Wednesday 13 December 2017

Scouting report


LOCATION: Southern Europe

POPULATION: 60.2 million

TROPHY CABINET: 4 World Cups (1934, '38, '82, 2006), 1 European Championship ('68).


FORM: Top of Group C, five points clear of Slovenia in second, and are on course to qualify comfortably. Beat Estonia 3-0 on Saturday.

THE GAFFER: After their disastrous World Cup, the Azzurri turned to Cesare Prandelli to revive their fortunes. A former player with Cremonese, Atalanta (two spells) and Juventus, he won the Serie A title three times under Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni.

He moved into management at Atalanta after retiring, before managing Lecce, Verona, Venezia and Parma. His move to Roma in 2004 saw him rise to national prominence, and despite leaving after one season because of illness to his wife, he was picked up by Fiorentina.

His five years with the Viola made him the club's longest serving manager, and by guiding them to the Champions League he alerted the Italian federation to his talents and they made him their man to rectify the issues that dogged their World Cup finals campaign.

STAR ATTRACTION: Villarreal's Giuseppe Rossi is being linked with a move to Barcelona and the American-born former Manchester United striker has been the star turn for the men in blue. He scored their first goal against Estonia on Saturday but it remains to be seen if he will play tomorrow.

WISH YOU WERE HERE: The divisive figure of Mario Balotelli would certainly add some interest to this end-of-season affair in Liege, but the Manchester City striker cried off both of Italy's matches with a knee injury.

SQUAD NEWS: Alberto Aquilani picked up an injury in Saturday's win and is definitely out of the Italian squad, but there are likely to be more pull-outs before the match. Torino defender Angelo Ogbonna has been added to the squad.

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