What: FIFA 2010 World Cup
Who: Slovakia vs Italy (Group F)
When: Thursday 24th June, 2010, at 15:00 UK Time
Where: Ellis Park, Johannesburg, South Africa

Winning Back Some Pride

Vladimir Weiss’s team have so far failed to make much of an impression at the World Cup. Against Paraguay the Slovakians played very poorly, struggling to bounce back from their moral sapping draw with New Zealand. "We miss a great chance against New Zealand", said Weiss. "Now it will be very difficult to beat the world champions and unfortunately we need the three points."

Marek Hamsik, the Napoli midfielder and probably most skilful Slovakian player, has had an unremarkable tournament so far and if the Slovaks are to cause an upset against Italy then he will need to rediscover some form.

Not Looking Like Champions

Italy, World Cup holders, have been nothing but poor in their two World Cup games so far. Marcello Lippi is hoping Andrea Pirlo will be able to play some part against Slovakia and also considering dropping striker Alberto Gilardino, along with Claudio Marchisio and Vincenzo Iaquinta. The World Cup winning coach is thinking hard about how he can inject new life into a flagging Azzurri.

Back home, the Italian press is rife about a chance to a 3-4-3 formation, with Leonardo Bonucci, Fabio Cannavaro, Giorgio Chiellini at the back, Rino Gattuso paired with Andrea Pirlo in midfield and also joined by Daniele De Rossi and Riccardo Montolivo. Up front there could be a chance for Giampaolo Pazzini, Toto Di Natale and Simone Pepe (or Mauro Camoranesi). The very fact Italy are considering such changes shows the seriousness of their concern.

Recent form

Slovakia 3-0 Costa Rica (05/06; Friendly)
New Zealand 1-1 Slovakia (15/06; World Cup – Group F)
Slovakia 0-2 Paraguay (20/06; World Cup – Group F)

Switzerland 1-1 Italy (05/06; Friendly)
Italy 1-1 Paraguay (14/06; World Cup – Group F)
Italy 1-1 New Zealand (20/06; World Cup – Group F)

Players to watch

Slovakia – Marek Hamsik: South Africa have so far not seen the same Marek Hamsik that is usually on view in Naples. Against Italy, the midfielder has to take command and guide his team to a famous win. Hamsik must make sure he is always available to support his forwards.

Italy – Riccardo Montolivo: The only real positive in what has been a poor Italian team so far. Lippi asked Montolivio to take Andrea Pirlo’s role and he performed well against both Paraguay and New Zealand. Now he must continue this form and help the Azzurri to score not just a good win, but a convincing performance.

Match prediction

Both Slovakia and Italy need a win to advance, although the Azzurri can qualify with a draw, if Paraguay are able to beat New Zealand. If Italy did not manage to reach the last 16 then this World Cup would be a huge failure with the inquest beginning back home as soon as the final whistle is blown. The Azzurri will battle hard, but may ultimately need to rely on Paraguay to defeat New Zealand as they only take a 1-1 draw against the Slovaks.

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