Thursday June 6 2013
Italy face early Czech up

Italy play the Czech Republic on Friday in a clash that will influence both their World Cup qualification campaign and the upcoming Confederations Cup. Luca Cetta writes.

Following their comfortable 4-0 friendly victory over San Marino, the real stuff now starts for Italy. On Friday the Azzurri take the field at the Generali Arena in Prague for a 2014 World Cup qualifier with the Czech Republic. They’ll then fly to Brazil for the Confederations Cup. Both are important steps in shaping Italy’s ultimate goal – Brazil in one year’s time. Victory in the Czech capital will give a virtually untouchable lead atop Group B, while the two-week competition offers useful experience for 12 months hence.

Cesare Prandelli’s Azzurri are sitting pretty in qualifying. They’ve won four straight following an initial draw in Bulgaria and will enjoy a six-point buffer with four matches to play should they leave Prague as winners. Friday represents the start of Italy’s toughest stretch of qualifying fixtures. When Group B resumes in September, the Azzurri host Bulgaria and the Czechs in a five-day stretch, then go to Denmark a month later. They’ll finish at home versus Armenia.

Maximum points in Prague are not pivotal, but would give more room to breathe during this period. The former trio are fighting for the playoff spot behind Italy. They’ve so far experienced undistinguished campaigns, taking crucial points off one another. The Czechs are third, with eight points from five matches.

The match in Prague will give an insight into Prandelli’s first XI heading towards the Confederations Cup opener with Mexico on June 16. It’s a valuable competitive clash ahead of the tournament and also the final chance to impress before the flight across the Atlantic Ocean.

The Coach will likely know his favoured line-up, but after cutting the squad to its final 23-man shape, injuries mean two defensive positions are up for grabs. Andrea Barzagli is included but battling an Achilles tendon complaint. He trained on Tuesday yet his participation is not assured, while Luca Antonelli was injured against San Marino and left out of the 23.

Should Barzagli not play the centre of defence could still be all Bianconero, with Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini likely starters. Davide Astori is the other option. Stocks are thinner at left-back. Prandelli may opt for Chiellini, or could go for youth with Mattia De Sciglio offered priceless game-time a year out from the World Cup.

If Prandelli retains the 4-3-3 shape seen in Bologna, the positions either side of Mario Balotelli in attack are still up for grabs. Alessandro Diamanti will probably occupy one, but Stephan El Shaarawy and Antonio Candreva, who joined the camp late following Lazio’s Coppa Italia Final win, are other candidates. The Milan man has also battled injury in the past week.

Yet just what system Italy will play is anyone’s guess. “We’ll continue to work on a four-man midfield,” Prandelli said, then adding: “The 4-3-3 is an intriguing system and we must continue working on that too. We have to be in a position to change shape during the course of a game, by taking advantage of two or three systems.”

This is Italy’s first meeting with the Czech Republic in a qualification setting. The nations have met on four previous occasions – twice at major tournaments and two friendlies. Tournament results are split. Both were group stage encounters, with Pavel Nedved on target in the Czech 2-1 Euro ’96 victory. They eventually made the Final as Italy went home early. The roles were reversed 10 years later as Italy lifted the World Cup in Germany. The third group match saw Marcello Lippi’s side eliminate the Eastern Europeans thanks to Marco Materazzi and Filippo Inzaghi. The two friendlies, in 2002 and 2004, ended in a Czech win and a draw.

The upcoming month is vital for Prandelli’s 12-month plan. He is aware they face a big test.“We will leave for Brazil with great expectations. It is a tournament that you have to face with the desire to test yourself against the best in the world.” Maximum points in Prague not only adds confidence ahead of this Brazil trip, but means virtually securing another Rio journey next June.

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Have your say...
Italy need agressive pressure creating players as they had in 2006 and must get pacy players upfront. They should relise they don't have totti,del piero,zambrotta,gattuso, materzzi,inzaghi,vieri,luca toni in the team anymore and therefore should switch their style of play. These guys were intimidating for opposition. Marchisio or montolivo altho good, I don't see them doing the same thing as the older guys did.they need to bring on veratti,motta,rossi,di natale and cassano into the final 23.
on the 9th June, 2013 at 8:30pm
what did i tell you! Azzurri were lucky tonight against Cech's! thank you Buffon you are my hero:) with prandelli this teams is going no where!! good luck in confederations cup.
i swear it is the worst thing FIGC has made is to give management to terrible person like Prandelli. I for one will never forget what he did in euro 12 finals; prandelli was the no. 1 reason italy lost big in that match. he is not a good coach at all. he does not bring the best out of his players. he is clueless
on the 7th June, 2013 at 9:37pm
The only way to make each of us happy is for each of us to take turns to assemble our squad and pretend we are in charge.

