Italy in group F are in a similar situation as England were in group C, after playing out 2 draws. Their match against Slovakia on Thursday represents a must-win situation, if Italy don’t want to exit before the knock out stage.
Italy were below par in their match against New Zealand in which they were held to a draw by the minnows. However, Slovakia have also been less than impressive, losing 2-0 to Paraguay, after a draw against New Zealand, and a win against them should see Italy through regardless of what happens in the other group match between New Zealand and Paraguay.
Italy, like France at this World Cup, have aging players who are clearly past their best. For instance, World Cup 2006 hero, Cannavaro, has been the biggest disappointment for Italy, in South Africa. The team has lacked discipline, organization and concentration. Italy are also missing key players, such as Buffon and Pirlo, owing to injury. They will have to play much better against Slovakia than they did against New Zealand, if they want to get 3 points in Thursday’s match.
The goal they conceded in injury time to New Zealand appeared to have upset Slovakia’s balance, and it showed in their abject showing against the three-pronged attack of Paraguay.
Sestak on the right wing, and Hamsik in midfield were out of sorts, as was Kozak who seemed to lack direction during the entire course of the Paraguay match. Coach Weiss will need his team to score the biggest upset of their football career with a win against the defending champions. If they do, Paraguay could still qualify, subject to the result of the match between New Zealand and Paraguay.
For Italy, Ricardo Montolivo has been the sole player to enhance his reputation. But he has been unlucky not to score, missing two clear opportunities against New Zealand. His long passing skill could hurt Slovakia.
For Slovakia, Hamsik is the man to watch. If the star midfielder plays to potential, Slovakia could make a match of it, yet.
Italy’s team composition will be largely the same as in the New Zealand game. Marchetti in goal and Cannavaro and Chiellini in defence will continue for want of options. Camoranesi could come in for Pepe, and Natale for Gilardino.
For Slovakia, Jendrisek could come in as the second striker alongside Veetak, with support from Sestak just behind them. Hamsik and Weiss will lead the midfield with Skrtel marshalling the defence.
Italy’s experience should see them through against minnows, Slovakia.