International Friendly Preview: Italy Vs. Greece

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International Friendly Preview: Italy Vs. Greece

Although this game has no implications on World Cup Qualifying, the 2006 World Champions and 2004 European Champions will do battle Wednesday night in Athens.

Both managers, mostly because of injuries, have been forced to be a little experimental with their squads, calling upon younger players to fill the voids of more experienced ones.

 

Italy

The World Champions will have different look when they hit the field at the Karaiskaki Stadium. Missing in action are regulars Gianluigi Buffon, Andrea Pirlo, Gianluca Zambrotta, and Alessandro Del Piero.

Italy manager Marcello Lippi, because of the injuries, has been forced again to give some younger players the chance to shine. Udinese midfielder Gaetano D'Agostino has received his first call to the senior squad after a four year layoff from international football.

Although Lippi has stuck to his guns by being experimental with his squad, even so, leaving Juventus captain Alessandro Del Piero out of the squad is quite perplexing considering the force he has been over the past month.

Despite Del Piero's absence, the Italians still feature a talented attack with Bayern Munich striker Luca Toni Leading the way. American-born striker Giuseppe Rossi, who received his first senior cap last month against Bulgaria, will now get his first start for the Azzurri along with Toni. Juventus winger Mauro Camoranesi will complete Italy's trident attack.

In the midfield, youngsters Daniele De Rossi and Ricardo Montolivo will join veteran Rino Gattuso. De Rossi will be a key player for the Azzurri and has been in fantastic form the entire season and bagged a brace against Georgia back in September.

In defense, it will be a little experimental, especially in goal, with both Buffon and usual No. 2 keeper Marco Amelia both out injured. Because of that, it looks like Morgan De Sanctis has the edge over 23-year-old Gianluca Cerci to start against the Greek.

Probable starters - (4-3-3): M. De Sanctis, D. Bonera, F. Cannavaro, G. Chiellini, A. Dossena, R. Montolivo, D. De Rossi, G. Gattuso, M. Camoranesi, L. Toni, G. Rossi

Greece

Sitting atop Group 2 in 2010 World Cup qualifying, the 2004 European Champs have yet to be tested in the the qualifying stages.

The Greeks comfortably beat Luxemburg in their opening qualifier 3-0 and then beat Latvia 2-0 four days later on a brace by Theofanis Gekas.

Greece claimed their third consecutive win Oct. 11, beating 3-0 at home against Moldova before losing 2-1 to Switzerland four days later.

Things are expected to be a little tougher against Italy.

Greece will be without several important players. FC Nuremburg striker Angelos Charisteas and the Atletico Madrid defender Giourkas Seitaridis are both out because of injuries. Celtic striker Georgios Samaras and Eintracht Frankfurt forward Ioannis Amanatidis will also miss the match in Athens.

Similar to Lippi, Greece manager Otto Rehhagel is using this friendly as an opportunity to breed the younger members of the squad. 20-year-old striker Vassilis Koutsianikoulis, 18-year-old Sotiris Ninis and 25-year-old Vangelis Mantzios, both of Panathinaikos, have all received their first call ups.

Despite the youthful flair the Greeks will feature, they will certainly put in a good fight against Italy and the good form in World Cup qualifying is something to build upon.

Probable Starting XI – (4-4-2): Chalkias; Dellas, Vyntra, Torosidis, Papastathopoulos; Patsatzoglou, Karagounis, Basinas, Katsouranis; Liberopoulos, Gekas

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