We could only ask for Prandelli to take large dosages of realism from our fantasy, and I shall lay down mine:

Buffon, Sirigu, Marchetti

Abate, Bonucci, Chiellini, Criscito
De Sciglio, Ranocchia, Ogbonna, Santon

Pirlo, Verratti

De Rossi, Giovinco, Montolivo
Poli, Aquilani, Marchisio

Balotelli, Cassano
Destro, El Shaarawy

Thank you, that made me feel better!
on the 7th June, 2013 at 2:38pm
Dario I'm glad that those youngsters are with the under 21's. If they were with the senior side, they wouldn't get as much playing time under their belts. We've seen this already when Verratti is with the Azzurri-Pirlo always gets picked, even in friendlies and easy games like Malta. A successful under 21 championship will do our players the world of good: just like it did for Pirlo over 10 years ago, and German youngsters from 2009.
on the 7th June, 2013 at 12:21pm
@ Daniel Giambrone

I'm a Candreva fan too but I don't like using him in an attacking trident with Balo and SES. I think he's more suited to being a right midfielder in a four or five-man midfield.

I'm also a big fan of Cerci's trickery on the right-wing but he can improve on his final ball.
on the 7th June, 2013 at 12:09pm
Interesting article...but for the confederations cup I would take some of the under 21's who will benefit from the experience- insigne, immobile, verratti and de sciglio as some of them really are better than those in the current full squad!
on the 7th June, 2013 at 11:23am
I hope that SES can find his pre-Xmas form again, as he could be our clinical forward in front on goal. Other than Di Natali, I'd be surprised if any other Italian forward had a better shots on target record than the Milan youngster. So it looks like diamond system. I can SES peeling off to the left & Balo to the right at times, taking away their markers, & freeing up space for the midfield runs of Marchisio & Monty.
on the 7th June, 2013 at 11:18am
Vito Doria, I used to be anti-Candreva, but this season, under Petkovic, he has really flourished. I used to think that he was a technical centre-mid, now he is a pacy winger with a good shot, (although he does take too many long shots). I am glad that he is in the squad, but like you, I'd just give the edge to Cerci; although there is very little in it.
on the 7th June, 2013 at 11:09am
Hmm, interesting points by Rosicky. He is bang on, we are very susceptible to quick counters-just watch the Russia, Spain, & Brazil games for clear evidence of this. As much as I like Prandelli, I do feel that he is a bit tactically naive. Playing Pirlo in front of a defence when the full backs continually bomb forward, will leave us wide open against pacy & physical teams.
on the 7th June, 2013 at 11:03am
Seems like Prandelli went with the "strongest" 11. It is difficult to agree with this although Montilivio is not a trequartista. But it would be very harsh not to play him. What is annoying is the fact that Prandelli announced the starting line up so early on. What happened to the element of surprise!
on the 7th June, 2013 at 8:52am
This is it! 2 years and half w/Prandelli in this regards we the fans will see things more clearly how Azzuri is! I will not discuss about who should/not play, formation. As a fan I would like to see good performance and results, which I doubt w/Prandelli because he is not a champ, like my MOurinho.
on the 7th June, 2013 at 8:00am
Sau is a good player but he isn't good enough to be a regular yet. In the last three years, he has gone from Lega Pro to Serie B to Serie A. Hopefully his next season for Cagliari can be better.

