World Cup Wonder – Italians looking for repeat perfomance

Marcello Lippi will be hoping to win his second World Cup as Italy manager and go down in history as one of the most successful coaches of all time. As usual his Italian squad is packed full of quality players however there is a distinct lack of fire power at his disposal so his experienced back line will need to as tight as possible. The Italians are expected to line up with a 4-3-3 formation which can also revert to 4-5-1 when defending, which the Italians do so well. The Azzurri should have no problems advancing from the group stages but may come unstuck in the latter rounds where their ageing legs may cost them.

In goal will be Gianluigi Buffon who is arguably the best goalkeeper in the world. He has been so reliable for Juventus and Italy over the years and this is one position Lippi need not worry about. Buffon has over 100 caps for the Azzurri and will be participating in his fourth World Cup . Acting as back-up to Buffon will be Federico Marchetti and Morgan De Sanctis. Both are capable keepers and should have little problem if called upon. Marchetti is likely to be the number two.

Defence is where Italy have laid the foundation for the previous World Cup success. At the heart of their defence will be World Cup winning captain Fabio Cannavaro, who despite his age is still one of the best defenders in the world and will certainly go down in history alongside names like Maldini and Baresi. Partnering him at centre-back will be Giorgio Chiellini, who shone in qualifying and in Serie A for Juventus this season. This paring will be solid for the Italians and it will be tough for any team to cut open the defence with Cannavaro leading the line at the back. In full back positions will be AC Milan’s Gianluca Zambrotta and Genoa’s Domenico Criscito. Although Zambrotta is ageing he is still a world class right-back and will be as solid as ever for the Azzurri in the tournament. Criscito is inexperienced and may be the weak link in the Italian defence. He must be able to cope with the quality right wingers or he may face being replaced in the starting eleven. Other options for Lippi in defence are Leonardo Bonucci and Salvatore Bocchetti at centre-back while at full-back Lippi can call on Christian Maggio.

The Italians are known for having quality in the midfield and this squad is no different from the past. Occupying the three centre spots will be Andrea Pirlo, Gennaro Gattuso and Daniele De Rossi. Pirlo is one of the best technical players in the world and has an amazing range of passing. He will dictate the play from just in front of the defence and look to open up opposition defences for the attacking players. In a similar role to Pirlo will be Daniele De Rossi although he will be given more license to get forward and support the team in the attacking third of the pitch. The enforcer in the Italian midfield will Gennaro Gattuso, who has proven over a number years he is a hard tackler and will look to break up the opposition play and release the ball to Pirlo and De Rossi. If Pirlo is unable to play in the tournament expect his place to be filled by Riccardo Montolivo who has played in a smilar role for Fiorentina this season. Filling the winger slots will be Mauro Camoranesi and Simone Pepe. Camoranesi has proved over a number years how much of an attacking threat he can be and he will need to be at his best to support the suspected lone striker. Pepe is a real talent and has been a revelation for Udinese this season. He will be looking to bring his best form to the tournament and enhance his reputation across the globe. Like Camoranesi, Pepe must support the lone striker otherwise the solo forward will be isolated and the attacking plays will break down.

Up front is where there is a weakness in the Italian side with no striker having scored over 20 goals. Expected to lead line is Fiorentina’s Alberto Gilardino, Italy’s most experienced striker in the squad. He is a capable striker but lacks a real killer instinct in front of goal, which is why Lippi may choose to go with Antonio Di Natale, who finished last season as the leading scorer in Serie A with 29 goals. Other options open to Lippi are Vincenzo Iaquinta, Giampaolo Pazzini and Fabio Quagliarella.

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