Bulgaria vs. Italy Preview (World Cup 2010 Qualifiers)

The Azzurri have arrived in Sofia Friday, around 8:00pm local time. The players were greeted by the usual groups of photographers, camera crew, and even a small group of Italian supporters, who will no doubt be present on the stands of Levski Stadium tomorrow, as Bulgaria host Italy for the South Africa 2010 World Cup qualifiers.

One day before the match, let’s take a look at this much anticipated footy showdown, especially by the local population as Bulgaria await to encounter the reigning World Champions.




Goalkeepers: Amelia (Palermo), Curci (Siena), De Sanctis (Galatasaray)
Defenders: Bonera (Milan), F.Cannavaro (Real Madrid), Chiellini (Juventus), Dossena (Liverpool), Gamberini (Fiorentina), Santacroce (Napoli), Zambrotta (Milan)
Midfielders: Aquilani (Roma), De Rossi (Roma), Gattuso (Milan), Maggio (Napoli), Montolivo (Fiorentina), Nocerino (Palermo), Perrotta (Roma)
Forwards: Di Natale (Udinese), Gilardino (Fiorentina), Pepe (Udinese), G.Rossi (Villareal), Toni (Bayern)


In Azzurri news, let’s start with some bad ones. Compared to the original Azzurri call-ups, manager Lippi will have to do without Juventus keeper Gigi Buffon and midfielder Mauro Camoranesi, both injured for a period of at least 30-50 days (word is, Buffon will make his return in the early days of December, while Camoranesi should be back a little sooner).

To replace Buffon, Lippi called up Siena keeper Gianluca Curci, while the most likely starter on Saturday will probably be Marco Amelia. Tactically, Italy are looking towards a 4-3-3 formation, at least according to the latest training tests Lippi performed at Coverciano this week. During the Azzurri’s last training Friday, the Italian coach fielded Zambrotta-Cannavaro-Chiellini-Dossena in defence, Gattuso-De Rossi-Montolivo in midfield, and Pepe-Gilardino-Di Natale up front.

According to Gazzetta, there are still three positions Lippi isn’t entirely certain of.

First, who to pick alongside Fabio Cannavaro in defense. All odds are pointing towards Giorgio Chiellini, but the Juve center-back is still suffering from a few fitness problems, and may be superseded by Alessandro Gamberini.

Second, the midfield option: should the team focus on their short passing game (Riccardo Montolivo) or their penetration and defensive cover (Simone Perrotta)? A third option would be Alberto Aquilani

Finally in the central striker position… Gila or Toni? (see below).

My predicted eleven:


Zambrotta, F.Cannavaro, Chiellini, Dossena
Gattuso, De Rossi, Perrotta (or Aquilani)
Pepe, Gilardino, Di Natale


With that said and all injuries aside, Lippi remains calm and describes himself as “very satisfied with the work of the squad this week”. “The combination of veteran and new players” he said to Gazzetta, “is working out perfectly“.

Veteran players like Alberto Gilardino, the clear favorite over Luca Toni for a starting role Saturday (on account of the Bayern striker’s poor form, much to the contrary of his Viola counterpart) or new ones like Simone Pepe, one of Serie A’s nicest surprises this year. “A bit of pepper in the National side would do us some good” said Lippi. (pepe = pepper in Italian). “I really like Pepe. He moves the ball and covers the wing well. He has a good game, good quality…” Concerning Toni however, Lippi noted that “just because a player is not having a brilliant performance in his team, it doesn’t necessarily mean that he is out of form. His performance also depends on his team-mates, on the coach and on other factors.” In other words ‘Lippi hearts Toni’, and despite the goalscoring drought…

And speaking of Pepe, he won’t be the only Udinese representative on the field Saturday. Two more are likely to follow: Antonio Di Natale and Andrea Dossena. Yes, Andrea may have preferred to cross the Channel to Liverpool since last year, but there’s no doubt his good work at Udine is what earned him a spot amongst the Azzurri. And the three men will be looking to exploit their black & white team chemistry on the field.

Totò and I play very well together. When he controls the ball I already know what he’s going to do next, we connect easily.says Dossena. As for Di Natale, “playing with Pepe will be an advantage. We’ve known each other for over 3 years now“.

As for Roma midfielder Daniele De Rossi, he confided he hopes “to continue along the same lines as the two goals scored against Georgia“, at least as far as results are concerned. “In terms of our performances” he says, “the whole team knows that there’s room for improvement [...] this time just winning won’t be enough, we want to play a better style of football than we’ve shown in the last two games.”

Them’s fighting words Daniele!




Goalkeepers: Ivankov (Bursaspor), Petkov (Levski Sofia)
Defenders: Milanov (Levski Sofia), Manolev (Litex Lovech), V.Iliev (Terek Groznyi), Tunchev (Leicester), I.Ivanov (CSKA Sofia), Vagner (Levski Sofia), Venkov (Litex Lovech)
Midfielders: S.Petrov (Aston Villa), Genchev (Vaslui), Yankov (Hanover 96), Angelov (Cottbus), Georgiev (Slavia Sofia), Dimitrov (Metalurg Donetsk)
Forwards: Berbatov (Man Utd), M.Petrov (Man City), I.Popov (Litex Lovech), Lazarov (CSKA Sofia), Rangelov (Cottbus)

Bulgaria coach Plamen Markov is looking confident for Saturday night’s match. “We won’t be playing for a draw, we will give everything we got to win” said the coach, admitting however that drawing against Italy “would be a success”. “I will be satisfied if we manage to get at least 4 points this week” said Markov, keeping Wednesday’s fixture against Georgia firmly in mind.

Despite the absence of their star striker Valeri Bojinov, Italy’s own forfeit of Gigi Buffon certainly gives a boost to Bulgarian hopes. “Buffon is the symbol of Italy, the strongest keeper in the world. I think we are very fortunate not to be facing him Saturday” said Dimitar Berbatov, another Bulgarian striker who knows a thing or two about scoring goals.

Meanwhile, the Bulgarian football federation has promised their squad a prize of €100,000 should they beat Italy tomorrow, which would be addded to the €1m prize waiting for them in case they qualify to South Africa 2010. Beating the World Champions certainly is lucrative, isn’t it…

Predicted formation (according to Goal.com):


Milanov, Tunchev, V.Iliev, Vagner
S.Petrov, Yankov, Dimitrov, Lazarov
M.Petrov, Berbatov



Bulgaria vs. Italy, kick-off time 20:15 CET




Tags: , , , , , , , , ,


Posted in Azzurri, World Cup 2010 |

Related Posts:

  • World Cup 2010 Preliminary Draw – Italy get Bulgaria, Ireland, Cyprus, Georgia, and Montenegro
  • Italy Call-Ups for Bulgaria / Montenegro (World Cup 2010 Qualifiers)
  • World Cup 2010 – UEFA Qualifiers’ Draw to Unfold Today
  • Azzurri News: Lippi Satisfied With His Squad, Quagliarella Replacing Toni for Wednesday
  • Bulgaria 0-0 Italy: Azzurri With Determination… and Without Goals (World Cup 2010 Qualifiers)
  • Comments are closed.