Of all the shock results we’ve seen so far during South Africa 2010, New Zealand’s 1-1 draw with Italy is surely the most talked about. Marcelo Lippi’s team will have to put the disappointment of that result behind them when they take on a Slovakia team that has so far failed to impress in the competition. Victory for Vladimir Weiss’s Slovakia side combined with an expected win by Paraguay over New Zealand would see them through, so there’s all to play for in the final round of games in Group F.
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Italy vs Slovakia Odds:
It’s an indication of just how tight this group is that even if Italy were to draw this game against Slovakia they could still qualify with just three points from their three games played. If this game were to end all square, Italy would have to hope that group leaders Paraguay win against New Zealand in the other Group F game to ensure qualification for the Azzurri. Italy’s performances so far have been distinctly below the levels of a team that many expected to put in a strong defense of their title as the current World Cup holders. Defensive errors combined with a complete lack of organization have put Italy in a position where they must now win their final game to keep their World Cup fate in their own hands and avoid crashing out at the group stages.
Italy’s main weakness in their games so far is that the midfield area is lacking in creativity, perhaps missing a certain player by the name of Angelo Pirlo who is expected to take part in this final group game if only from the bench. Pirlo is the metronome inside the Italy clock and when he arrives on the field you can expect to see a completely different team to the one humbled by New Zealand in their previous game.
Against Slovakia, expect to see Italy adopt a more attacking approach with Udinese front man Antonio Di Natale starting for the first time in the competition alongside the dangerous Alberto Gilardino who has mirrored his team in being disappointing so far at South Africa 2010.
Making their first ever appearance at the World Cup, Slovakia are still in with a chance of progressing to the knockout rounds thanks to the amount of draws we’ve seen so far in Group F. Coach Vladimir Weiss will be concerned that his team have really struggled to create good chances in the opening two group games. The statistic showing that Slovakia had only three shots on target in their two games to this point speaks to the problems they’re having in the shooting department.
Slovakia’s best player has been the Coach’s son Vladimir Weiss. Playing on the right wing of a largely anaemic attacking unit, Weiss has given a good account of himself in the tournament and will hope to continue his good form against Italy, where he should have the pace to take the ball past the tiring legs of his likely marker Gianluca Zambrotta.
The big disappointment for Slovakia so far is that Marek Hamsik has failed to live up to his pre-tournament billing. The skilful midfielder has had little impact on their games to this point, but could still yet shine against players that will be familiar to him as a Serie A star with Napoli. With Slovakia’s hopes resting on a win here against Italy, Hamsik and Weiss will both need to have their games of the tournament if the team are to get a shock results here against Italy.
Usually, when the Italian side need to win a game they will pull off a business-like, efficient performance that gets the job done. Despite two abject performances, Italy are collectively good enough to cruise past Slovakia and into the second round of the competition. This could be the first time we see Italy’s true potential at this year’s World Cup.
Italy vs Slovakia Prediction: Italy 2-0 Slovakia.
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