MILAN - For decades an Italy away game
against Estonia would have been viewed as a fairly
straight-forward affair but this Friday's Euro 2012 qualifier
looks anything but given the Azzurri's lack of confidence.
Italy's World Cup debacle where the holders drew with
Paraguay and New Zealand before being dumped out in the group
stage after a harrowing 3-2 defeat by Slovakia means the old
order of European football has somewhat changed.
Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, currently out injured, said in
the aftermath of South Africa that once-mighty Italy could
struggle to qualify for Euro 2012 and new coach Cesare Prandelli
is sounding almost as cautious ahead of their opener.
"Let's start by finding the right tactical balance, order
and above all results," the former Fiorentina boss told
reporters when asked about whether he wanted exciting play.
"It won't be a walk in the park against Estonia, they are a
proven side. We have to be careful."
August's 1-0 friendly defeat by Ivory Coast in Prandelli's
first match in charge further highlighted Italy's fall from
grace, although the coach put out a much-changed side which had
little time to prepare.
Tweaks are necessary again after forwards Mario Balotelli
and Amauri were ruled out of Friday's match and the September 7
qualifier with the Faroe Islands in Florence through injury.
Sampdoria's Giampaolo Pazzini looks favourite over fellow
recalled striker Alberto Gilardino to play upfront in a likely
4-3-2-1 formation unless Prandelli opts for 4-4-2.
"Pazzini has an advantage because he started his season's
preparation earlier and has already played top class matches
(Champions League qualifiers)," Prandelli added.
Pazzini's club team mate Antonio Cassano is poised to play
off the frontman if he shakes off a back problem with Simone
Pepe or Giuseppe Rossi probably coming in as the third player in
The 2006 World Cup winner Andrea Pirlo could come back into
midfield after not being fully fit for the Ivory Coast defeat
while a debut is likely for Fiorentina fullback Lorenzo De
Nervous Italy fans, still coming to terms with the World Cup
aberration under Marcello Lippi, will at least draw comfort from
Estonia's first game in Group C when they needed two injury-time
goals from Kaimar Saag to beat the Faroes 2-1 at home.
Estonia: 1-Sergei Pareiko, 17-Enar Jaager, 5-Dmitri Kruglov,
19-Alo Barengrub, 4-Raio Piiroja, 15-Ragnar Klavan, 7-Sander
Puri, 14-Konstantin Vassiljev, 6-Aleksandr Dmitrijev, 20-Kaimar
Saag, 9-Tarmo Kink
Italy: Salvatore Sirigu; Lorenzo De Silvestri, Leonardo
Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini, Cristian Molinaro; Daniele De Rossi,
Andrea Pirlo, Riccardo Montolivo; Antonio Cassano, Simone Pepe,
Referee: Carlos Velasco Carballo (Spain)
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