Italy will look to extend their perfect start to the 2014 World Cup qualifying process when they take on European minnows Malta in their Group B match this week.
The Azzurri are undefeated through their four qualifying matches so far and have the potential to pull four points clear when they take on Malta, who have lost all four of their matches so far in the tournament—scoring just one goal throughout.
Thus, it seems incredibly likely we'll see a big Italian victory here, but you just never know what could happen—especially playing away from home.
Read on for a full preview of this World Cup qualifying match including all the need-to-know details, key viewing information and last-minute predictions.
Date: Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Start time: 3:45 p.m. ET (Eastern Time, United States)
Venue: Ta' Qali National Stadium, Malta
Live Stream and TV Info
2014 World Cup Qualifying so Far
As mentioned before, the two teams could not have had different starts to the qualifying process, with Italy going undefeated and Malta yet to win a game.
The image below (h/t Fox Soccer) shows the current Group B standings.
The Italians opened up with a 2-2 draw away to Bulgaria, and then, followed that up with home wins over Malta, 2-0, and Denmark, 3-1. They also beat lowly Armenia away from home, 3-1, to continue their perfect start to the qualifying process.
Malta, as mentioned, are yet to win a game in the competition and have only scored one goal so far. That came in a 3-1 loss away to the Czech Republic, with the minnows also losing to Italy, Armenia and, most recently, in a 6-0 drubbing to Bulgaria.
Player to Watch: Mario Balotelli, FW, Italy
At his best, Balotelli is a clinical finisher who is more than capable of netting some brilliant goals—as shown against Brazil just last weekend.
Moreover, when playing alongside Stephan El Shaarawy, the striker is capable of turning games completely on their head and dominating defenses right around the world. He'll be looking to do that again in this one, and Malta will no doubt have a tough time keeping him under wraps.
As much as we'd like to see an upset here, the reality is that it isn't going to happen—Italy are simply in a class above their opponents and will reflect that with a dominant win.
Playing away from home, look for their defense to again come to the fore and shut out Malta—as has happened many times throughout the competition to date—and grind their opponents into submission.
They have too much class and talent to be beat here, and with the chance to move a full win clear on top of the qualifying standings, Italy will take full advantage with a win.
Final score: Malta 0, Italy 4
What do you think will happen in this 2014 World Cup qualifier?
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