Italy and Uruguay face off in just a few hours, and, providing the two sides don’t resort to the type of defense necessary in a match termed a “friendly”, this one promises a bit of excitement. Think about it: Mario Balotelli and Luis Suarez on the same pitch, facing off against each other. The possibilities for an epic showdown involving biting, kicking, tantrums and possibly a choreographed dance routine featuring ribbons, darts and balloon is immense.
Now, if you’ve come to Serie A Weekly, I’m going to assume that you keep up with the azzurri. With the exception of SuperMario, every one of today’s starters plays his club football in the top domestic league. I’m confident that you know Italy beat Poland 2-0 last Friday, the goals coming from Balotelli and Giampaolo Pazzini. I bet I’m even right in thinking that you’re paying attention to friendlies right now because you want to see how well Balotelli and Pazzini can replace Antonio Cassano and Giuseppe Rossi. Or perhaps you’re just crossing fingers in hopes that none of your team’s significant players goes down injured.
So you know about Italy, but what do you know about those other sky-blues, Uruguay? Yes, they made a surprise run in the 2010 World Cup and yes, Suarez was considered persona non grata by over half the world. But la celeste aren’t just a flash in the pan — after winning this summer’s Copa America without a single loss, Uruguay are prepared to repeat the feat in CONMEBOL World Cup Qualification, having picked up 7 points from three matches thus far. Of course, all the news centers on Suarez right now, with the Liverpool forward having scored all four goals in Uruguay’s 4-0 thumping of Chile.
But credit should be given to Oscar Tabarez, the coach of la celeste for the past five years. The former teacher doesn’t tolerate a lack of discipline, unlike some of his compatriots in South America, and that shows on the field. Play may not reflect that discipline, but this is a team that knows how to make an impact. Their basic strategy? Get the ball to the forwards. I know, I know, any moron could come up with that. But Uruguay do it exceedingly well. There’s nothing too fancy, no exceedingly intricate passing maneuvers through the midfield. Their wide play is decent, the midfielders break up the play of the opposition, and the forwards, upon getting the ball, score. It’s quite revolutionary, really.
With just six goals allowed in their last nine competitive matches — while scoring seventeen — a good run-out for Italy would actually be fairly impressive, even if this match is “just” a friendly.
Italy Starting XI (confirmed Monday): Gigi Buffon; Christian Maggio, Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Ranocchia, Federico Balzaretti; Andrea Pirlo; Daniele De Rossi, Claudio Marchisio; Riccardo Montolivo; Pablo Osvaldo, Mario Balotelli.
Uruguay Starting XI (probable): Nando Muslera; Diego Godin, Alvaro Pereira, Diego Lugano, Martin Caceres; Diego Perez, Alvaro Gonzalez, Egidio Arévalo, Gaston Ramirez; Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani