Experimental Italy look to build momentum in Ukraine clash

Accused of bribing UEFA officials in order to co-host the Euro 2012 tournament, Ukraine has frequently found itself at the centre of a footballing scandal largely due to their inability to separate football from politics. Conflict of interest is a regular theme within the country as the president of Ukraine’s Football Federation is Hryhorily Surkis, the man who was refused a Visa to travel to USA in 2004 due to corruption allegations. He is also brother to Ihor Surkis, the Chairman of Dynamo Kiev – Ukraine’s most famous club. The country’s current number one club, Shakhtar Donetsk is owned by billionaire Rinat Akhmetov, the country’s wealthiest businessman whose billions helped Viktor Yanukovych – regularly accused of solely representing the interests of Ukraine’s leading businesses – secure the Ukrainian Presidency in February 2010. Meanwhile, even the wealthy Chairman of Metalist, the team currently occupying third spot in the league was a Member of Parliament.
Whilst the money seems to be paying off in club football with Shahktar reaching the knock-out stages of the Champions League largely thanks to their attractive brand of attacking football, little is known about the national squad – a team that has yet to play a competitive match since their World Cup qualifier in November 2009.
Since Ukraine do not need to go through the Euro 2012 qualifiers, they are forced to play as many friendlies as possible in order to “establish the spine of the team and build squad cohesion as quickly as possible” according to current Coach Yuriy Kalitvintsev. Struggling from poor form recently, the team has recorded four draws and one defeat in their last five outings. Nonetheless, it is important to point out that the squad has only failed to score once in all the friendly matches played this past year.
Aggressive and somewhat arrogant, they are happy to have a go and try to score. However, they are also a side that becomes easily demoralised when forced to play without the ball at their feet for long stretches of time. Their strategy is clear and has already been made public – they will look to soak up the pressure before initiating fast counter-attacks on the wings, having recognised the Azzurri’s weaknesses. Moreover, they boast players with experience at a high level and talent such as Oleksandr Aliyev who terrorised the Brazilian squad.
As for Italy who recorded their first win away against Slovenia, this match will largely be about experimentation. Interestingly only Riccardo Montolivo will keep his place in the three-man midfield and will be joined by new starters Antonio Nocerino and Claudio Marchisio whilst Alberto Aquilani will be moved to the trequartista role in lieu of Stefano Mauri. In the first half of the match on Friday night, Aquilani provided ingenuity in midfield as he regularly looked to provide a pass that would unleash the attack but his knack for being caught out of position when Italy lost possession made for uncomfortable viewing. More interested in partaking in the offensive side of the game, he performed better in the second half of the match when he played further up the pitch behind the two strikers as he relinquished most of his defensive duties to contribute energy and creativity to the striking duo.
Meanwhile, Giuseppe Rossi, who has had a prolific season with Villarreal, will team up alongside World Cup winner Alberto Gilardino at the top to create a balance of youth and experience. Whilst the latter has suffered problems this term, especially at the start of the season, Prandelli seems to have kept faith with the striker he trained during his time at Fiorentina much to the dismay of the fans according to recent reports. Nonetheless, as a friendly, the side will be chopped and changed several times during the match so most players will have a chance to prove their worth as they hope to secure another win.

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