After the lacklustre display by the reigning world champions in Tbilisi on Saturday night, Marcello Lippi will be looking for a more convincing display on home soil. The Azzurri welcome Bulgaria to town on Wednesday night as they look to all but guarantee qualification by beating Dimitar Berbatov and co, before the clash of the Italian elders in October between Lippi and Giovanni Trapattoni in Dublin when Italy face their nearest rivals in Group 8, the Republic of Ireland.
Italy and Bulgaria have already locked horns earlier on in the qualification campaign back in October when Signor Lippi went to the Levski Stadium in Sofia with an injury ravaged squad. Amongst the absentees were Gianluigi Buffon, Andrea Pirlo and Mauro Camoranesi. These notable exclusions hampered la Nazionale’s chances of success in a venue they had never won at. The Azzurri starting line up was made up of relatively young players but their youthful exuberance and zeal was not enough to break down the resilient Bulgarian defence as they played out a stalemate. This stubborn trait has seen the Lions draw five of their seven qualifiers although it has also highlighted their lack of cutting edge in the final third. They lie third in Group 8 behind Italy and the Republic of Ireland. Commissario Tecnico Lippi has already highlighted the importance of this game in helping to secure their safe passage onto the plane for South Africa and so will be hoping for a better display from his players.
After Saturday’s game in Georgia, Lippi will also be looking to freshen up the team for Wednesday night and bolster energy levels by selecting some players who did not play a great deal over in Tbilisi. Daniele De Rossi will be given a chance after his absence from Saturday’s game as a result of him serving out his one-game suspension. He will partner the irreplaceable playmaker, Andrea Pirlo who holds the key to unlocking the Bulgarian defence with his quarter-back-like passes from deep in his own half with De Rossi the powerhouse in the middle of the park with box-to-box surges. This will be especially important given Gennaro Gattuso’s absence through injury. The game in Tbilisi flagged up a few lingering problems in midfield and attack where Vincenzo Iaquinta and Giuseppe Rossi were not given enough service up front to expose the Georgian defence. Therefore the inclusion of De Rossi will be invaluable with his powerful runs and excellent ball distribution while Gaetano D’Agostino did no harm to his chances with an impressive half hour on Saturday night. Although he may still have to be satisfied with only a place on the bench. Fabio Quagliarella could see himself in the starting line up after his notable contributions in the brief time he was on the pitch and he could come in to replace the ineffective Rossi as Italy look to end their goal drought with some goals of their own after the clamorous own goals of Kakha Kaladze gifted them three, much needed points on Saturday.
The defence should remain relatively unchanged with the formidable Gigi between the sticks and the back line of Fabio Grosso, il Capitano Fabio Cannavaro, Giorgio Chiellini and Gianluca Zambrotta. The Italo-Juve presence is most notable here with four out of the five defenders coming from the Bianconeri and even Zambrotta has played for the Turin outfit.
Ideally, everyone would like to see the world champions outclass Bulgaria in every aspect of the game and put on a show a la Brazil on their way to victory. But the points rather than the performance seem to be of the up most importance to la Nazionale in this qualifying campaign as they look to secure their place in South Africa as soon as possible.
– 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