Preview: Italy v Australia

In a tournament dominated by favourites, Australia are hoping to spring the first real surprise at the World Cup Finals by defeating three time champions Italy in Kaiserslautern on Monday.

Pupil and master: Lucas Neill (l) and Guus Hiddink (r)
Pupil and master: Lucas Neill (l) and Guus Hiddink (r)

Six of the seven previous winners of the World Cup are in attendance in Germany, with only Uruguay failing to qualify, and each of those sides have made it to the final 16 with Germany and England already winning through to the quarter finals.

Despite the rich footballing pedigree of their rivals, the Australians are unfazed.

“Its going to be fantastic,” said Australia winger Harry Kewell.
“We weren’t even supposed to get this far. A lot of people wrote us off, but we were quietly confident and we don’t fear anybody.
“Against Italy we’ve got to out there and play our football and not worry about the opposition. It’s the first time our nation have qualified past this stage, so we are going to go out and enjoy it.”

Goal scorer against Croatia, Kewell is again struggling to be fit in time for the match and will again need to pass a late fitness test.

Ins and outs

One player definitely not involved for the Socceroos is right sided midfielder come defender Brett Emerton who misses the match through suspension, and while Australian coach Guus Hiddink is known to be a maverick in his selection policy it is likely the tough tackling Luke Wilkshire will take up Emerton’s place on the right hand side.

The Azzurri have selection headaches of their own with defender Alessandro Nesta being ruled out with a groin strain. His place will be taken by Inter Milan defender Marco Materazzi who scored his side’s first goal against the Czech Republic.

Midfielder Daniele De Rossi will also be unavailable as his suspension continues.

Lucas Neill displays an Australian sense of fashion

Lucas Neill displays an Australian
sense of fashion

Much of the pre-match focus has been on Australian coach Guus Hiddink who is aiming to take his third side to the semi finals.

His efforts with the Australian squad have been nothing short of remarkable, given the country’s brief history at World Cups, yet he has confidence flowing through the team.

“Guus has got a great track record at the World Cup, he makes massive decisions under pressure and as a result he backs himself and the team and I think people who do that, it comes off for them,” said 28 year old defender Lucas Neill.

“We analyse the other team that we’re going to play, the main formation and different ways we can break them down, get some personnel into position and every so often we’ll change our  formation,” the Blackburn player revealed.
“Every time Guus keeps pulling it off, even against Brazil (lost 0-2) we were in control for long periods.”

The opposition also has plenty of respect for the Dutchman, with Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon singing his praises.

“Mediocre teams”

“He’s a great coach, we know that, and the results he has achieved speak for themselves,” the Juventus keeper said.
“He’s achieved historic results with mediocre teams. But I believe that on our part many things have changed in the past four years. We are confident of going through.”

The Italians are expecting another physical game and drew comparisons with their fiercely fought group match against the USA.

“We have to be careful because if you take everything into consideration, they have nothing to lose,” the 28-year-old said. “We have to match them physically and tactically, and make sure we keep our heads.

Buffon with a look made famous by pop singer Michael Jackson

Buffon with a look made famous
by pop singer Michael Jackson

“Against the USA we got caught out. The Australians have similar characteristics to the Americans, but with all due respect I am convinced we will go through to the next round.”

The “they have nothing lose” cliché seems the appropriate one for this stage of the tournament and with that in mind the Australians also made an effort to use it.

“We’ll definitely be the underdog against Italy, but we respect and don’t fear them and we’re going to go out and give as good as we get and because it’s over 90 minutes now anything’s possible,” Neill continued.

“We know we will be fit, we know we will be organised, we have nothing to lose, they have everything to lose.”

It would seem that both teams have a round of 16 match to lose and with a quarter final berth up for grabs the Australians will no doubt be looking to make life as uncomfortable for the Italians as possible.

Guus Hiddink orchestrated the Azzurri downfall in 2002 with South Korea, can lightning strike twice?

Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies

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