Italian Serie A News, Results, Analysis and Features on Football Soccer

Guest writer - Frank Tigani

In a matter of hours the reigning World and European champions, Spain, will take on four time World Cup winners Italy in Bari’s San Nicola stadium.

For a match that pits the two latest winners of the world cup, the difference between them could not be greater.

After years of underachievement the Spanish national team have been exhibiting a brand of football that is game changing. Similarly, yet not coincidentally, like what Barcelona have done at club level. Spain are the standout team in international football at the moment and their European and World Cup triumphs are testament to this.

Italy, on the other hand, is a great football nation that has been in sharp decline since that Berlin night in 2006. Even then their victory in Germany came as a surprise to many including their own fans, who did not expect so much from a team that paled in comparison to former Azzurri teams.

Defeated by Spain on penalties in the quarter finals of Euro 2008, it was Italy’s atrociously poor campaign in South Africa that highlighted the extent of their fall. Failure to beat New Zealand, Paraguay and a humiliating loss to Slovakia saw Marcello Lippi’s men exit before the knockout stages and set the record for the worst performance by a reigning world champion.

It is not just at the national team level the gap between Spain and Italy has widened, At club level too, Italian clubs have fallen behind while La Liga has cemented its place as one of the best leagues in Europe.

Spain’s La Liga is perhaps only second to the excessively successful English Premier League. Despite the untold popularity of English football teams around the world, it is Spain’s Barcelona and Real Madrid that are arguably the best two teams in the world and between them boast the world’s best players, Xavi, Iniesta, Ronaldo and Messi at the moment.

In stark contrast, a weakening of Italian clubs in European competition is quite obvious and there were few surprises when the rising Bundesliga replaced the Serie A as the third ranked league in UEFA’s Coefficient ranking system. Much of the troubles of Calcio have grown from the deep internal conflicts that have resulted in numerous and well documented scandals.  Without make this all gloom and doom there have been some positive signs of late, such as the construction of the Juventus Arena and the promises of an American Revolution brought to the Italian capital with DiBenedetto ownership of Roma.

Back to Spain, on form alone, La Roja are clear favourites with two comprehensive victories in a row. Though keep in mind it has not all been rosy since they conquered the world. They suffered a severe World Cup hangover with two big losses, a four one beating by Argentina and a four-nil thumping at the feet of Iberian neighbours Portugal.

We should never forget that Spain is all business in these high profile matches between world achievers, and after five  wins in row in all competitions, Italy’s southern European opponents have elevated themselves to a comfortable position in first place of their group qualifying for Euro 2012.

Alternatively, Italy have only picked up three wins in their last seven encounters. Nonetheless, Italy have come a long way under Cesare Prandelli who is attempting to build a team in an attacking mould that suspiciously resembles that practised by the team they will play in Bari. It remains to be seen if such a game plan will serve the Azzurri well, but, if recent history tells us anything no other team has been able to beat the Spanish at their own game. Reverting to the traditional Italian tactic of soaking up pressure and countering on the break perhaps is a better way to deal with the coming Spanish Armada.

Head to Head

Historically, Italy have a favourable record against Spain in competitive matches. Italy remain undefeated, at least technically, against the Spanish in European championship finals. Their elimination at the hands of la Roja in 2008 actually counts as a draw in the history books. In the world cup, Italy edges head to head with two wins and a draw. However, this match is a friendly and in this regard the Spanish hold the advantage. The last time Italy defeated the Spanish in a friendly match was in 1978.

This match is nominally a ‘friendly’ match; however, expect it to be anything but. Despite their fall from grace, Italy remains a great football nation with much to prove after previous disappointments. Playing against the best team in the world is a chance for Prandelli’s side to make a statement and show the progress they have made. Achieving this will not be easy, however, as Spain will inevitably play their trademark tiki taka football that few teams have been able to negate. The Italians, historically famous for their ability to nullify their opponent’s strengths, will be hoping they can perform this old magic again.

Team News

Some good news for Azzurri fans, but not for neutrals as Spain’s Xavi and Sergio Ramos are set to miss the clash. Thiago Alcantera is set to take the former’s place which will provide an interesting sub plot to the game because he was born in a town not far away from Bari. And Cesc Fabregas will also not feature for the vistors due to a lack of match fitness.

Giuseppe Rossi is marked to play a key role in attack for Italy while it is unknown who will partner him in attack, but, the volatile Mario Balotelli could get the nod. Antonio Cassano has been selected again despite his lack of form in the preseason while Daniele De Rossi returns to after being excluded for disciplinary reasons. Surprisingly, the two Angelo’s, Ogbonna and Palumbo have been included despite the fact they will both likely play their football in Serie B this season.

Frank Tigani is a writer for Italian Football Website, Serie A He is also the creator of and is a editor for the Canadian Soccer Magazine publication, 11 Players. Originally from Australia, Frank covered Australian football and Australia’s World Cup campaign during the 2010 South Africa FIFA World Cup for,

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