.

Born and raised in Shrewsbury, he was brought up by his Italian father Gian Franco, who moved to the UK from the city of Bologna in the 1950s, to support the boys in blue.

He spent all of his summers with family in Italy, playing football with his cousins, and speaks the language fluently.

But now he can’t make up his mind which team’s strip to don as the referee blows his whistle to mark the start of the game.

It may even come down to where he watches the game – at the restaurant, among England fans, or at his father’s house in Compton.

“He’d probably beat me if I said I supported England, so I might have to support Italy,” he joked.

Meanwhile, tonight’s match has caused a strawberry split in a family-run Staffordshire ice cream business.

The Falletta family run Cannock Dairies in Norton Canes and will be gathering round a television for kick-off tonight.

Father Guiseppe, aged 85, is a staunch Italy supporter – but his sons Tony and Steven are backing England all the way.

Tony said: “We are getting about 20 members of the family around. I’m a bit up in the air because I want England to win but my dad is all Italy. I would have liked us to meet in the final.”