Awaiting the Austrian Swisses, Italia vs Portugal Preview

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* Free Azzurrini fix right here

Italia - Portogallo

It’s international soccer time again! Italy will be facing Portugal in Zurich on Wednesday. It’ll be their first match since 2004. Both teams have qualified for the Swissaustrian Euro2008. Friendlies usually give way to thousands of substitutions and a low paced game, but with all the firepower these 2 teams have on the field, let’s hope it becomes exciting.

The Azzurri are on a 18-month unbeaten streak (that long?) and will be looking at the Portugal game to test their preparation ahead of the Big Summer Show. Ever since Roberto Donadoni took over (and Nesta and Francesco left) we haven’t seen that German fighting spirit.

We did, however, finish 1st of our group in front of France, who usually choke during the big events. (You know WC 2002, WC 2006 final or WW2, pick one)

* Did you know France have not won a major tournament since the Last Millennium, Champions League included !

Portugal managed to take 2nd place in their Euro qualifying group. Even with all the stars they have on the team, Portugal needed to draw Finland in the last qualifier to earn entry for Swissaustria. Luiz Felipe Scolari’s squad was in a group with teams like Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan,Armenia… and they still finished behind a Potato-eating, Podolski-less Poland. They won only 7 of their 14 games. But the bottom line is that, they are going to Euro and still are dangerous.

After Holland and Germany before WC 2006, Italy continues their habit of facing decent opposition before big tournaments.

What: International Friendly
When: Wednesday February 6, 2008, 20:45 CET
Where: Letzigrund Stadium, Zurich , Switzerland
Streaming : Here

The Italy squad going to Zurich isn’t exactly the one DonaDoni will be bringing to the big Tourney this summer. So the new guys need to impress the hell out of the Coach.

Squads

Italia

PORTIERI: Marco Amelia (Livorno), Morgan De Sanctis (Siviglia)

DIFENSORI: Andrea Barzagli (Palermo), Fabio Cannavaro (Real Madrid), Marco Cassetti (Roma), Fabio Grosso (Olympique Lione), A. Gamberini (Fiorentina), Massimo Oddo (Milan), Gianluca Zambrotta (Barcellona).

CENTROCAMPISTI: Massimo Ambrosini (Milan), Alberto Aquilani, Daniele De Rossi e Simone Perrotta (Roma), Andrea Pirlo (Milan), Franco Semioli (Fiorentina)

ATTACCANTI: Marco Borriello (Genoa), Antonio Di Natale (Udinese), Raffaele Palladino (Juventus), Fabio Quagliarella (Udinese), Luca Toni (Bayern Monaco).

Notable absences : GiGi Buffon, Gennaro Gattuso, Mauro Camoranesi , Cristiano Lucarelli, Alberto Gilardino , Marco Materazzi and Glasgow hero Panucci won’t be making the trip either. Oh yeah, and some guy named Francesco Totti !

No notable surprises given the number of injuries and the fact that this game is a Friendly. Although, I will never understand Roberto Donadoni’s infatuation with Massimo Ambrosini. How about a little Cristiano Zanetti instead ? Marco Borriello is the only new comer

I can understand Donadoni picking Palladino over Alè el Piero, but ahead of an on-fire Antonio Cassano a.k.a Talentino? That’s just wrong. What the hell kind of a relationship did you and Palladino ''build'' during your Livorno stay !

Why Bobby, Why ?

Antonio sa che al 90% dipende da lui. Comportamento, impegno, sacrificio: se mette insieme queste cose...

Why not test how he fits in to the squad (read : In the group, as a human being, not a player) now, rather than when it’ll be to late to find out ? Anyway, a 70% fit Talentino is better than Palladino 9 days of the week.

Not only is Antonio Cassano a better option (we’re talking talent here, not brains) than the Juventus youngster, you also have a little bald man called Alè Rosina, who happens to be way better than his Town rival. There’s also that boy from New Jersey …

I don’t know what to expect from this game. Donadoni will surely want to try out some different stuff, and test the likes of Borriello , Cassetti and Semioli

The Starting line up should look like this, then get ready for all hell to break loose after the half, when The Don Doni decides to make 12 Substitutions and try Luca Toni in Goal.

Probable Formation ( as in that's what La Gazzetta says )

4-2-3-1

M. Amelia
Oddo, Cannavaro, Barzagli, Zambrotta
Ambrosini - Pirlo
Quagliarella – Perrotta – Di Natale
Toni

Maybe it’s just my Giallorossi glasses but just imagining a Pirlo- Aquilani- De Rossi midfield makes me drool. (could you imagine Pirlo in Rome instead of Pizzaro !?)

Let’s see how this Azzurri team fends off against the runs of the Premiership Pretty Boy and Ricardo Quaresma.

Portugal squad ;

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Goalkeepers: Quim (SL Benfica), Ricardo (Real Bétis Balompié), Rui Patrício (Sporting Clube de Portugal).

Defenders: Bruno Alves (FC Porto), Fernando Meira (VfB Stuttgart ), Jorge Ribeiro (Boavista FC), Bosingwa (FC Porto), Marco Caneira ( Valencia CF), Paulo Ferreira ( Chelsea FC), Ricardo Carvalho ( Chelsea FC).

