The mother of all games, or as Lippi and Falcao tagged it, the ‘Derby of the World‘. As yet another week of international friendlies begins, fans everywhere will be eagerly anticipating some of the highest quality international football action in the year. I mean just think about it: Argentina vs. France and Spain vs. England all in the same week?
The most anticipated game of them all of course, will be Tuesday’s fixture at the Emirates Stadium of London, Brazil vs. Italy. These two teams have not faced each other since 1997 (a friendly tournament encounter to prepare for the France ’98 world cup) but boy do they have some serious history together. Who here doesn’t remember the 1970 and 1994 World Cup finals? Of course, we Italians would rather forget those and prefer to remember 1982′s 3-2 win with Paolo Rossi’s hat-trick. So far, previous encounters puth both teams on equal records: 12 matches, five wins a side and only two draws (including 1994′s 0-0 tie which lead to Brazil’s penalty-shootout victory).
For a cute trip down memory lane visit Francesco’s post over at the Italy Offside. In the meantime, let’s preview this epic showdown set to take place on Tuesday.
|Goalkeepers: Buffon (Juventus), Amelia (Palermo), De Sanctis (Galatasaray)|
|Defenders: Bonera (Milan), F.Cannavaro (Real Madrid), Dossena (Liverpool), Gamberini (Fiorentina), Grosso (Lyon), Legrottaglie (Juventus), Zambrotta (Milan)|
|Midfielders: Aquilani (Roma), Camoranesi (Juventus), De Rossi (Roma), Montolivo (Fiorentina), Pepe (Udinese), Perrotta (Roma), Pirlo (Milan)|
|Forwards: Di Natale (Udinese), Gilardino (Fiorentina), Quagliarella (Udinese), G.Rossi (Villarreal), Toni (Bayern Munich)|
On the eve of one of the biggest games of the year, how ironic is it that one of the most successful Italian managers in history will be experiencing this match-up for the first time ever? Yes folks believe or not, but Marcello Lippi has never had the chance to feel all the Azzurri vs. Seleçao pre-match tensions & excitement before. “A derby of the world” as the Italian coach has dubbed it, and one that the ex-Juventus man eagerly anticipates participating it. “It’s the first time I will be facing THE team that represents football throughout the world. It won’t be a friendly match, it will be a real football game. The only regret I have is having had only 48 hours to prepare it, such a shame it is to be held on Tuesday so close to the Serie A week-end.”
Making it even more representative is the fact the game is to played in London, in the 60,000-seater (all sold-out) of the Emirates Stadium. 152 countries have bought the TV rights for this match, and over a billion viewers worldwide are expected to see the fight between Fabio Cannavaro and Adriano unfold. Amauri, the subject of many forum & blog debates in the past three months, will not be there. Perhaps that’s a good thing, as now full attention can be concentrated onto the game itself.
For Lippi, another factor making this game extra special is his current streak of 31 consecutive matches without a loss at the Azzurri helm. A win or a draw Tuesday would extend it to 32, better than Spain’s Javier Clemente or Argentina’s Alfio Basile. The Italian coach isn’t worried about that however, and prefers to focus onto the game itself. “These are two teams which know one another very well” said Lippi. “They have so much talent & technique, and even though Kaká is missing (note: he’s out injured) there’s still great champions like Pato, Ronaldinho, Robinho and many others. Technically, Brazil is the strongest team in the world. They were the favorites for 2006, even though things didn’t work out for them in the end. Italy won because they were more tight-knit as a team, with still a great technical baggage. Now this match can turn into a great morale booster for 2009, as the teams get ready for the Confederations Cup“.
