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Positivity sweeps through la Nazionale ahead of expected tinkering against Northern Ireland

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By Andrew Harding

Monday 10 October 2011

With Italy’s place at UEFA Euro 2012, the match in Pescara against Northern Ireland this Tuesday night is a competitive opportunity for experimentation from Coach Cesare Prandelli. Combined with injuries, it would appear a valuable opportunity for some players to put their name forward in the reckoning to make the squad for next summers’ tournament in Poland and Ukraine.

It is often the calibre of opposition which is the greatest influence on just how much a Coach experiments with his team. Injuries in the case of the Azzurri have shaped as to just where the experimentation with fresh faces is most likely and it seems that it is the attack where Prandelli is assessing the options available to him. Injuries to key attackers Mario Balotelli and Giampaolo Pazzini have presented Pablo Osvaldo and Sebastian Giovinco with real opportunities to put forward their cases to inclusion in next summer’s squad. Likewise, promising defender Angelo Ogbonna who was called up in place of injured Domenico Criscito. They will need to demonstrate their abilities throughout the season but important contributions to the cause against Northern Ireland this Tuesday will certainly give Prandelli food for thought.

While there are friendly matches to come before UEFA Euro 2012, it is in competitive action where impressions appear more distinct on the supporters. Of course, the game in Pescara on Tuesday is essentially for pride as the away side have nothing to play for following their defeat to Estonia. It will be interesting to see how Italy’s opponents react to their elimination given the speculation regarding the future of Coach Nigel Worthington.

Should Italy start in Pescara with the enthusiasm and high-tempo that they demonstrated against Serbia, they will prove too strong for the opposition. It would appear that the higher tempo that has been set in Serie A is seeping into the Azzurri and it will certainly stand them in good stead for the future. This is an important time perhaps more for individuals than the team with individual players looking to either cement their place in the Azzurri fold or push for inclusion.

The pool of talent available to Prandelli is appearing to swell and while he will undoubtedly have selection headaches to come, they will be welcomed as Italy looks to offer a serious challenge for the European title come next summer.

Prandelli’s reign is bearing fruit and after drawing in Serbia on Friday night, the qualification campaign continues without the blemish of a single defeat. Victory is expected over Northern Ireland regardless of the team on display but with players appearing impassioned for the Italian cause, such squad experimentation illustrates that the national team is playing its part in restoring Italy’s perception in the wider context of Europe.

There is plenty of optimism surrounding the Azzurri right now. Having said that, the tactician joked that “Every time we receive a compliment, something tends to go wrong” in the recent Azzurri press conference. A little realistic negativity can be healthy but certainly there are signs of encouragement for la Nazionale. Ending the qualification campaign with three points in Pescara will continue the wave of positivity sweeping through the national set-up.

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