INTERNATIONAL football fanatic Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) takes a look at Wednesday’s friendly international between Italy and Uruguay.
Italy v Uruguay | Wednesday 19:45
Written off as the worst Italian side in the modern era last summer, Antonio Conte led the Azzurri to excellent but brave quarter-final exit at Euro 2016 before taking up the reigns at Chelsea.
The four-time World Cup winners then surprised the nation by opting for veteran Gian Piero Ventura as Conte’s replacement ahead of a challenging World Cup 2018 qualification draw in which Italy were pitted alongside Spain.
But after kicking his Azzurri career off with a 3-1 friendly defeat against a strong France team, former Torino boss Ventura has found his feet with Italy now flourishing under the 69 year-old’s watch.
Italy’s good form
Italy have churned out W6-D2-L0 in their following eight outings, only failing to record victories against Spain and Germany. Across the six triumphs the Azzurri have rattled in 22 goals, conceding on just four occasions.
Ventura’s troops will now face Uruguay in a high-profile friendly clash from Nice on Wednesday night before welcoming Liechtenstein for a World Cup qualifier on Sunday and the Italians should be fancied to collect a positive results here at 6/5 (William Hill).
It’s worth noting that the Juventus players involved in the Champions League final joined up with the group on Monday but are unlikely to feature from the start whilst Marco Verratti and Daniele De Rossi will be missing from this match through injury.
But Italy’s strong squad should be capable of coping against a Uruguay outfit that’s without their three most crucial cogs at the Allianz Riviera.
Uruguay missing key cogs
Luis Suarez and Diego Godin were already injury absentees for La Celeste but Edinson Cavani has been added to the unavailable list having picked up a knock in the disappointing 3-1 reverse to Ireland on Sunday.
Oscar Tabarez’s experiment of a three-man defence against Ireland, perhaps with one eye on this friendly against Italy, was a huge failure and the South Americans were well beaten in Dublin.
Uruguay’s only goal came from a goalkeeping error with La Celeste sluggish out of the blocks and toothless in attack with Cristhian Stuani and Diego Rolan failing to impress in the final third.
La Celeste out of form
It means Tabarez’s team have now suffered four losses on the spin; for a side that’s always looked to play within their limitations, Uruguay have also now started shipping goals at an alarming rate whilst missing their star strikers.
The 70 year-old coach – in his 11th year in charge – has been suffering from Guillain-Barre syndrome, a disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks part of the nervous system and although he’s been quick to dismiss suggestions his health is affecting his work, there’s no doubt Uruguay have steadily slipped.
After a flying start to the marathon World Cup qualification campaign in South America, La Celeste have fallen to consecutive defeats to Chile, Brazil and Peru leaving them scrambling for one of the three remaining automatic qualifying slots.
With a crunch game against Argentina to come at the end of August, Tabarez might just be wishing for the campaign to close so he and his squad can enjoy some much needed rest ahead of the serious business.
Should they repeat their dismal display from Sunday, Italy should have no problem taking advantage, justifying their pre-match favourites tag.
Italy v Uruguay – Italy to win (6/5 William Hill)