ITALY stalwarts Gianluigi Buffon and Andrea Pirlo will provide class and experience, while Daniele De Rossi, Claudio Marchisio and Marco Verratti offer balance and fight, as the country look to secure their fifth World Cup and erase the memories of the 4-0 defeat to Spain in the Euro 2012 final.
If there are concerns over the squad, it’s up front. Arguably their best striker, Giuseppe Rossi, was controversially omitted from the final 23 having been deemed not fit.
The enigmatic and inconsistent Mario Balotelli will probably lead the line, although Ciro Immobile is pushing for a starting place after finishing as top scorer in Serie A and hitting a hat-trick in a recent friendly.
Balotelli was devastating at the Euros two years ago but his ill-discipline could come to the fore in the opener with England tomorrow, a game that’s likely to be a tight, cautious affair in the humid conditions.
The former Manchester City man was given 23 yellows and four reds in two and a bit seasons in England. Up against former foes, Sporting Index are trading his player card minutes at 16-19 – surely worth a small buy.
That’s just one of hundreds of bookings-related markets the sports spread betting firm have priced up. Total yellow cards across the 64 matches are pitched at 270-280, with 18 red cards predicted.
And the dirtiest team? That’s expected to be Argentina, whose total bookings points are quoted at 112-118 (10pts yellow, 25pts red). England, a short stay in Brazil more likely than not, are priced at 97-103.