Italy vs. France: Azzuri's Smothering Defense Will Lead Them to Victory

Brian MaziqueCorrespondent IIINovember 14, 2012

COLLECCHIO, ITALY - NOVEMBER 12:  Andrea Pirlo and Mario Balotelli (R) during Italy training session on November 12, 2012 in Collecchio, Italy.  (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Italy have owned France in recent head-to-head battles, and that dominance will continue on Wednesday. France will be trying to end the Azzuri's recent dominance over them, but the disciplined and effective Italian defense will be the major factor.

In Italy's last three matches, they are 3-0 and have surrendered just two goals. They shut out France in UEFA Euro 2008 2-0, and their defense nearly carried them to a title at Euro 2012.

Defense is this team's calling card, and it's one of the reasons they are among the world's toughest teams.

Italy is currently ranked fifth in the FIFA world rankings; that's up three spots from where they were previously. France has dipped to 18th in the rankings, which is five spots down from their last ranking.

Beyond the recent history between the two teams, and the Italians recent solid play, they also hold the geographical edge. This match will take place in Parma, where the Azzuri will obviously have the crowd behind them.

France's attempts to score will be made even more difficult without Karim Benzema and Samir Nasri. The absence of the two difference-makers from the French side will be felt in a major way.

Benzema is still nursing an adductor injury, per ESPN, but Nasri is still being excluded from the France team because of controversial and insulting comments he made about journalists during Euro 2012.

Nasri has since said that he regretted his profane outbursts, per Daily Mail, but apparently he hasn't paid his dues to French head man Didier Deschamps' satisfaction.

There are certainly no guarantees that the French would prevail over the strong Italian team with two of their biggest stars in action, but without them they are at a greater disadvantage.

Expect to see Italy's defense control this match. They will thwart Les Bleus' attempt at an upset 2-0.


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