This fixture, whether in a major tournament like the World Cup or a friendly in Pescara, is always a game that will grab the imagination. These two giants of world football have no doubt given every football fan a special memory in their time watching the game, whether it was Salvatore Schillaci scoring six goals in the 1990 World Cup, or Johan Cruyff turning defences inside out in the 1974 edition, everyone has a memory of these two power houses at their best. This time it is a friendly, and with the World Cup qualifiers over this is a game that both nations will want to win as they prepare for the biggest tournament in football. Holland won all eight of their qualifiers, scoring 17 goals and only conceding two. The Azzurri won seven and drew three in their qualifying campaign, scoring 18 goals but conceding seven – a good record even if performances did not always impress the Italian public.
Italy– Italy are missing Alessandro Gamberini, Gennaro Gattuso, Claudio Marchisio, Gaetano D’Agostino, Daniele De Rossi, Simone Pepe and Vincenzo Iaquinta through injury. Gigi Buffon also came down with fever on Tuesday, but appeared in training on Wednesday afternoon. Once again no place is made for Antonio Cassano, although his teammate Giampaolo Pazzini has been recalled. Other players recalled to the squad are Marco Marchionni, Christian Maggio, Domenico Criscito, Raffaele Palladino and Daniele Galloppa. Coach Marcello Lippi has also brought in some fresh blood with midfielder Antonio Candreva from Livorno, Cagliari midfielder Davide Biondini and defender Mattia Cassani from Palermo all being called up.
Early training sessions have seen the World Cup winning Tactician utilise the 4-3-3 once again, with Antonio Candreva starring alongside Andrea Pirlo and Angelo Palombo in what would be considered the stronger midfield of the two on display. The Livorno youngster could be in line for his debut on Saturday.
2 Zambrotta – 5 Cannavaro – 4 Chiellini – 3 Grosso
8 Candreva – 10 Pirlo – 18 Palombo
7 Camoranesi – 9 Gilardino – 11 Palladino /p>
Holland– Coach Bert van Marwijk has recalled Mark van Bommel, who is back from injury, whilst Ibrahim Afellay, Nigel de Jong, Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben and Gregory van der Wiel are all back in the 23-man squad. The Dutch Boss is likely to use van Persie in a central striking role on his own up front, much like Arsène Wenger at Arsenal. Milan’s Klaas-Jan Huntelaar has a fan in his national team Coach, but his disappointment at the amount playing time he is getting at the San Siro could see him left out. The Dutch will certainly not be intimidated by the Italians after their qualifying campaign and will not be enduring the Stadio Olimpico or the San Siro, but instead playing in the modest 24,400 Stadio Adriatico in Pescara.
3 van der Wiel – 2 Heitinga – 4 Mathijsen – 5 van Bronckhorst
6 van Bommel – 8 Schaars
7 Kuijt – 10 Sneijder – 11 Robben
9 van Persie
These two teams have faced-off twice since Italy’s penalty shoot-out victory in Euro 2000. The most recent was at Euro 2008, where the Dutch got their revenge for their defeat eight years before by winning 3-0. The teams also met in a friendly match in Amsterdam before the 2006 World Cup, a game which the Azzurri won 3-1.
It is without doubt a big test for the world champions when the teams meet again this week and the free flowing attacking football that the Dutch played with elegance and such ease in the qualifiers will really test the home side. Lippi has room to be optimistic as he has his own way of doing things and that method usually gets results. He can take heart that players such as Riccardo Montolivo, Pazzini and Federico Marchetti are all having fine seasons and will develop into much better players by the time next year’s World Cup is upon us. Should he manage to mix this with the experience of the old guard, and he may become the second Coach in history, after Vittorio Pozzo, to win back to World Cups. Then it really would be Cassano who?