European qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup resumes this week, and in Group 8, the new boys Montenegro host the world champions Italy in Podgorica.
Montenegro’s Chance To Stun The Champions
The Montenegrins have been solid in their first ever qualifying campaign as an independent nation, despite the fact that they have failed to win any of their first three matches.
They have managed two draws and a defeat, to sit in fourth position in Group 8 of their World Cup qualifying group. The Balkan side are guided by none other than Red Star Belgrade’s legendary striker of the 1970s, Zoran Filipovic, who certainly possesses plenty of experience to get the best football he can out of this side. He has a talented squad, with a good mix of youth and experience, the key to a successful international squad.
With the likes of Roma’s Mirko Vucinic, Rapid midfield Branko Bošković, and Fiorentina’s young starlet Stevan Jovetic, the signs are promising for the immediate footballing future of this nation. They will need to attain at least a result from this contest against the world champions, to ensure that they give themselves half a chance of qualifying for next year’s World Cup.
They will be boosted by the fitness of their two first-choice center-backs Radoslav Batak and Jovan Tanasijević for this clash, as both have been injured at various times over the past few months. As a result, expect to see them approach this match in a very attacking manner, as they will go for the win in Podgorica, due to the defensive confidence that these two players will bring to the squad.
The Montenegrins will be well aware of the large number of casualties that the Italians are dealing with at present, so with this in mind, they will consider themselves a chance of grabbing their most impressive result in their short history. The Azzurri are coming off a disappointing defeat against Brazil two months ago, so in front of the Montenegrin home fans, anything could happen.
Depleted Italians Keen To Secure Top Spot
A different look Italian squad has arrived in Podgorica, ahead of their enticing world cup qualifying match against Montenegro this weekend. There are several stars missing through injury, as well as a number of players that have been overlooked by Marcello Lippi yet again, including the Sampdoria superstar Antonio Cassano, as well as the golden boy of Italian football, Alessandro Del Piero.
The former Juve boss has selected three new players for the nation’s upcoming qualifying matches, as Genoa’s Salvatore Bocchetti, Roma’s Marco Motta, and the in-form Sampdoria hitman Giampaolo Pazzini have all earned their first call-ups to the national team.
In addition to the potential debutants, there are an incredible 10 other players that have made eight or less appearances for the country, including Matteo Brighi, who earned his one and only cap way back in 2002 against Slovenia, and Lazio’s Pasquale Foggia, who has previously made two appearances, and was recalled due to his recent consistency for the Biancocelesti.
The Azzurri have played four qualifiers thus far in Group 8 of the competition, a group that they currently sit atop of with 10 points recorded. Having said this though, goal difference is all that separates them from the second placed Ireland, who coincidentally they will face next week.
Three points against the Montenegrins will be absolutely crucial to their cause of topping this group, as a slip up could prove to be a disaster for Lippi and the undermanned Italians.
November 19 v Macedonia (H) WON 2-1
October 15 v Italy (A) LOST 1-2
September 10 v Ireland (H) DREW 0-0
September 6 v Bulgaria (H) DREW 2-2
August 20 v Hungary (A) DREW 3-3
February 10 v Brazil (N) LOST 0-2
November 19 v Greece (A) DREW 1-1
October 15 v Montenegro (H) WON 2-1
October 11 v Bulgaria (A) DREW 0-0
September 10 v Georgia (H) WON 2-0
As previously mentioned, the Montenegrins will have their two first choice center-backs fit and available to play in this highly anticipated contest. Filipovic can count on virtually a fully fit squad for the weekend although influential forward Mirko Vucinic is suspended. Jovetic will certainly be a key player in this match, due to his knowledge of the Italian game, as will the nation’s most capped player Vladimir Bozovic in midfield.
