Lippi’s impenetrable Italians to edge past shaky Mexico
Italy v Mexico, kick-off Thursday 6.15pm
As the fervour surrounding squad announcements dies down, teams are now preparing for the World Cup and the preceding friendly matches with the luxury of choosing from a settled squad of 23 players.
Two such sides are Italy and Mexico, who both enter this fixture in Brussels with hopes of progressing from groups A and F respectively.
Unbeaten in 2010, Italy are firm favourite for this tie and should dispose of Mexico with minimal fuss, and they are a convincing 8/11 to win.
Mexico’s 3-1 loss to England was their first in 10 matches, though they followed that blip with a 2-1 defeat to Holland, which suggests an inability to cope with top ranking sides.
And while they may have recovered with a 5-1 pounding of Gambia, Italy will be a much tougher proposition for Javier Aguirre’s men.
Italy coach Marcelo Lippi will be keen to experiment with his attacking options in what will be the team’s penultimate friendly match before the World Cup begins.
Giampaolo Pazzini could win his seventh cap having impressed for Sampdoria this year, while leading marksman Alberto Gilardino – 9/2 to score first – will be looking to add to his 16 international goals.
The Mexican defence will be kept busy, though PSV Eindhoven full-back Carlos Salcido and Barcelona’s Champions League-winning centre-back Rafael Marquez are sure to relish the challenge.
Another central defender, Francisco Javier Rodriguez, is also a player to watch out for, as he was one of the few Mexican players to enhance his reputation in the defeat to England.
Up front, the Mexican spotlight will be on Javier Hernandez, and Manchester United’s diminutive new striker is 8/1 to open the scoring.
Italy, however, have not tasted defeat since losing to Brazil in last year’s Confederations Cup final, and they have kept clean sheets in their last three outings.
With such a proud record intact, Lippi’s side are well priced at 5/1 to continue preparations for their defence of the World Cup with a 1-0 win against Mexico.