July 3, 2014 by backofthenetjl
With the World Cup now well underway, we embark on one of the most anticipated matches in the entire tournament, as England and Italy lock horns in the opening game in Group D. Inevitably, the match presents a good opportunity for the teams to square off once more, with the English aiming to come away with a similar result to the one they achieved back in August 2012, the last meeting between the two sides.
The Azzurri have been unimpressive in recent times, failing to win a single match since September, yet they still boast a plethora of players capable of causing havoc for England, and of course have a shrewd tactician in the former of Cesare Prandelli. Even with the loss of Montolivo through injury, the base of Italy’s team is their midfield, where they have a host of options – with PSG duo Marco Verratti and Thiago Motta, regular starters De Rossi, Pirlo and Marchisio all in with a chance of starting the all-important first game. In all truth, Prandelli is most likely to field an attack-minded side, which will control most of the ball and dictate possession; the ideal players to fulfil these aims would be Roma enforcer De Rossi, and Juventus double act Pirlo and Marchisio. The importance of the midfield trio in Italy’s system cannot be diminished, with there being plenty of evidence in recent tournaments; Euro 2012 being a prime example. For starters De Rossi has a fundamental role in the way that Italy play, recycling possession and providing valuable protection for those who lie behind him, while Pirlo and Marchisio have a less-disciplined role in orchestrating moves and feeding the ball to the attacking players that Italy possess.
Tactically, Prandelli has ensured Italy are quite flexible and are able to adapt their tactics adequately for specific games. Having played 3-5-2 against Spain in their opening fixture of Euro 2012 two years back, the Italians are unlikely to field a side merely striving to keep England at bay, as it seems they will have the majority of the ball. Therefore Italy are expected to line up in Prandelli’s favourable 4-3-1-2 system, which can be altered to 4-2-3-1 throughout the duration of the game.
The skipper and backbone of the team Gianluigi Buffon is a doubt for the game with a twisted ankle, so should he not be fit, Salvatore Sirigu of PSG or Genoa’s goalkeeping prodigy Mattia Perinwill be called upon. A player who is a definite absentee from the side with injury is Milan’s Mattia De Sciglio, so Chiellini may switch to left-back, with Bonucci, Barzagli and Abate making up the rest of the backline. As aforementioned, De Rossi, Marchisio and Pirlo are probable starters in the middle of the park, but the dilemma for Prandelli lies with his attack, where the Euro 2012 finalists are blessed with options. Cassano, Cerci, Insigne, Balotelli and Immobile are all vying for starts, yet the best combination for this game is seemingly to deploy Cassano in the hole, playing behind Balotelli and the impressive Immobile. Whatever strikeforce former Fiorentina boss Prandelli opts for is sure to be potent, along with the added bonus of options from the bench.
Admittedly, the game itself is a difficult one to call, as are most of the games in this wonderful tournament. However, if Italy can contain the threat of England’s pace going forward, they should have enough about them to control the tempo of the game and with such firepower at their disposal; you would expect them to be clinical when it matters. Italy edge it in terms of past meetings, yet we know that has little meaning this time around. We look forward to what promises to be an intriguing and entertaining contest.
Abate Barzagli Bonucci Chiellini
Pirlo De Rossi Marchisio
By Josh Lawless