How Italy Could Line Up Against England In World Cup Opener

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Prandelli has yet to settle on a preferred system but has flexibility.

With the 23-man squad announced, Italy coach Cesare Prandelli will now test out both personnel and formation ahead of arriving in Brazil for the World Cup.

Despite all the positive work that the former Fiorentina coach has done since being appointed, a main area of criticism that he has faced throughout his tenure is his inability to settle on a preferred system.

While his squad selection does afford him flexibility, it would arguably benefit both him and the players if there was a set identity, but ultimately given the progress that he has overseen thus far, there is still great confidence in his ability to do the job well.

Nevertheless, criticism also followed his decision to drop Giuseppe Rossi from the final 23-man squad, while Riccardo Montolivo’s unfortunate injury in the friendly against the Republic of Ireland ensured that a change had to be made.

An early characteristic of Prandelli’s team was the emphasis on controlling possession in the middle of the pitch as he arguably adopted the Spanish model, utilising several ball-playing midfielders at his disposal who would be comfortable in possession and could dictate the flow of the game.

That is likely to be his approach in Brazil, particularly when taking into consideration the conditions and the importance of ball retention in order to conserve energy through the course of the tournament.

As mentioned above, Prandelli does have the luxury of flexibility as he has demonstrated in previous tournaments by dropping to a back-five given the familiarity his ‘Juventus-bloc’ have with it at club level.

However, if anything can be taken away from the friendly with Luxembourg on Wednesday night, it is that he may well be using this last test ahead of the World Cup to install his preferred system and see if it is successful.

Despite speculation to the contrary, Mario Balotelli will be the focal point of the attack, and after their successful link-up play during Euro 2012, Antonio Cassano will likely be his main support with the likes of Lorenzo Insigne and Ciro Immobile expected to be options off the bench, while Alessio Cerci and Antonio Candreva can add width.

Nevertheless, expect variations of the 4-1-3-2, with the Azzurri capable of playing 5-3-2 if the situation requires it, while a 4-3-3 or 4-3-1-2 are also options looking at the squad.

Meanwhile, PSG starlet Marco Verratti finally appears to be emerging as a starter, especially after Montolivo’s injury, and his partnership with Andrea Pirlo will be fascinating to watch with Daniele De Rossi and Claudio Marchisio providing the steel and energy alongside them.

Gianluigi Buffon remains the number one choice between the sticks, and while Juve pair Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli will likely be the preferred partnership in the centre with AC Milan youngster Mattia De Sciglio on the left, Ignazio Abate faces competition from Matteo Darmian after a lack of playing time with the Rossoneri in the latter part of last season.

Although they are not highly fancied in this tournament given the lack of real individual star quality, Prandelli has guided Italy to strong finishes in both of the competitive tournaments he has overseen. As a collective they will be a threat to any team, but they acknowledge their limitations and will hope to perform as a unit to upset the odds.

Italy’s likely starting XI against England on June 14:

Italy - Football tactics and formations

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