Italy vs. Austria Preview – The Return of Marcello…

Italy FA (Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio)Österreichischer Fußball-Bund (Austrian Football Association)

Goalkeepers: Buffon (Juventus), Amelia (Palermo)
Defenders: Barzagli (Wolfsburg), Bonera (Milan), Cassetti (Roma), Dossena (Liverpool), Grosso (Lyon), Legrottaglie (Juventus), Zambrotta (Milan)
Midfielders: Aquilani (Roma), Camoranesi (Juventus), De Rossi (Roma), Gattuso (Milan), Palombo (Sampdoria), Perrotta (Roma), Pirlo (Milan)
Forwards: Del Piero (Juventus), Di Natale (Udinese), Gilardino (Fiorentina), Iaquinta (Juventus)

After their not-so-glorious Euro 2008 epilogue, Italy step back onto the field tonight against Austria, an international friendly which will also mark the big return of 2006 winning manager Marcello Lippi (back at the team’s helm after almost a 2-year sabbatical). Marcello’s mission will be, first and foremost, to re-motivate the group after their European championship fiasco, and incorporate young prospects into the already well-established “core” of veteran players. Needless to say, we are bound to see some changes compared to the “usual suspects” from the Donadoni era.

The call-ups for today’s friendly for instance already contained a few surprises, such as the returns of Alberto Gilardino and Vincenzo Iaquinta (who had to skip Euro 2008 due respectively to poor form and injury), as well as the inclusion of Daniele Bonera, Marco Cassetti, Andrea Dossena, and Angelo Palombo. Lippi’s “list of 20″ also includes some of the main “senators” from the 2006 World Cup (Del Piero, Grosso, Zambrotta, Perrotta… to name a few), while the most notable absentees (so far) from the Donadoni-era are Antonio Cassano (probably not fully fit yet), as well as Christian Panucci and Massimo Ambrosini (both of whom Lippi was never a big fan). Fabio Cannavaro, Marco Materazzi, Giorgio Chiellini, Alessandro Gamberini, Riccardo Montolivo, and Luca Toni on the other hand, were kept out due to injury problems.

Marcello Lippi’s press-conference in Coverciano gave a few hints Monday on the general playing philosphy, as well as the type of players, the Italian coach will be seeking for this Azzurri group.

Italy FA (Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio)It Is time once again to win something, Italian football has not lost its value, quality, and potential over these last two years. (…) With 4-5 new entries this team has still a lot to give and a lot to say.” said Lippi.

Our main objective now, will be to re-create the pyschological prerequisites needed to build a winning group. We have the luck and the privilege to be defending the world champions title, even though there is an enormous difference between now and four years ago, back when football in Italy had acquired a bad image and we needed to come together as a team. Today, the team might have “aged” a little, but we still have the same basic core of reliable players which we can’t forget“.

However, Lippi pointed out future team call-ups will not be made on the basis of gratitude. “Even though I will always be grateful to the veterans of this team, my call-ups will be based on merit alone. In particular, above all I will ask the players to put themselves at the service of the team. Schemes and tactical modules come second.”

For further info and one-on-one interviews with Lippi, you can check out the following articles here on mCalcio:

Anti-Austria Line-Up

As per tradition, Lippi has been quite secretive with regards to line-up revelations. In fact, the Azzurri themselves did not know who would be starting tonight until very early this morning. Based on form and “common sense” however, we can hypothesize a 4-3-3 formation and the following.

Buffon is a given in goal, while the back-line leaves very few details to imagination as well: Zambrotta, Bonera, Barzagli, and Grosso are the elected candidates. A surprise here could be the inclusion of Legrottaglie (called in replacement of Chiellini) in place of Bonera.

In midfield, Pirlo should provide the playmaking duties, completed by Gattuso and De Rossi.

Finally up front, Monday Lippi seemed to be seduced with the idea of an attacking trio, composed namely by Del Piero, Gilardino, and Di Natale. “That’s one way we could play” said the coach. “It’s a fascinating solution but it requires the strikers to be attentive during the defensive phase as well. With Camoranesi I could have had other options perhaps, but I preferred not to risk aggravating his injury (note: Camoranesi will most likely have to skip tonight’s match).” Based strictly on form though, the hypothesis of an ADP-Gila-Iaquinta trio seems far more likely.

Italy vs. Austria, kick-off time 20:45 CET.

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