Italy takes on the German national team in a rematch of both the Euro 2012 semifinal and the 2006 World Cup semifinal. These two nations have had a storied history when matched up together, with the Azzurri usually giving the Germans the biggest headache on the international scale.
Even though coach Cesare Prandelli cannot field the much-hyped Giuseppe Rossi and Mario Balotelli pairing from the start, he'll tinker with the formation in hopes of finding out what works best before the 2014 World Cup in Brazil rears its head.
Southampton striker Pablo Osvaldo will replace the feverish Rossi and partner up alongside Super Mario in the revamped 4-3-1-2 formation.
Gianluigi Buffon will start in between the pipes as he has for the past decade for the Azzurri, and he'll have a four-man defense in front of him trying to negate the high-powered German offense. Domenico Criscito makes his comeback after being shunned temporarily because of a betting scandal which turned out to be a hoax.
Criscito is one of the most able left-backs Italy has at their disposal, as he's just as good in the attacking sector as he is defensively.
The two centre-backs will be the Juventus pair of Andrea Barzagli and Leonardo Bonucci, while the right-back position will go to the lightning-quick Ignazio Abate.
Expect Bonucci to play the long balls from the back, as he so often does with Juventus, while Thiago Motta could drop back from his defensive midfield position to help cover.
In the midfield, Andrea Pirlo will be pulling the strings from his usual deep-lying playmaker position, while Motta and Claudio Marchisio do the dirty work in the middle of the park. Marchisio will have the freedom to venture forward and make those nifty runs inside the box.
Interestingly enough, Prandelli has continued to show faith in Riccardo Montolivo, who will be starting as the trequartista, linking up midfield with attack. Montolivo has looked like a shade of his usual self this season and has struggled alongside the entire Milan team that has disappointed domestically.
Up front, it'll be interesting to see how Osvaldo and Balotelli play together. Both are capable of spectacular moments of sheer technical brilliance, while also being susceptible to the occasional silly foul.
While both are hotheads, they can feed off each other and create magic up front. There's no doubt that Germany's defense will have their hands full with these two mercurial talents roaming around the box.
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