World Cup Holders, Italy head to South Africa 2010 with an experienced squad of players that will have their work cut out playing against fitter and faster players in this summer’s tournament. Italy are of course no strangers to winning soccer’s top prize. Their 2006 triumph was their fourth time winning the prestigious trophy and their South Africa 2010 line-up contains many of the same players who clinched the trophy for the Azzurri four years ago.
Italy’s key man is AC Milan midfielder Angelo Pirlo. The magical midfielder conducts Italy’s play from the centre of the field, controlling both the tempo of the game and structure of his side’s attacks. Coach Marcello Lippi prefers a 4-5-1 formation, which will mean that Pirlo’s accurate passing will become all more important in what will be a tight midfield area.
The majority of the Italy’s defenders who performed so superbly four years ago are now in their late 30’s, so they will be relying on Juventus superstar defender Giorgio Chiellini to provide the stamina and consistency when his older team-mates inevitably start to tire later in games. Italy’s aging team will likely be their biggest weakness coming into the tournament. Legendary defender Fabio Cannavaro paved the way for the Azzurri’s 2006 World Cup success, but the Juventus hard-man has had a relatively poor season by his standards in Serie A and so a player that was such a cornerstone to Italy’s past World Cup success could become a weakness if isolated against fast-paced opposition players at South Africa 2010. In attack, Italy will be hoping that Fiorentina forward Alberto Gilardino can continue his fine Serie A form and finish off the numerous chances that a midfield containing Angelo Pirlo and Juventus winger Mauro Camoranesi will surely create during South Africa 2010.
The draw for the group stage of the World Cup was very kind to Marcello Lippi’s men. The Azzurri will be expected to breeze through their group relatively unscathed. After the group stages though, the Italians will have to be back at their 2006 best and that seems an unlikely possibility this time around.
While Italy remain one of the strongest teams in the competition, they are unlikely to get the better of faster, stronger opposition later in the tournament, when their aging squad starts to tire. However, if Italy can avoid the likes of Argentina, Brazil and Spain after the group stages, a place in the semi-finals or even the final is not beyond this experienced team.
Prediction: Quarter-Final Place.
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