Expectations are big for a close encounter tonight at Kiev in the last quarter-final of the UEFA Euro 2012. In Second World War terms, it is the Axis power Italy taking on the Allied power England. Whoever wins has a tough road ahead if they are to win the championship as Germany awaits them to play the semi-final and finally either Spain or Portugal in the final.
Italy is facing some selection worries again. Central defence powerhouse Giorgio Chiellini is out with an injury and there are doubts about Thiago Motta too. Cesare Prandelli might again go in with the same 4-4-2 formation they adopted against Ireland in the last match, because both the defence and the attack worked well in that match. Captain Gigi Buffon would guard the goal line again. Ahead of him would be Andrea Barzagli and Leonardo Bonucci who replaces Chiellini. I would have Ignazio Abate as the right back and Federico Balzaretti as the left back. In the midfield, the diamond would be formed by Andrea Pirlo holding playmaker position, with Thiago Motta (or Riccardo Montolivo if Motta is injured) on the right, Daniele De Rossi on the left, and Claudio Marchisio just behind the strikers. In the strike I would have Antonio Cassano and Mario Balotelli. While this would make Cassano a starter in all the matches they played thus far, Balotelli would be making his comeback to the starting line-up. This is triggered by two reasons – one, the adorable skills he demonstrated against Ireland, and two, he plays club football in England.
Even in the absence of Gary Cahill, Frank Lampard, and Rio Ferdinand, England maintains a side which is in good shape. History says that the last time these two teams were met was in 2002, a good ten years back! In any case, this would be the most exciting match in the quarter-finals and I expect the Azzuri to beat the Three Lions by a one-goal difference and march to the semi-final for a clash with another Axis power, for a change!