1st June 2012
Italy’s Euro 2012 preparations were dented by the cancellation of the friendly game against Luxembourg, and now the match against Russia will be Azzurri’s first and final test before the start of the European Championship. Dick Advocaat’s side shared spoils with both Uruguay and Lithuania, but a win at Stadion Letzigrund in Zurich would be a great way to finish the first phase of their preparations.
Cesare Prandelli’s Italy looked really good in the Euro 2012 qualifiers and they had no problems qualifying for the final tournament, but they have since encountered numerous problems. The Calcioscommesse match-fixing scandal came at the worst possible time as the squad were starting their preparations for the European Championship and we have yet to see what effect it will have on the players in the national team. The Azzurri boss will use the Russia game to test two systems, 4-3-1-2 and 4-3-3, with Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano set to form the attacking partnership when he opts for the former and one of Toto Di Natale, Sebastian Giovinco and Antonio Cassano to lead the attack when the team switch to the latter formation. Prandelli has some problems at the back, with both Giorgio Chiellini and Federico Balzaretti carrying minor knocks, and he has hinted that centre-back Angelo Ogbonna could be an option for the left-back position. Regardless of the system Prandelli opts for, we will see a trademark Italy, strong at the back and not willing to take unnecessary risks.
Russia arrive to the European Championship as one of the dark horses, looking to repeat the performances from the previous tournament, when they reached the Euro 2008 semi-finals, but everybody at the camp knows that will be no easy task. Zbornaja komanda eased off to a place at the final tournament after beating Republic of Ireland, Armenia and Slovakia to the first place in their group, before they continued with strong performances in friendly games. Russia proved they are a tough nut to crack by sharing spoils with Greece, Uruguay and Lithuania, while beating Denmark away, and the interesting thing is that there were just six goals scored in those four friendly games. in spite of boasting a squad with plenty of attacking potential, boss Dick Advocaat seems to have modeled his system on that of Italy, as this team are characterized by impressive tactical discipline and a very cautious approach to every game. The Dutch coach has no injury worries ahead of the game in Zurich and is likely to field his strongest line-up.
Both Italy and Russia are well known for their habit of playing low-scoring games and when the two sides meet each other, goals and even chances will be few and far between. Neither side will want to lose their final game before the start of the European Championship and the odds are we will see a very tight game in Zurich.
Verdict: Under 2 goals
Best Odds: 21/20
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