Italy Preview – Azzurri To Invoke Spirit Of ’06
World Cup 2014
The 2006 winners arrive in Brazil in good health and great form. With a nice blend of youth and experience, the Azzurri may add another crown to their collection.
Ahead of their World Cup warm-up matches Italy won none and drew four of their five most recent fixtures. However, with World Cup qualification secured by a 2-1 win against Czech Republic back in September 2013, the Azzuri have effectively been playing friendlies for the past eight months. And we all know that the Italians don’t do friendlies.
The four-times World Cup winners are very much a finals team, a point highlighted by the fact that in the 12 major international tournaments since 1982 they have reached five finals and two semi-finals.
Underestimate Italy at your peril.
Italy qualified for Brazil 2014 with consummate ease, winning six and drawing four of their 10 matches to top UEFA Qualification Group B ahead of Denmark and Czech Republic. Two of those draws came in the final two matches when qualification for the finals was already secured.
Mario Balotelli was the Italians’ top scorer in qualification with five goals, while Southampton striker Pablo Osvaldo scored four but was snubbed by Cesar Prandelli and not included in the 30-man provisional World Cup squad.
As well as leaving out Osvaldo, Prandelli also chose to exclude the likes of Luca Toni, Alberto Gilardino and Domenico Criscito from his World Cup squad.
In their place youngsters like Mattia Destro and Alessio Cerci were given call-ups, while Giuseppe Rossi assumes a place in the provisional squad after recovering from a four-month lay-off.
Italy begin their campaign against England in the Amazon on 14 June. And the result of that match could very much set the tone for their World Cup campaign. Win and they will adopt control of Group D, lose and they’ll be left chasing second spot in the group.
Costa Rica are up second for the Azzuri before a potential qualification decider against Uruguay in their final group stage match. Although a difficult group to get out of the prize of a match against a nation from a relatively weak Group C – Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast and Japan – awaits the Italians.
At odds of 25/1 Italy are a solid each-way bet in any major tournament. Although on paper they don’t have the most talented group of individuals this time around, you can be sure that Prandelli’s men will pull it all together on the big stage.
And if match winners Andrea Pirlo and Mario Balotelli fire then they’ll prove to be more than tricky propositions for any opponents.
Balotelli is an obvious choice to be the top Italian goalscorer in the tournament at odds of 11/8. But avoid any temptation to back the AC Milan striker in the tournament top scorer market at odds of 33/1. Even if Italy do go far in this competition it’s likely that they’ll do so without scoring too many goals.