Candreva is a good player but I wouldn't start him in a 4-3-3 ahead of Cerci. The Torino winger should start alongside the Milan kids in attack.
on the 7th June, 2013 at 7:53am
Sorry folks.. Italy will always lack the most important aspect and that is mental strength. They always make excuses as we were too tired,the field was wet,my shoes were too tight,the ball was square and didn't roll well for us and on and on..they will never replicate what Spain has achieved in the last 4 years.Italy had a golden opportunity and plethora of youth talent and European dominance back in the 90's and couldn't achieve much..could have won 3 straight World cUPS IN 90,94,98 plus a Euro
on the 6th June, 2013 at 11:55pm
El shaarawy needs to be played for preparation for future matches
on the 6th June, 2013 at 9:08pm
Now both el sha and abate both have good defensive and attacking rates so don't put them on the same side of the pitch, plus for a good chemistry upfront you would want balo playing next too el sha to help get the goals!
on the 6th June, 2013 at 9:06pm
Well done to the U21 last night. Insigne had a wonderful game. If Italy progress further in the tournament(it's expected)then Insigne will be player of the tournament. For the game against the Czech Republic, we should get at least a point. My starting 11 is Buffon,Abate,Barzagli(if fit otherwise Bonucci),Cheillini, De Scglio, De Rossi,Pirlo,Marchisio,Motolivo,ElSha,Balo. Starting with Daimond 442 & after the break (if Italy has a comfortable lead) CP may switch to 433 by introducing subs
on the 6th June, 2013 at 8:30pm
The question for 2014 will be if Pirlo is still at his best or whether Verrati is good enough to step up at the playmaker in the team
on the 6th June, 2013 at 6:53pm
Sam, Sau is not rubbish! He had a really good season, & showed a lot of quality. He is similar in style to Montella. Don't forget that it was his first season in Serie A, & he was playing for a club that had many problems. I would have taken Di Natali, instead of Gilardino. Gila wouldnt even make my top 10 list of Italian strikers. Who knows what condition Mr Xmas will be in next summer, this could have been his final time to shine for Italy.
on the 6th June, 2013 at 5:53pm
I have quite a few concerns: Gilardino as Balotellii's back-up, Pirlo playing front of a back 4, (opponents will target this big time), no like for like cover for De Rossi, & we are very wasteful in front of goal, (all throughout the euros, & even against San Marino, our under 21's have a similar issue). Historically we also tend to struggle against central/eastern European teams. Aside from these points, I am looking forward to the next month.
on the 6th June, 2013 at 5:36pm
It would almost be an advantage if one of the Juve defenders were injured since we could play De Sciglio at left back. I can't remember Italy having this many options. And then you also have to look at the U21s and also the players coming through at club level. It's very exciting. The only weakness is a ball winning midfielder. De Rossi is the only player in the squad who can get stuck in. We need another player like him.
on the 6th June, 2013 at 4:09pm
Abate is weak at right back and it is difficult not to play the 3 Juve players in defence so this means that 3-5-2 could also be used. Prandelli has got a real headache. If I had to call it I would go with 4-3-3 from right to left as follows: Buffon, Abate, Bonucci, Barzagli, Chiellini, De Rossi, Pirlo, Marchisio, Diamanti, SES and Balo. Slightly lob sided but Abate could have more freedom down the right with SES on the left.
on the 6th June, 2013 at 4:06pm
This is a crucial period for Italy. With the players we have we can adopt many formations including a Juve-style 3-5-2, an Ancelloti inspired diamond or Mourinho inspired 4-3-3. If we played our "best" 11 then we should play a diamond of Pirlo-De Rossi-Marchisio-Montilivio. This will only work if they all rotate since none are a natural trequartista. 4-3-3 might be the more natural option which means dropping Montilivio(???). SES can play on the left and Diamanti/Candreva can play on the right.
on the 6th June, 2013 at 4:01pm
I'm avaliable Cesare. I have more of a goal threat than giovinco and gilardino put together.I bet than neither of them score a goal at confeds cup. How he thinks they are better options than Di Natale and Cassano (if fit) is beyond me. Osvaldo, Di Natale, Rossi (if fit) and Cassano are all miles better. The 6 forwards should be Balo, El Sha, Rossi, Cassano, Di Natale and Osvaldo. It's that simple.
on the 6th June, 2013 at 2:46pm
Also not a fan of Candreva. I still think Quagliarella is a top player far better than giovinco or gila or sau. Also glad Matri not in the squad. We have a mixed record with the czechs and must be really focused and on our game if we are to take 3 points. a 2-0 win would do very nicely.Bonucci said how final defeat with spain still hurts, it really does still hurt although I feel more pain when I think about euro 2000 final defeat with france. It always ends badly in the euros.
on the 6th June, 2013 at 2:37pm
Also dont rate Sirigu, Astori or Ranocchia.
In the not so distant future I think we will see Bardi, Leali, Insigne, Immobile, Florenzi and Destro. Although a few have already played for the senior team. I thought we played well last night but weren't as great as people are saying. We should have won by more and been more clinical. Poor finishing could be our undoing. We need to use confeds cup as a platform for next year, although I expect quite a few changes in the squad for world cup.
on the 6th June, 2013 at 2:30pm
Well done to the under 21s last night. Now lets go on and win the tournament and beat spain in the final. Hoping for a good win against the czechs. If we win we are nearly at world cup. My squad would be: Buffon, Marchetti, Consigli, Abate, Bonucci, Barzagli, Roncaglia, Chiellini, Maggio, Balzaretti, De Sciglio, Ogbonna, De Rossi, Diamanti, Montolivo, Marchisio, Cerci, Verratti,Pirlo, Aquliani, Rossi, Osvaldo, Balo, El Sha, Cassano, Di Natale. get rid of Giovinco and Gila. Also Sau is rubbish.
on the 6th June, 2013 at 2:25pm

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