The Italy football team completed their world cup friendlies with two draws and a win. Though the results aren’t really favourable, they should offer the supporters relief for several reasons. One, Italy does not do well in warm-up matches traditionally. Two, the win is the latest result. Three, the impressive form and gelling of Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne when the strikers have been finding it difficult to find the opposition net. Four, the full strength Italy team played only for very few minutes in these matches, and almost all the time, manager Cesare Prandelli was experimenting different players and combinations.
The draws came in matches where Italy had several opportunities to beat the rival defence, but somehow they managed to miss the target every time. Mario Balotelli surely misses the net on more occasions than he finds it, and that was not a welcome sight for a side that was dearth of making any good impact of late. It also depended on how the oppositions (Republic of Ireland and Luxembourg) lined up their back line. Every time, you could see more than six players covering the goal.
Although Italy fielded mostly newcomers in their own back line, their second goal keeper Salvatore Sirigu was in superb touch in the match against Ireland which helped them hold on to the 0-0 result. The second line of Italy team (from the main squad) does not look very promising in defence and midfield. So if any of the obvious regulars becomes unfit, Italy will have some serious worries. The likes of Immobile and Insigne are originally expected to warm the bench and play in the second half as substitutions, but after the match against Fluminense, Prandelli may reconsider those plans. The two gelled really well and had their signatures in the goals scored. Although Balotelli assisted Claudio Marchisio in netting a goal in the match against Luxembourg, he remained mostly lacklustre. But I still feel Prandelli will give him a starting position in the group opener against England.
The following would be my starting line-up for that match in Manaus:
- Goal Keeper: Gigi Buffon
- Defenders: Mattia De Sciglio, Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Bargazli, Ignazio Abate
- Midfielders: Marco Verratti, Daniele De Rossi, Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio
- Forwards: Ciro Immobile, Mario Balotelli
- Substitution 1: Alessio Cerci for Verratti. This will move Marchisio back to Verratti’s place in central midfield and Cerci will take the position of 1 in the 1-2 formation upfront.
- Substitution 2: Insigne for Balotelli.
- Substitution 3: Antonio Cassano for Immobile.
Owing to an injury, De Sciglio will not be available. There is doubt on Buffon too. If the former is not available, I would move Chiellini to the left and bring Leonardo Bonucci to the left side of central defence. While I do not expect Chiellini to charge down the flank, I would have Antonio Candreva for Marchisio in the midfield, who will work as a winger. This will effectively change the formation to 4-4-2. In such case, I will replace Verratti with Marchisio in the last 30 minutes. Cerci will not play. If Buffon is not available, I will have Salvatore Sirigu in the side.