Goalkeepers: Vukasin Poleksic (Debrecen), Mladen Bozovic (Partizan Belgrade)
Defenders: Savo Pavicevic (Energie Cottbus), Miodrag Dzudovic (Spartak Nalchik), Jovan Tanasijevic (Dynamo Moscow), Radoslav Batak (Anakaraspor), Dejan Ognjanovic (LKS Lodz), Marko Basa (Lokomotiv Moscow), Luka Pejovic (Mogren Budva), Elsad Zverotic (Luzerne)
Midfielders: Vladimir Bozovic (Rapid Bucharest), Mitar Novakovic (Amkar Perm), Milorad Pekovic (Meinz), Nikola Drincic (Amkar), Branko Boskovic (Rapid Vienna), Ivan Delic (Buducnost Podgorica), Simon Vukcevic (Sporting Lisbon)
Forwards: Stevan Jovetic (Fiorentina), Mirko Vucinic (AS Roma), Nikola Vujovic (Partizan Belgrade), Radomir Djalovic (Rapid Bucharest), Fatos Beciraj (Buducnost Podgorica)
Possible Starting XI – (4-4-2): Poleksic; Pavicevic, Tanasijevic, Batak, Pejovic; Vukcevic, Boskovic, Bozovic, Drincic; Jovetic, Djalovic.
The Italians are obviously without a number of their stars for this clash, as a result of injury and team selection. The likes of Gennaro Gattuso, Simone Perrotta, Luca Toni and Alberto Gilardino are all struggling with injury, whilst Del Piero and Cassano were snubbed by Lippi yet again. With a lack of experience up front for the Azzurri, it will be interesting to see who lines up in attack, as Vincenzo Iaquinta looks to be the frontrunner at present to head the frontline.
Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Marco Amelia (Palermo), Morgan De Sanctis (Galatasaray)
Defenders: Salvatore Bocchetti (Genoa), Fabio Cannavaro (Real Madrid), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Andrea Dossena (Liverpool), Alessandro Gamberini (Fiorentina), Fabio Grosso (Olympique Lione), Marco Motta (Roma), Gianluca Zambrotta (Milan)
Midfielders: Matteo Brighi (Roma), Daniele De Rossi (Roma), Pasquale Foggia (Lazio), Riccardo Montolivo (Fiorentina), Angelo Palombo (Sampdoria), Simone Pepe (Udinese), Andrea Pirlo (Milan)
Forwards: Antonio Di Natale (Udinese), Vincenzo Iaquinta (Juventus), Giampaolo Pazzini (Sampdoria), Fabio Quagliarella (Udinese), Giuseppe Rossi (Villarreal)
Possible Starting XI – (4-3-2-1): Buffon; Zambrotta, Cannavaro, Chiellini, Grosso; De Rossi, Pirlo, Palombo; Di Natale, Quagliarella; Iaquinta.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Montenegro – Mirko Vucinic: The superstar from Roma in the Serie A will be hopeful of leading his team from the front to a maiden world cup qualifying victory this weekend. He has been in decent form, when fit, for Roma this term, however he will certainly be the main man for the Italians to closely monitor throughout the entirety of this match. This is a crucial game for their qualifying ambitions, and if they wish to attain anything from it, their captain will need to be at his best.
Italy – Fabio Cannavaro: The Azzurri skipper has come under fire for his performances for the large part of the season; with many claiming that he no longer has what it takes to perform at the highest level. He will be keen to prove his critics wrong this week, as he must lead from the front with a dominant performance at the back for the Italians. With a lack of experience up front, a clean sheet may be a necessity for the world champions, placing further pressure on the captain’s performance on the night.
It should be an interesting battle at the Stadion Pod Goricom this Saturday, between two sides that will certainly fancy their chances of taking something away from the clash. Obviously the Italians are without several key players for the qualifier, however having said that, they are the reigning world champions, meaning that they should be able to edge out strong competition from the new boys of world football. Iaquinta will do the damage for the Italians on the night.
Montenegro 1-2 Italy
Adrian Del Monte, Goal.com