June 14, 2012 by Jeremy Lim | Italian Football Editor
D: Bonucci, De Rossi, Chiellini
MF: Maggio, Nocerino, Pirlo, Marchisio, Balzaretti
F: Cassano, Balotelli
D: Strinic, Corluka, Schildenfeld, Simunic
MF: Rakitic, Vukojevic, Modric, Perisic, Mandzukic
For Italy, their job will be to focus on dictating play rather than containing it, contrary to what they did against Spain. As such, holding midfielder Thiago Motta may be dropped in favour of the attacking bursts of Antonio Nocerino, while question marks exist for whether Mario Balotelli will be retained in the starting line up, given competition from Antonio Di Natale and Sebastian Giovinco.
Daniele De Rossi can be expected to start in central defence again, after helping Gigi Buffon concede only a single goal against the Spanish. Pirlo will take to the centre of midfield to dictate play and put his teammates in good positions.
Croatia meanwhile showed they are capable of taking their chances in their 3-1 victory over the Republic of Ireland. The scoreline camouflages the fact it was an open affair, with the Irish mustering nearly as many shots as their Eastern European counterparts. To stand any chance against the Italians, Croatia have to showcase their clinical side, as well as ensure their midfield covers their fragile centre-back pairing of Vedran Corluka and Gordon Schildenfeld.
Key players to look out for.
Pirlo (I), Cassano (I), Modric (C)
Andrea Pirlo translated his form for his club Juventus into an imperious display against his Spanish midfield counterparts. His precise distribution and intelligent runs forward could unsettle the Croatian defense.
Antonio Cassano had a fine game against Spain, and tested Spanish keeper Iker Casillas on several occasions during their sides’ 1-1 draw. Packing intelligent movement with a flair for the unexpected, expect Cassano to open his Euro 2012 scoring account soon.
Tottenham midfielder Luka Modric adds a vital touch of international exposure to Croatia’s midfield, and was at the heart of every move forward in his side’s victory over Ireland. Taking on a role not too different from that of Andrea Pirlo for Italy, Modric will be a key leader in midfield by example.
Italy 1-0 Croatia