In past World Cup campaigns, Italy would have no problem dispatching a side like Armenia. This campaign is another story.
In the two World Cup qualifying matches they've played in so far, Italy have drawn against Bulgaria away and beaten Malta 2-0 at home. These are hardly convincing performances for the European runners-up, although they didn't look too convincing in that final, either.
Armenia, for their part, have done well and is only one point behind Italy in the qualifying group. The Armenians defeated Malta 1-0 on the road, and lost 1-0 away to Bulgaria.
Where: Hrazdan Stadium, Yerevan, Armenia
When: Friday, October 12 at 1 p.m. ET
TV/Live Stream: WatchESPN
Italy: how will they handle this trap game?
It's hard to bet against Italy in this matchup, even if they are playing in Armenia's capital city. Still, let's make the case for disaster.
Italy are easily the better team offensively thus far in qualifying, but they have allowed two goals on the road. They allowed PSV Eindhoven's Stanislav Manolev to score a blistering goal from more than 30 yards out. Gianluigi Buffon was caught looking, and the ball dipped and bounced over him as it rocketed into the back of the net with venom.
Italy answered moments later as Roma's rising star, Pablo Osvaldo, found the back of the net. He repeated the feat four minutes later in the 40th minute to give Italy a 2-1 advantage going into the half.
The Italians could not hold onto the lead as Giorgi Milanov curled one past Buffon in the 66th minute. The match ended as a draw, and the Italians dropped two points on the road.
Armenia: can they seize the opportunity?
While Italy certainly seem to have the more potent attack this early in qualifying, Armenia's defense only allowed Bulgaria to score once, but could not bag one of their own.
Unfortunately, tempers boiled over for both sides in a match that saw 13 cards in all, including three red. Armenia will be without front men Gevorg Ghazaryan and Marcos Pizzelli.
Like Italy, Armenia also shut out Malta, but they did so on Malta's home turf—the Italians had home-field advantage.
Armenia have an opportunity to really turn heads on Friday. If they can come away with the miracle result, they'll be in the lead in their group and will have one of the most significant victories in their footballing history.
The stakes could not be any higher for the Armenians, who have never qualified for the World Cup or European cup. This will be Armenia's first home game of their 2014 qualifying campaign.
The loss of two starting forwards will prove too much for Armenia; Italy will come away 2-0 winners despite Armenia's seemingly stout defense.
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