Marcello Lippi’s statement that Italy have never been outstanding in qualifying and always ‘rise to the occasion’ during tournaments is no excuse for Italy’s poor showing against Georgia. After a disastrous Confederations Cup showing, wholesale changes were demanded by the Tifosi and the press alike. Looking at current roster and past few performances, not much has changed. Kakhaber Kaladze’s two goals gifted Italy all three points even after a very unconvincing performance.
In spite of having no chance of making to the main tournament next summer, Georgia put up a spirited display against the Italians. In contrast to that, Bulgaria have a very realistic chance of making it to the play-offs and will be fired up for the match. Also, Dimitar Berbatov and Co. are a much more formidable opponent than Georgia, so Italy cannot rely on good fortune alone and must step it up a notch to make sure they bag all three points.
Lippi employed a conventional 4-4-2 formation, like he did against Switzerland in August. Mauro Camoranesi and Marco Marchionni played on the flanks with Giuseppe Rossi and Vincenzo Iaquinta spearheading the attack. Marchionni had a poor game and was substituted by Fabio Quagliarella who proved to be good attacking threat for the last 35 minutes. The midfield will receive a boost since Daniele De Rossi will be back after serving his suspension. Lippi might also give a chance to emerging Claudio Marchisio who will fit in perfectly in a three-man midfield as a replacement to De Rossi.. Qualiarella and Iaquinta can pair up front in the 4-4-2 system. Alternatively, Quagliarella and Camoranesi will provide width in a 4-3-3 setup with Iaquinta being the lone striker. Domenico Criscito had a good game against Georgia but Fabio Grosso always has a good game for La Nazionale and will take back the left-back slot. Given his recent poor form, Gianluca Zambrotta in the right-back position could be a weak spot, since he will have to deal with the pace of Martin Petrov. Fabio Cannavaro and Georgio Chiellini should be gelling up well at Juventus and are more than capable of containing the threat provided by Berbatov. Bulgaria are expected to keep the same 4-4-2 line-up that thrashed Montenegro 4-1. Petrov and Stanislav Manolev will provide the width while Berbatov and Dimitar Rangelov will provide the attacking threat up front.
The most worrying concern for the Azzurri is their toothless attack. Indeed, the previous encounter between these two teams resulted in a goalless draw. So poor were the attackers on the night against Georgia that unheard defenders such as Ucha Lobjanidze and Zurab Khizanishvili were made to look good. The last time an Italian player actually scored was back in June against 10-men USA in the Confederations Cup. None of the combinations of forwards tried so far have worked. Giuseppe Rossi’s poor showing against Georgia will give any Coach food for thought. But Lippi is so stubborn that questions asked to him about inclusion of a fantasista are met with laughable statements like “Buffon is our fantasista”. The best thing that we can take out of this latest round is Lippi has finally excluded Luca Toni from the squad and is giving chances to Criscito and David Santon with positive effects. Nothing new can be learnt from the Bulgaria game and the fans can do nothing more than breathe a sigh of relief if Italy manage to escape again with all three points. A victory will guarantee the Azzurri at least a second place so they can make it to the play-offs.
– Italy Camp Focus – And it came to pass… – June 23, 2009 – A reflection of the Azzurri at the Confederations Cup, plus links to Football Italiano’s full coverage of the competition
FIFA World Cup 2010 Qualifying – UEFA Group 8
September 6, 2008 – Antonis Papadopoulos Stadium, Larnaca
Cyprus 1-2 Italy – Aloneftis 28; Di Natale 8, 90
September 10, 2008 – Stadio Friuli, Udine
Italy 2-0 Georgia – De Rossi 17, 89
October 11, 2008 – Vasil Levski National Stadium, Sofia
Bulgaria 0-0 Italy
October 15, 2008 – Via del Mare, Lecce
Italy 2-1 Montenegro – Aquilani 8,29; Vučinić 19
March 28, 2009 – Pod Goricom, Podgorica
Montenegro 0-2 Italy – Pirlo 11, Pazzini 73
April 1, 2009 – Stadio San Nicola, Bari
Italy 1-1 Republic of Ireland – Iaquinta 10; Keane 87
September 5, 2009 – Boris Paichadze Stadium, Tbilisi
Georgia 0-2 Italy – Kaladze OG 57, OG 67
September 9, 2009 – Stadio Olimpico, Turin
Italy vs. Bulgaria
October 10, 2009 – Croke Park, Dublin
Republic of Ireland vs. Italy
October 14, 2009 – venue tbc
Italy vs. Cyprus
World Cup South Africa 2010 Final draw – December 4, 2009