Midfielders: Deco (FC Barcelona), Petit (SL Benfica), Maniche (FC Internazionale Milano), Raul Meireles (FC Porto), Nani ( Manchester United FC).

Forwards: Ariza Makukula (CS Marítimo), Cristiano Ronaldo ( Manchester United FC), Nuno Gomes (SL Benfica), Ricardo Quaresma (FC Porto). Hugo Almeida

Pepe, Jorge Andrade, Miguel and Simao Sabrosa are the injured dudes from the Portugese Squad

There's also that Geezer Luis Figo who isn't playing, Fucking mercenary! How the hell do you go from Barça to Real Madrid ? Ask Ronaldo, the real one, you say ? I still don't get it !

Probable starting XI ; 4-5-1

Ricardo ;
Boh ? , Carvalho, Meira, Boh ?
R. Quaresma, Maniche, Petit, Deco, C. Ronaldo
H. Almeida

Key Matchups:

Roberto Donadoni and his IQ vs Big Phil Scolari :

Big Dr. Phil has won a World Cup with Brazil and has been working miracles with this Portugal Squad. Scolari's one of my favourite coaches; I mean who else would punch an opposing player in the face?

Not the Don Doni that’s for sure. Lippi might be willing to throw a uppercut after all the Gattuso beatings he received in Germany, circa 2006, he has surely toughened up. (If you can withstand a Gennaro Gattuso choking, that officially makes you hardcore)

One can only wonder how Donadoni will want to approach this game. He'll be renegotiating his Azzurri C.T. contract after the game, so i'm expecting a little screaming from the sidelines. Now if Roberto Donadoni could only channel the Calcio Knowledge his feet have and send it to his brain...

Strikers not named Toni vs Finishing:

We are all well aware of Luca Toni’s crazy ass finishing abilities but how will the other guys fare?

Antonio Di Natale, he ain’t no Antonio Cassano, his finishing isn’t nearly as surgical as Talentino’s. Before his Ukrainian brace, the only way ToTo Christmas got in the news is because of his easy botched goal chances.

I hate Antonio Di Natale’s game (If he comes to Roma, for anything less than 5M$, I’ll have to organize a Coup D’État on Trigoria. Who’s with me?)

I can’t make any objective judgments about him; I just don’t like the guy. He’s not a crappy player, but there are so many other players that deserve a chance ahead of him. Plus, at his age, he has no upside whatsoever. Anyway, we have all read the Toto debate here.

His Udinese teammate, Fabio Quagliarella, has a tendency to dissapear in games from time to time; gladly he also has a tendency to pull out something crazy from his ass at any moment. (See Lithuania or Chievo games) I Hope he’ll want to show Manchester United and the Premiership teams that young and excellent attacking talent doesn’t only come out of Portugal. Let’s hope Fabio proves to us all why he was worth about 20M$ this summer.

The ambiguously metrosexual Portuguese duo of Quaresma and C. Ronaldo vs The Azzurri Defence:

This is a midweek friendly, the domestic title races are still up for grabs so no one will really bring their serious A-game to the table , seeing how nobody wants to get injured during a meaningless encounter. Fabio- The Berlin Wall- Cannavaro is world class and Andrea Barzagli can grind it out with the best of them, but This ain’t your daddy’s Italian defence.

Pero, it would be an excellent practice/test if Quaresma and C. Ronaldo decide to put their heads down and run straight at the Azzurri back line. Gianluca Zambrotta should be fine on the flanks; he’s used to training with guys like Messi, Henry and Ronaldinho. If ever the Man bag owning duo decide to wreak havoc on the flanks, it’s Oddo/Grosso I’m worried about.

Prediction:

The last time Italy and Portugal played it was on March 31st 2004, also a friendly to get the kinks out before Euro2004 kicked off. Italy ended up winning 2-1 and Fabrizio Miccoli(another Di Natale replacement ?) did this to win the game.

Friendlies are damn near impossible to predict; a Roberto Donadoni coached friendly would be plainly unpredictable. I’m expecting a low scoring draw, but this game could very well go either way. C. Ronaldo , R. Quaresma and friends could start manhandling the Azzurri defence all game long. On the other hand, Luca Toni can strike at any time and you never know when Fabio Quagliarella or Andrea Pirlo might pull out something special from their respective bag of tricks.

I just hope everything goes ok, we get the usual low scoring draw, and maybe get that lucky winning goal like last time.

As long as Simone Perrotta, DDR and Alberto Aquilani don’t get injured, I’ll be happy with whichever result. A spanking at the hands of Portugal could probably get Donadoni and Italy to wake up and smell the Lavazza and get them working smarter (as in leaving Palladino and Ambrosini at home or playing your best Italian midfielder not named Andrea Pirlo.)

Italia – Portugal : 2-1
Goalscorers: Quaresma, Toni and Quagliarella

Forza Ragazzi ! Siamo Campioni del Mondo, CAMPIONI DEL MONDO, and for another 2 years, nobody can take that away from us !

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