Tonight we will see the most anticipated game of Euro 2012 Qualifying Group C so far as Italy are pitted against Serbia, a small nation boasting enormous talent. Having suffered an upset against Estonia, losing 3-1 at home, the Serbs are awaiting the chance to purge their sins and will undoubtedly unleash all their collective talent on the Azzurri in search of all three points. Look no further than Sinisa Mihajlovic for confirmation there.
“A lot will depend on us because we are lunatics. We can beat anyone, but we can also lose like what happened on Friday with Estonia,” quipped the Fiorentina Coach.
He’s right – no one knows what to expect from a side that on one day is capable of tearing a team apart and on another day is wide open for destruction. Needless to say, what they do possess is pace and a bucket load of it at that.
With Gianluca Zambrotta chosen to start at right-back and Domenico Criscito preferred on the left, it will be interesting and perhaps slightly daunting to see how well they will cope with the speed of the Serbian attack, especially considering the remarkable sluggishness of the Azzurri defence. Despite Mattia Cassani’s impressive performance against Northern Ireland, it seems Cesare Prandelli has opted for experience and defensive security tonight as he attempts to stifle the away side’s potential – or perhaps he just wants to help Zambro accrue 100 caps.
In attack, Prandelli is doing his utmost to bring potency back, meaning Simone Pepe will be benched – finally. Only a few days ago in training, it seemed a foregone conclusion the Coach was going to deploy a 4-3-3 formation which has yet to yield the desired results all Italian managers continue to hope for in matches.
According to reports, the wasteful Marco Borriello was due to lead the front-line and be flanked by Antonio Cassano and Giampaolo Pazzini – a decision that puzzled many. It could be Prandelli was hoping that playing two strikers either side would increase Italy’s efficiency in front of goal and cause big problems for the Serbian defence. However, many were unconvinced by the prospect of Pazzini in a wider role as he hardly seems capable of sacrificing in the way Samuel Eto’o had to when under Jose Mourinho.
Nevertheless, when facing Serbia’s talented players, who are so apt at using their speed to their advantage, it seems Prandelli has elected to rely on a more orthodox 4-4-2 formation which will see Cassano and Pazzini play together up top. This is a better move by the ex-Fiorentina Coach as not only is he exploiting the chemistry between the Sampdoria duo, he is also providing a healthy and solid midfield to help protect a vulnerable back-line.
Additionally, by packing the middle third, Prandelli is also giving Andrea Pirlo the chance to continue demonstrating his stunning form. Against Northern Ireland, the playmaker provided pin-point crosses and defence-splitting passes and was a real threat in the first half. However, when playing in a three-man midfield, he has a knack at exposing his own defence if losing the ball in a deeper position, allowing opponents to spark a counter-attack. Without fear of putting the defence at risk, and alongside both Angelo Palombo and Claudio Marchisio, he will have the freedom to push further forward and use his flair to release those ahead of him.
Unluckily for Giuseppe Rossi, it seems he will not be handed an opportunity to exhibit the spectacular form for Villarreal which has seen him score four goals in six appearances so far this season. The youngster was only allowed a few minutes to prove his worth against Northern Ireland and has caused a bit of fuss by allegedly expressing his feelings on Twitter.
It is reported Rossi told Villareal teammate Jozy Altidore of his frustration at only being given five minutes on Friday evening, to which the USA international responded: “They are not fair to you.”
Rossi has played down the comments amidst a backlash from Azzurri fans, and believes accusations of him being disrespectful are unfair. Whatever, considering Italy will be playing in the Stadio Luigi Ferraris in Genoa, it does seem right to play an all Blucerchiati attack as they hold the home court advantage, so Rossi may have to wait his turn once more.
The match will certainly prove to be an interesting battle as each country is out to prove they deserve the points. Italy will be relying on Cassano, who will be eager to prove he is consistent enough to secure a place in the starting line-up, while Serbia will hope their Serie A superstars carry enough knowledge to exploit the Azzurri’s weak points.