2014 World Cup Qualifiers Focus: Italy

 

Italy travelled to Armenia on Friday evening, and secured all three points with a 3-1 win thanks to goals from Andrea Pirlo, Daniele De Rossi and Osvaldo. They host Denmark in Milan on Tuesday nightand the Azzurri have a strong record against the Danes.

There was no room for Antonio Cassano in Cesare Prandelli’s squad, despite the Inter ace enjoying the best start to a season in his career. The former Fiorentina coach drafted in several familiar faces on the back of recent impressive performances, with Andrea Ranocchia and Alberto Gilardino returning to the international fold.

In addition, Prandelli has included a core of youngsters who will all look to make an impact should they feature. Milan star Stephan El Shaarawy was brought back into the squad after bagging four goals in five games for the Rossoneri and made a substitute appearance in Armenia, while Marco Verratti has been rewarded for his fine form at PSG. Sure to please the tabloids, Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli is also recalled, but was ruled out of Friday’s clash with fever.

After being controversially dropped from the Euro 2012 squad having been implicated in the match fixing scandal, Domenico Criscito returned to the national team after his name was cleared of any wrongdoing. Prandelli described the decision to leave him out of his squad in the summer ‘a very painful one on a technical and human level’ but is delighted to have him back at his disposal. The Zenit stopper made his comeback against Armenia, and is expected to keep his place on Tuesday.

The Azzurri were comfortable winners in their last home game against Malta thanks to goals from Mattia Destro and Federico Peluso. They will be targeting another win after moving clear at the top of their group, but will know a tough test awaits them at San Siro on Tuesday night.

Denmark impressed many in Poland and Ukraine this past summer, after defeating Holland in their first group game they came close to providing a real scare to eventual group qualifiers Germany and Portugal. Having been held to a disappointing goalless draw in their opening Group B game against Czech Republic, they will be looking to cause an upset in Italy and secure their first win in qualifying.

However, the Danes have just one win in their last six meetings with Italy, with the Italians running out winners on four occasions. These two last met at Euro 2004, with the game ending in a goalless draw.

Andrea Pirlo is likely to be key as the creative hub in the midfield, despite showing signs of tiredness and speculation linking him with retirement from international football, the Juventus playmaker is as important as ever and got the ball rolling in Armenia with his penalty. Reports claim Christian Maggio will return to Naples for the birth of his first child, with Ignazio Abate on stand-by should he not return. Gianluigi Buffon is struggling with injury, and is likely to be rested.

The Azzurri are at 1.50 to secure all three points in Milan. Denmark are still winless after two games, and a close 2-1 victory in favour of the home side is at 8.50. With three goals in three international games, Roma ace Osvaldo is at 5.00 to start the goalscoring.

 

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10/10/2012 - posted by
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