The Italians have silenced their critics by entering the finals of the 18th world cup. There was a big hue and cry about the traditional Italian slow game and their hell-bent dependence on defence, prior to the world cup. But the eristics failed to look into the current status and game plan of this Italian side. They do not depend solely on defence these days. Their midfield is competitive and they have some pretty good stikers up front. Coach Marcello Lippi has blended the youth and the experience in the team. And with his rotating system of playing and resting players, he gave a chance to 21 of the 23 players in the squad, the only exceptions being the two reserve goal keepers understandably. Interestingly, all the 23 players are playing in the Italian league itself! A pure Italian side….
The big change in the Italian game is their thirst and ability to score goals. 11 goals have been scored by them and conceded only one, and that an own goal. These 11 goals are shared by 10 men! Luca Toni scored two in a match. All of the forwards in the side (Toni, Alberto Gilardino, Alessandra Del Piero, Vincenzo Iaquinta and Filippo Inzaghi) scored goals. In addition to this midfielders Andrea Pirlo and Francesco Totti scored. The defenders Marco Materazzi, Gianluca Zambrotta and Fabio Grosso contributed 3 of the 11 goals.
The best part about the Italian game has been their rock solid defence. The quick reflexed and pricy Gianluigi Buffon will keep the Italian goal line. Skipper Fabio Cannavaro, a brilliant game reader and Alessandro Nesta, a talented dispossessor will obstruct all the direct attacks. Gianluca Zambrotta will ignite sudden attacks through the right wing and Fabio Grosso that through the left. The all rounder Gennaro Gattuso and the hard working Simone Perrotta will deal with the businness in the midfield. Andrea Pirlo and Francesco Totti will mastermind the attacks. Finishing will be the duty of Luca Toni and Alberto Gilardino. To assist the defence and the midfield, there are two gadflies in Marco Materazzi and Mauro Camoranesi. Simone Barone can handle the midfield as good as Perrotta. The speedy Vincenzo Iaquinta and the old war horse Alessandro Del Piero are there for change of attacks. The veteran Filippo Inzaghi is also back in form with a goal in the only match he played in the world cup finals this time. Defender Andrea Barzagli was used in the starting line-up for the game against Ukraine and did well. Daniele De Rossi will be available for the finals and Massimo Oddo and Cristian Zaccardo are good right backs to come in handy in case of an emergency. Angelo Peruzzi and Marco Amelia will stand by for Buffon.
France will be the opponents in the final on Sunday. Zinedine Zidane is in outstanding form and Thierry Henry has scored three goals already. Frank Ribery has been a big revelation in this tournament. The French strength lies in their experince; Lilian Thuram, Zidane, David Trezeguet, Sylvain Wiltord, Henry, Patrick Vieira and Fabien Barthez together have the experience of 641 internationals! The also have the confidence of beating Spain, Portugal and Brazil to go with it. It should be a good fight.
Again: – Italy has not lost in their last 24 matches and almost two years! The final will be the 100th Italian cap for its captain Cannavaro and a victory can extend their unbeaten run to 25 matches. All the best Lippi, Cannavaro and the Azzurri squad.
Photos: Match Point, UEFA