Coach Cesare Prandelli moans about Italy's lack of options
Problems for World Cup rivals offer encouragement to England boss Roy Hodgson
Tuesday 04 March 2014
It is a complaint that English fans are well used to hearing but the Italy coach, Cesare Prandelli, admitting his frustration at the lack of eligible players for his Azzurri squad may just offer Roy Hodgson some encouragement for Brazil.
England's opponents in their opening match of Group D on 14 June face the ultimate test against world champions Spain in Madrid on Wednesday evening without Daniele de Rossi after the Roma midfielder was banned for three matches for punching an opponent. Prandelli's strict code of conduct around his squad ensured that ban was extended to the international arena despite the absence of several other key players, including Mario Balotelli.
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That means several new faces including Torino winger Alessio Cerci will be handed a chance to impress, even if Prandelli believes there is a dearth of emerging talent.
"In the latest Serie A round only 38 per cent of the players were Italian," he said. "Spain are world and European champions, so we run many risks, but these are games that can give us a boost in terms of growth and character."
Uruguay, also in Group D, travel to Vienna to face an improving Austria side who beat the United States in their last friendly and recorded wins over Sweden and Ireland in World Cup qualifying. Yet having won five of their last seven matches since losing to Italy on penalties in the third place play-off of the Confederations Cup last year, Oscar Tabarez's men will be expected to fine-tune their preparations for Brazil.
Meanwhile, England's other group opponents, Costa Rica, host Paraguay in the early hours of Friday morning looking to end a run of three successive friendly defeats since they sealed World Cup qualification.
After the Football Federation of Ukraine reversed their decision to cancel the friendly against the US in Cyprus, all 32 nations who will be in Brazil are in action over the next few days on the last scheduled international date before provisional squads must be submitted to Fifa.
Both France and Netherlands will hand several fringe players the opportunity to stake a claim when they meet in Paris this evening, with Real Sociedad's 15-goal forward Antoine Griezmann tipped to finally win his first cap.
Fresh from their 2-0 victory at Wembey in November, Chile meet Germany in Stuttgart. Having been utilised in a central midfield position under Pep Guardiola for his club Bayern Munich, Germany captain Philipp Lahm has expressed a preference to retain that role in Brazil rather than switch back to defence.
"I feel comfortable in that position," said Lahm. "I can imagine playing there in the coming weeks, months or years but I will always play where the coach thinks I am most needed."
Wednesday night will also see Kosovo make their international debut. Still not officially recognised by Fifa despite declaring their independence in 2008, they have been given special dispensation to meet Haiti in Mitrovica. Manchester United's Adnan Januzaj rejected the chance to play in the match but Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci remains confident. "I'm no prophet," he said, "but we'll win."
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