The domestic season is all but over but don’t even think about taking a break from football. The gap between the last fixtures of the season and the commencement of the World Cup is so brief that even the most ardent football addict will barely have time for withdrawal symptoms.
With the announcement of the Italy squad out of the way the build up to Brazil 2014 is officially upon us and, with less than a month to go until Prandelli’s men face England in Manaus, quite frankly we’re starting to get a bit excited. So excited that we found ourselves scanning Italy’s World Cup betting odds in search of a cheeky pre-World Cup punt.
Here are our Italy World Cup tips. For the latest Betfair betting odds click here.
Italy’s Top Scorer>
Ciro Immobile – 10/1
The bookies seem pretty confident Mario Balotelli will finish as Italy’s top scorer and it’s hard to disagree that if Super Mario is in the mood he could take the competition by storm, just as he did in the Euro’s two years ago. Nothing is guaranteed with the mercurial Milan forward however and there’s an equal chance that we will see his temperamental, inconsistent and less than prolific side this summer. Milan fans will probably acknowledge that, while Balotelli is a supremely gifted individual on his day, he can suffer frustrating dips in form.
Prandelli’s squad is not short of competition for places up front and the addition of Giuseppe Rossi, Mattia Destro and Lorenzo Insigne (all of whom make the provisional squad despite being short of playing time this season) on top of Immobile, Cerci, Cassano and Balotelli means there’s plenty of attacking talent to pick from.
Looking at the odds we find ourselves drawn to Ciro Immobile at 10/1. The Tornio striker isn’t a guaranteed starter but is in a rich enough vein of goalscoring form that he looks capable of seizing on whatever chance he gets. It’s certainly a bit of a punt but we like his odds compared to the less prolific Balotelli at 13/8 and who’s to say the 24-year-old can’t replicate Toto Schillaci’s emergence from nowhere to become Italy’s goalscoring hero in 1990?
Italy to finish second in Group D – 9/5
Despite a relatively assured qualification campaign Italy won’t go into this summer’s World Cup in the best form. Given that warm-up friendlies against Ireland and Luxembourg will hardly provide the sort of test the team can expect to encounter in Brazil (although they may be vital in establishing Prandelli’s worryingly unsettled tactics ahead of the competition) fans will have to hope that a fresh vein of inspiration is discovered once the tournament commences.
Luckily Italy has a pretty decent record of turning it on in big competitions so disappointing recent results (draws against Armenia and Nigeria, a loss to Spain) may not be a particularly reliable indication of what to expect in Brazil.
In truth it’s hard to know what to expect of the Azzuri this summer, form has been changeable and Prandelli has yet to settle on a consistent tactical setup. Add to that the erratic form of key striker Balotelli and its hard not to conclude that anything could happen in Brazil. Nonetheless, as far as getting through the group stage is concerned we fancy Italy to improve on the shambles of 2010 and reach the last-16. Although our inclination is that it will be as Group D runners-up rather than winners.
Though Italy are Group D favourites with the bookies Uruguay have real quality (Suarez and Cavani is a strike force that’s hard to argue with) and more familiarity with the climate so we reckon they’re actually the team to beat. In theory this means a scrap for the runner-up spot between the Azzurri and England. It’s a tough one to call, especially given that both sides might struggle in the energy sapping heat, but ultimately Prandelli’s squad looks stronger and less transitional than Hodgson’s.
All things considered we reckon 9/5 on second place qualification is better value bet than 7/4 on winning the group or 4/9 on qualification.