A rejuvenated Italy squad under Antonio Conte takes on Croatia, as the top dogs of Group H go head to head in the Euro 2016 Qualifiers. After a dismayal World Cup, Italy will most likely face its first stern test against Croatia, and with three wins in three games, the Azzuri are set to be favorites to edge this fixture.
Meanwhile, Croatia who impressed fans in the World Cup has also amounted a total of three wins in three matches. As the scenarios stands, both Italy and Croatia are joint top leaders of Group H with nine points and if would be looking for a win to distance themselves from the rest of the pack.
Though Italy miss the static Marco Verratti and their midfield general Andrea Pirlo, they feature an inform attacking contingent led by Dortmund’s Ciro Immobile.
We take a look at the three things Italy should and must do to win against underdogs Croatia.
1. Midfield Needs To Click
After a disappointing World Cup there were plenty of changes in the Italian squad and one pivotal was the change of mentality brought in by Antonio Conte. Although, Italy might have enjoyed decent success after the World Cup, their midfield still lacks the cutting edge – even though boasting the likes of Danielle de Rossi, and it would be safe to say that it is in transition.
Featuring five midfielder, that is three central midfielders- which tend do drift forwards or backwards during the course of the match, and two out and out wingers – which usually are deployed as attacking wingbacks and operate in the wing region, Italy might have to click in this stern test against Croatia.
Danielle de Rossi, which is likely to be the midfield general would be expected to drop deep and govern play, much like Andrea Pirlo. While, Claudio Marchisio, who has been lamented for his lack of doing the extraordinary, could be deployed along side Parolo.
If Italy are to edge this fixture, Danielle de Rossi would be in the thick of it. The AS Roma man has a lot of responsibilities to organize and arrange his midfield properly, which is still young and ‘immature’.
2. Three Man Defense
Although the three man defense has been lamented, battered and bruised for dishing out sloppy performances, it also has its positives. Though Italy would miss the services of tactical mastermind Andrea Barzagli, his position could be occupied but not replaced by another Andrea, Andrea Ranocchia.
A three man defense not only provides Italy to congest the midfield region where Croatia seem dangerous, it also lets them convert into a back five with the two returning wingbacks.
If Italy are to win this fixture, than the defensive trio of Andrea Ranocchia-Angelo Ogboonna and Gorgino Chellini, looks more than safe enough to start. The hefty looking Mario Mandzukic could be easily tipped of the aerial balls, as all three central defenders have a knack of winning headers.
The three man defense does have its critics and fans alike, but going into this fixture and with quality lacking apart from these three plus Chellini’s inability to play as a Central Defender, could very well push Conte to line his squad up in his personal favorite 3-5-2.
3. Speed And Trickery In Attack
Long gone are the days where Italy could produce a Luca Toni or a Vincenzo Inquanita. The new Italy is most likely to be built around the technical abilities, speed, skill and trickery of players such as Sebastian Giovinco, Simone Zaza, Ciro Immobile and Pelle.
If Italy are lining up in a 3-5-2, then the best possible attacking duo would be the partnership of Ciro Immobile and Pelle. Pelle has been brilliant and scintillating for his club side, Southampton and the 29 year old scored in his debut against Malta.
Though the Italian National Team also boasts a certain player called Mario Balotelli, his theatrics and antics might not be need in the match as the Liverpool striker has looked off color.
Ciro Immobile could partner Pelle, as Immobile has been decent for Borussia Dortmund so far. Although the squad lacks experience in attack, livewires like Giovinco could easily captivate the scenario and do something totally out of the ordinary.