Kick-Off: Saturday November 14, 20:50CET, Stadio Adriatico, Pescara, Italy.
Testing Times For Marcello Lippi
Having enjoyed a less than imperious World Cup qualification campaign, Italy welcome an impressive Netherlands side to Pescara’s Stadio Adriatico for a testing friendly match.
Although they weren't always convincing, La Nazionale were hardly stretched in their qualifying campaign. Only a plucky Ireland team gave them a few scares en-route to South Africa. It’s now time to test their strength against top-class opposition, as Lippi seeks to get a rough idea on what his charges can achieve next summer. The coach has a chance to experiment with new faces too, as the friendly offers an escape from the cut and thrust of qualifying games.
Nevertheless, it’s unlikely to be a game where a tap on the shoulder and a handshake between players are common. Italy are desperate for revenge on the Dutch. La Nazionale were embarrassed when these two teams met last in the group stages of Euro 2008.
They were humiliated on that night as Ruud van Nistelrooy, Wesley Sneijder and Giovanni van Bronckhorst grabbed the goals in a smash-and-grab raid on a Cannavaro-less Azzurri back-line. The Real Madrid striker will not feature here, however, as he has not made it into Bert van Marwijk’s squad.
This game could even prove to be a good omen for Lippi and company, as they destroyed the Oranje in a friendly just before World Cup 2006. It’s almost five years to the day when La Nazionale hammered their opponents in the Amsterdam Arena 3-1. Prior to that game, the only other match between the two this decade was in Euro 2000 when Dino Zoff’s men responded brilliantly to Gianluca Zambrotta's early dismissal and won the semi-final on penalties thanks to an inspired Francesco Toldo.
Lippi has underlined his intention of experimenting by calling several new stars into the squad. Livorno’s Antonio Candreva, Cagliari’s Davide Biondini, Parma midfielder Daniele Galloppa and Palermo defender Mattia Cassani will be up for the clash, as they hope to send a message to the legendary tactician.
Oranje Eager To Impress
The Netherlands flew through their World Cup qualifying group winning all their games, scoring a massive 17 goals and conceding just twice along the way. They stormed to their ninth participation at the finals, and will be hoping to carry that sublime form into the clash against the World Champions.
Like the Italians, van Marwijk’s players have ambitions to succeed in South Africa and the clash will give them a chance to stretch the Italian defence. Holland have always been known for their attacking style of play and this will come into good use against the masters of defending. Premier League duo Robin van Persie and Dirk Kuyt and Milan’s Klaas-Jan Huntelaar will all be eager to fine tune their skills in Pescara.
Huntelaar will be even more motivated to score, as he has yet to bag a goal at club level this term. He will come face to face with Milan team-mates Gianluca Zambrotta and Andrea Pirlo, who will be out to make life hard for him.
Their recent form has not been perfect, though, as they were held to a 0-0 draw by Australia last month in an international friendly. That was away from home, suggesting the flying Dutchman have some work to do on the road. However, they are unbeaten this year having won 10 of their thirteen games and drawing the other three. They were also impressive during their other glamour friendly against England earlier this year.
October 14 v Cyprus (H) – WON 3-2 (WCQ)
October 10 v Ireland (A) – DREW 2-2 (WCQ)
September 9 v Bulgaria (H) – WON 2-0 (WCQ)
September 5 v Georgia (A) – WON 2-0 (WCQ)
August 12 v Switzerland (A) – DREW 0-0 (Friendly)
October 10 v Australia (A) – DREW 0-0 (Friendly)
September 9 v Scotland (A) – WON 1-0 (WCQ)
September 5 v Japan (H) – WON 3-0 (Friendly)
August 12 v England (H) – DREW 2-2 (Friendly)
June 10 v Norway (H) – WON 2-0 (WCQ)
There have been some wholesale changes for the friendly round of matches. Most of them have been down to a number of injuries. Vincenzo Iaquinta is still out after his knee surgery, while Fabio Quagliarella has been dropped. They have been replaced by Rafaele Palladino and Giampaolo Pazzini. Daniele De Rossi, Claudio Marchisio and Gennaro Gattuso are all out with injuries. In defence, Palermo's Mattia Cassani makes the grade, as does Napoli's Christian Maggio. As usual, Antonio Cassano is nowhere to be seen. Gianluigi Buffon had flu, but has recovered and is available. There is no Davide Santon, the Inter man is with the Italy U-21's.
Probable Staring XI 4-4-2: Buffon; Zambrotta, Chiellini, Cannavaro, Grosso; Palombo, Montolivo, Pirlo, Camoranesi; Rossi, Gilardino.
Robin van Persie and Mark Van Bommel return to the squad after missing the last game against Australia. Andre Ooijer is out, while Ibrahim Affelay and Nigel De Jong return. Ajax goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg is expected to keep his place in goal.
Probable Staring XI 4-2-3-1: Stekelenburg; Heitinga, Mathijsen, Boulahrouz, Van Bronckhorst; Schaars, De Zeeuw; Kuyt, Sneijder, Elia; Huntelaar.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Mauro Camoranesi (Italy)
The talismanic midfielder has been on fire for Juventus this term, scoring winners against Maccabi Haifa in the Champions League and then a double against Atalanta. The Dutch will need to keep an eye on the unpredictable little ace. He will be keen to continue his run of goalscoring form.
Wesley Sneijder (Netherlands)
Like Camoranesi, Sneijder has been impressive for his club Inter in Serie A this term. He is likely to pull all the strings and his experience in the peninsula is likely to come in handy when untangling the Italians.
With so much quality gracing both teams, it’s hard to pick a winner. But don't be too surprised to see plenty of goals in Pescara in what could well be a free for all clash. A draw is the most likely result.
Italy 2-2 Netherlands