World Cup 2010 Predictions: 6 Who Benefit from Andrea Pirlo's injury
Italian midfielder Andrea Pirlo was injured during the Azzurri’s friendly defeat to Mexico last week.
Now it has been revealed that Italy’s main creative force is likely to be out for up to 20 days. This could mean the Milan star will miss Italy’s opening group matches.
What will his absence mean for Italy and their group F opponents?
Who is likely to take Pirlo’s place in coach Marcello Lippi’s starting 11?
Find out as we look at the six players and teams who may benefit from Pirlo’s absence.
No. 6: New Zealand
The Oceania qualifiers need all the help they can get against the world champions.
So, the potential absence of Italy’s creative lynchpin should be a boost for coach Ricki Herbert.
The All-Whites are likely to field a defensive line-up when they take on Italy in their second Group F match in Nelspruit.
The task of stopping the Azzurri from scoring will be made easier by Pirlo’s absence.
Some reports suggest that the Milan midfielder may be fit in time for this game.
But a half-fit Pirlo could struggle to find his rhythm against a strong and hard-working Kiwi midfield.
No 5: Simone Pepe
The Udinese midfielder was the immediate beneficiary of Pirlo’s injury, when he replaced the Milan man at halftime in the friendly against Mexico.
Pepe initially looked lively and had a great chance to score with a volley soon after the restart.
A goal may have secured his place in Marcello Lippi’s starting 11. As it happened, he failed to impress during the remainder of Italy’s disappointing defeat.
Pepe will have to hope Lippi is willing to give him another chance in the group opener against Paraguay.
No. 4: Vincenzo Iaquinta
Pirlo’s absence may force Marcello Lippi to reconsider the 4-3-3 formation he has used in recent friendly matches.
An alternative 4-4-2 system could give more width to the Italian offense, which may benefit Juventus striker Vincenzo Iaquinta.
The 6’3” forward is excellent in the air, but a narrow Italian midfield means the Azzurri have not been able to get the ball out wide and send crosses into the danger zone.
Will Pirlo’s injury prompt a tactical rethink that will play to Iaquinta’s strengths?
No. 3: Marcello Lippi
As the man who led Italy to victory at the 2006 World Cup, Marcello Lippi is generally beyond reproach.
But having retaken the coaching position after a disappointing two years for the World Champions under Roberto Donadoni, Lippi is expected to have improved Italy’s chances of defending its title.
Most commentators believe this is not the case and that Italy is likely to not survive long in the knockout stages.
Should this be the case, the unfortunate injury to Italy’s star midfielder could be the ready-made excuse Lippi needs to defend his reputation.
No. 2: Paraguay
Traditionally, Italy tends to start slow at the World Cup.
Paraguayans familiar with their history may have earmarked their side’s Group F opener against the Azzurri as a chance to spring a surprise result.
If Italy is forced to play without Pirlo dictating the tempo from the middle of the field, Paraguay may be even more confident of getting a least a point.
No. 1: Riccardo Montolivo
The Fiorentina midfielder was disappointed to miss out on a place in Italy’s roster at Euro 2008.
But he may now find himself in the World Cup starting 11 for the group opener against Paraguay.
Montolivo was given the Pirlo role in Italy’s most recent friendly match.
He played well in the 1-1 draw against Switzerland and provided the assist for Italy’s equalizer when he crossed for Fabio Quagliarella to head home.
The 25-year old will hope his performance was enough to convince Lippi that he is the best option in Pirlo’s enforced absence.