Sports

Italy vs. Brazil Game Preview

Italy_national_football_team_Euro_2012_finalThe Italy’s national football team survived a scare when their plane was hit by lightning on Thursday, local media reported. Reports stated a bolt of lightning struck when the plane was landing at Geneva Airport. Fortunately there were no injuries nor serious damage to the plane, which was able to land safely, but the passengers – including Italy‘s coach Prandelli and the players – were clearly shaken by the incident. “We got a real scare today on the plane!” wrote Juventus’ midfielder Claudio Marchisio on his Twitter account.

Italy hasn’t beaten Brazil since a memorable victory en route to the 1982 World Cup title and will be looking to show off its newfound swagger in Thursday’s friendly after last year’s run to the European Championship final. Brazil hasn’t beaten anyone of note lately and is looking to regain its confidence under Luiz Felipe Scolari, who guided the Selecao to the 2002 World Cup title and was brought back in November to replace Mano Menezes.

So it will be a friendly in name only when the two squads that share nine World Cup titles between them – five for Brazil, four for Italy – meet in Geneva. It will also be a preview of their next meeting in June in the group phase of the Confederations Cup. “Friendlies don’t exist with the national team,” Italy’s midfield maestro Andrea Pirlo said. “We know they’re a great team but so are we.”

Since Italy’s 3-2 win in 1982, Brazil has won four times in the series and drawn once. In their last two meetings, Brazil has outscored Italy 5-0. “Over the last few years we haven’t faced Brazil many times, but the few times we have met we’ve played fairly poorly,” Italy captain Gianluigi Buffon said. “So this is a big test for us to see where we’re at and it will help us either way, whether it goes well or poorly.” Brazil lost 2-1 to England at Wembley last month in Scolari’s return and drew 1-1 with Colombia in its previous match in November.

Scolari had only directed two days of training before the England match and he should have a better grip on the squad by now, with another friendly coming up against Russia next week in London. “Since the 2010 World Cup, Brazil has not won any matches against major national squads,” goalkeeper Julio Cesar said. “I expect to win both games.” Scolari could use a three-pronged attack featuring Neymar, Fred and Hulk, while Real Madrid playmaker Kaka could be an option off the bench. However, there are problems in midfield with Ramires, Lucas and Paulinho all out injured, while Lazio midfielder Hernanes would get an opportunity due to his fine form in Serie A, the Europa League and Coppa Italia.

Hernanes Hoping to Seize Brazil Chance

Hernanes told Fifa.com: “To tell you the truth I didn’t have time to feel frustrated [when I missed out on the match at Wembley] because I had to think about my health after the accident and undergo lots of tests. When I saw that I was fine I started to think about the next call-up. I’m happy because my form’s improving with Lazio and because I’ve achieved my goal of getting back into the Brazil squad. The chance has come at a good time in my career and my personal life and I need to make the most of it.”

The former Sao Paulo midfielder is looking to stamp his authority on the team to assure Scolari makes note of his efforts and gives him regular appearances in a Selecao shirt in future after a lacklustre number of caps to date. “It’s true I haven’t played that many games,” Hernanes continued. “There aren’t that many matches to get called up for in any case, and unless there’s a coach who has faith in your work and picks you, you’re not going to get the chance to show your potential. It’s not easy to play one game one day and then the next a year later. Everyone’s got their preferences and I respect that. I just hope that Felipao is someone who’s going to pick me to play and give me a regular game so I can show what I can do. That’s why every detail in training and in matches counts.”

Scolari: Recovering the Winning Mentality

Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has said that he must recapture a “winning mentality” in his team ahead of this summer’s Confederations Cup, which will start next June 15. The Selecao take on Italy in Geneva this evening, before going on to face Russia at Stamford Bridge on Monday. Scolari said that Cesare Prandelli‘s team is further along in transition, and believes that the Brazilian public are “depressed” at the current state of affairs.

The Azzurri are at a more advanced stage of the renewal process compared to us,” Scolari told reporters. “My Brazil has been working together for only two games, whereas Cesare Prandelli’s side is Vice-Champion of Europe. I am counting on being competitive for the Confederations Cup. I have to reconstruct the winning mentality of the team. The fans are depressed at the difficult moment that our football is going through.”

Whoever plays in attack for Italy will have to deal with defender Thiago Silva, widely considered among the world’s best.  Silva developed his game with Milan the past three seasons before transferring to Paris Saint-Germain. “I owe a lot to Italy,” he said. “I grew up in Italy and learned to defend better.

Prandelli: We are not favourites

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli has denied that his team are favourites in tonight’s friendly. The 55-year-old admitted that the Seleçao are not as strong as they once were, but said that they are going through a “generational change”. “Are we the favourites against Brazil? That seems an exaggeration,” Prandelli told reporters. “Yes, they are seeking their identity, but never lost that spirit. They have extraordinary quality and their own style of football. We are not the favourites, but we hope to make life difficult for them tomorrow. Brazil are seeking the right team for the World Cup and this is a generational change. They will be prepared for the tournament as hosts.” 

Prandelli also paid tribute to the talent of wonderkid Neymar, who is believed to be interesting a number of big-name clubs in Europe. “Neymar is one of the modern strikers in world football,” he added.  “He combines technique and quality with the ability to change tempo as he runs. He can attack the defensive line even without a partner.”

Italy is without defender Giorgio Chiellini, who was sent home Wednesday with injuries to both ankles, but coach Cesare Prandelli has a wealth of options for his lineup, keeping in mind a World Cup qualifier at Malta next week. With Roma forward Pablo Osvaldo suspended for the Malta match, the Argentine-born striker could pair in attack with Mario Balotelli, who has scored seven goals in six matches for AC Milan since transferring back to Italy from Manchester City. “Mario has found the ideal situation to show his worth,” Buffon said. “I hope he gives us joy with the national team, too.

While Italy is unbeaten in World Cup qualifying, the Azzurri have not fared well in recent friendlies, losing 2-1 at home to France in November and drawing 1-1 at the Netherlands last month. “We’re approaching these two matches like they’re both qualifiers,” Prandelli said. “Perhaps the Malta match is more important because there will be three points on line but Brazil is Brazil and the name says it all.

Brazil, which is hosting the 2014 World Cup, does not have to qualify and is therefore playing a long series of friendlies.

 

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