Tactically we are bound to have a few surprises, as Lippi likes to keep things hidden until shortly before the game. Monday’s training session (held under heavy rain at the Emirates) gave some indication, with the team split into two: the “pink shirts” (usually given to starters) were given to Buffon; Zambrotta, Legrottaglie, Cannavaro, Grosso; Pirlo, De Rossi; Pepe, Montolivo, Di Natale; Gilardino. Looking like a 4-2-3-1 formation, but it’s fairly safe to say these were just pre-match tactical tries before the final choices are made. In fact, midway through the scrimmage pink jerseys were also given to Camoranesi, Rossi, Perrotta and Toni. So…
According to Gazzetta the most likely line-up is as follows:
Zambrotta, Legrottaglie, F.Cannavaro, Grosso
Perrotta, Pirlo, De Rossi
Camoranesi, Toni, G.Rossi
The utilization of Camoranesi (who returned from injury this week-end) is still in doubt, as the Italo-Argentine player may not have full fitness into his legs yet. In which case the entrance of Simone Pepe on the right (or Antonio Di Natale on the left) is more than likely. Alberto Gilardino‘s goalscoring productivity with Fiorentina has been flourishing lately, and although he probably won’t get the start one can hypothesize he will step in for Luca Toni at one point or another. The backline looks the most solid out there yet (with Giorgio Chiellini out injured, Legrottaglie seems to most solid alternative).
|Goalkeepers: Julio Cesar (Inter), Alexandre Doni (Roma)|
|Defenders: Lucio (Bayern Munich), Juan (Roma), Luisao (Benfica), Thiago Silva (Milan), Maicon (Inter), Daniel Alves (Barcelona), Adriano (Sevilla), Marcelo (Real Madrid)|
|Midfielders: Gilberto Silva (Panathinaikos), Elano (Manchester City), Josue (Wolfsburg), Ronaldinho (Milan), Julio Baptista (Roma), Felipe Melo (Fiorentina)|
|Forwards: Robinho (Manchester City), Alexandre Pato (Milan), Adriano (Inter)|
As for Carlos Dunga, he too agrees that friendliness (in tactical terms of course) is the last thing you will see on the pitch on Tuesday night. “It’s never a friendly match with Italy” said the Brazilian manager, one which still has strong ties to the Old Boot after 6 years spent on the fields of Pisa, Firenze, and Pescara. “Playing against the Azzurri always gives you special motivation. Everyone gives that little extra energy because no one wants to be on the losing side.”
Inevitably, the fact this match is being played on a Tuesday also irritates the ex-Fiorentina player. “Several players just stepped onto a soccer field Sunday, and have made long airplane trips to be here. We haven’t been able to properly prepare for this important fixture, and that’s a shame.” The national team coach also commented on the Amauri Azzurri/Seleçao debate, reverting to his usual ‘everyone-wait-his-turn’ speech: “If Amauri will play with Brazil or Italy that is something you must ask him directly. I wasn’t angry with Juventus for not allowing him to respond to my call-up: if that is the FIFA rule about deadlines it must be respected. One thing is for certain though: back in my days, no one could have prevented me from playing for my national team. (…) Why didn’t I call him up sooner you ask? I have players like Luis Fabiano, Adriano, and Pato, why should I have called Amauri?“. Nuff said (and a tiny tiny hope to see Amauri wearing a blue shirt still lingers on in my mind).
As expected, players in the Brazil camp are also eagerly anticipating this match. “We know how Italy play and want to exploit this advantage” said Inter striker Adriano. “I want to come back to Milan with a victory, despite Kaká’s absence will be fairly important for us as he’s a very key player.” Fortunately for Adriano & Inter Milan, Kaká will also miss out next week’s Derby della Madonnina. “A match between two football greats like Italy and Brazil is a match everyone wants to win” added Inter keeper Julio Cesar. “I am happy about my moment of form but I do not consider myself a 100% certain starter. Doni has been playing well too.” Call me crazy but if I were Dunga I’d feel a lot safer with Julio Cesar in net. What’s for certain, is that this distance duel between the two best keepers of Serie A promises to be a very exciting one.
According to Goal.com, Brazil’s expected formation:
Maicon, Juan, Lucio, Adriano
Felipe Melo, Gilberto Silva
Elano, Ronaldinho, Robinho
Brazil vs. Italy, kick-off time Emirates Stadium 21:00 CET