Italy kick off their 2013 Confederations Cup campaign with a tricky tie against Mexico on Sunday. The Azzurri are coming off two disappointing draws but are still favourites to win their opening encounter.
Italy’s scoreless draw against Czech Republic on June 7th left them unbeaten in World Cup qualification. While a point away from home was a good result, of concern would be the manner of the performance. This was then followed up with an equally disappointing performance in a friendly International against Haiti. Cesare Prandelli’s team has become synonymous with underperforming in friendly Internationals but now require vast improvements and a switch of gears against Mexico.
The Confederations Cup is a prime opportunity for Prandelli to begin preparing his troops for the World Cup next year. It is worth noting the disappointing performances four years ago in South Africa were followed up by a disastrous World Cup campaign. No doubt the Azzurri maestro Prandelli will be hoping for a different outcome this time around.
In the lead up to this competition Prandelli employed either a 4-3-3 or a 4-3-1-2 system. However during training on Thursday, the former Fiorentina tactician experimented with a 4-3-2-1 formation with Mario Balotelli the lone front man. Juventus duo Claudio Marchisio and Emanuele Giaccherini took the advanced positions in the “Christmas Tree” formation. Whichever formation Prandelli opts for it seems certain Andrea Pirlo, Daniele De Rossi, Ricardo Montolivo and Marchisio will form the midfield backbone.
Mexico also enter the fixture off the back of two draws. They have furthermore been unable to score in two nil-nil World Cup qualifier results against Panama and Costa Rica. Much of Mexico’s success hinges on Manchester United striker Javier “Chicarito” Hernandez. The striker has 5 goals in the World Cup qualifying campaign and netted an impressive total of 32 goals in 47 games for the National team. Chicarito’s importance is further amplified by the absence of Oribe Peralta and Carlos Vela. Peralta who was the star of the Olympic gold medal team has been ruled out of the tournament with a leg injury while Vela has had a falling out with coach Jose Manual De La Torre.
The Azzurri were exceptional at UEFA Euro 2012 and have continued that form into their World Cup qualifying campaign. Balotelli burst onto the International scene at Euro 2012 and this time leading into the tournament is expected to carry the goal scoring responsibilities. Mexico on the other hand, has followed their CONCACAF 2011 Gold Cup success with a disappointing World Cup qualification campaign thus far.
With plenty of experienced International players, added to their tournament know-how, Azzurri fans everywhere are expecting the national team to begin this FIFA Confederations Cup campaign with a victory on Sunday.