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  • May 31, 2014
  • • 2:45 PM
  • • Craven Cottage, London
  • Referee: M. Oliver
  • • Attendance: 22879

International Friendly Preview: Italy - Republic of Ireland

International Friendly Preview: Italy - Republic of Ireland

The Azzurri will take on Martin O'Neill's men at Craven Cottage on Saturday buoyed by the news that their head coach has signed a two-year contract extension.

Italy comes into Saturday's friendly with the Republic of Ireland in good health off the pitch as the team builds up to the World Cup in Brazil.

Head coach Cesare Prandelli signed a contract extension on Monday, which will keep him in the job beyond the European Championships in 2016.

That sense of stability can only aid Italy as it prepares for two friendlies ahead of the World Cup, the first of which sees the team take on Martin O'Neill's Ireland at Craven Cottage.

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Meanwhile the Azzurri's chief of medical staff, Enrico Castellacci, says that the squad is in good physical shape, with Prandelli yet to cut his provisional 30-man party down to the final 23.

"The state of health in the team is good enough, except for a few obvious muscle problems seen in recent days because the boys have worked so much," Castellacci said. "For the rest, everything is fine, [there is] nothing to worry about. The players are adapting well."

Italy's form on the field has been less than impressive in recent months, however, with no win in five games in all competitions since a 2-1 win over Czech Republic in a World Cup qualifier back in September.

The four-time world champion is hoping to put an end to that run as the side bids to put a nightmare 2010 campaign behind it when, under Marcello Lippi, it crashed out at the group stages without recording a single victory.

Lippi had guided the team to glory on the world stage just four years earlier, and the man tasked with repeating that feat has now secured his long-term future in the job.

Giuseppe Rossi, who missed the second half of the domestic season after suffering a knee injury, is "working well", according to Castellacci, while Mario Balotelli and Andrea Barzagli are also showing positive signs after knocks.

Ireland, meanwhile, will want to bounce back from a 2-1 defeat to Turkey on Sunday, when Jon Walters' late consolation was not enough to rescue it from a second defeat in succession under O'Neill.

Having failed to qualify for the finals in Brazil, Ireland is looking ahead to its Euro qualifiers, beginning in September, and O'Neill sees Saturday's match, as well as forthcoming friendlies with Costa Rica and Portugal, as a chance to experiment with different formations.

"People say I’m a 4-4-2 man," he told the Irish Post. "But I used 3-5-2 for years at Celtic and Leicester.

"I'm open to change and will try things out over the course of these matches because this is the time to do that - not in September when the Euros start."

Last Five Matches

Head To Head


Republic of Ireland


Betting & Predictions

Reader's Predictions

Italy ITA
Italy Italy
Republic of Ireland IRL
Republic of Ireland Republic of Ireland

Top 3 Predictions

Italy ITA
2 - 0
Republic of Ireland IRL
Italy ITA
3 - 0
Republic of Ireland IRL
Italy ITA
3 - 1
Republic of Ireland IRL