Italy look to rediscover their World Cup winning form as Cameroon come to town

Italy v Cameroon, International Friendly, March 3, 2010

Italy 20/21; Draw 9/4; Cameroon 4/1

Many friendlies this week are being utilised to prepare teams for their Group matches in the World Cup. This is why England are playing Egypt as they have recently beaten Algeria who are in England’s Group.

This does not seem to be a consideration in the arrangement of a friendly between Italy and Cameroon, rather commercial considerations have ruled, with sponsor Puma fixing for their A-list teams to play each other in Monaco.

Cameroon experienced a poor African Cup of Nations. They only reached the quarter finals where they were well beaten by eventual winners Egypt. In the group stages they lost to minnows Gabon and could only manage a draw with Tunisia whilst shipping in a total of six goals. (Cameroon are 7/2 to keep a clean sheet, 1/4 against.)

This poor performance has led to much soul searching from manager Paul Le Guen. The Indomitable Lions have mostly had a settled squad and first eleven however, this may be about to change. Stalwarts such as Rigobert Song, Geremi and Eto’o have been left out of the squad. Other notable absentees are Stephane Bikey, Giles Augustin Binya, Auréelien Chedjou, Guy Roland Ndy and Paul Claudel Efoulou.

Tottenham defenders Stephen Bassong and Assou-Ekotto have been called up, having failed to appear in Angola. The former was not included in Le Guen’s squad for the tournament whilst the latter was forced to withdraw through injury.

With the defence being a major concern, expect Le Guen to tinker with Bassong and Assou-Ekotto likely to start, making it half a Spurs defence. Bassong especially when fit this year has been in sparkling form which has enabled Spurs to challenge for a Champions League spot. (Tottenham are 4/1 to finish in the top four.)

Without captain Eto’o (44 goals in 94 games) who will get the goals for the team? Le Guen has selected Dorge Kouemaha, Somen Tchoyi, Pierre Webo, Idrissou Mohamadou – none of whom play for a big European team with any pedigree. (Cameroon are 14/1 to win both halves.)

Although Kouemaha has only made two appearances for the national team, he is likely to start as his blistering form has seen him score 11 goals in 20 games in Belgium. He is likely to be partnered by either Webo (12 goals in 34 games) or Mohamadou (9 goals in 27 games).

Italy also have their own concerns. Since winning the World Cup in Germany the Azzurri have stuttered to a halt with heavy weather being made of qualification. Fans and the media have begun to question how the team has slipped into decline and whether Lippi is at fault. (Draw/Italy is 4/1.)

The players in the squad also have greater things on their mind with many still involved in the hunt for a title or Champions League spot or even the Champions League itself.

Italy’s defence has been built on Juve’s with Buffon, Cannavaro, Chiellini and Grosso being the mainstays of the defence. It has not been a happy season for these players as Juve has slipped to fifth position in Serie A and leaked in an amazing 35 goals. (Italy are 7/5 to keep a clean sheet, 5/8 against.)

The rumours doing the rounds in the Italian press is that Lippi will go for a 3-4-3 formation for this game as he believes that tactical flexibility will be paramount if the Azzurri are to retain the World Cup.

Il Corriere dello Sport report that yesterday in training with Bari man Leonardo Bonucci, captain Fabio Cannavaro, and Giorgio Chiellini comprising the backline.

The midfield consisted of Napoli’s Christian Maggio on the right, Daniele De Rossi, Andrea Pirlo, and Domenico Criscito wide on the left flank whilst in attack in-form Cagliari playmaker Andrea Cossu supported Milan striker Marco Borriello and current Serie A top-scorer Antonio Di Natale.

The Italian attack has a lightweight feel to it. Cossu has been in sparkling form this season and has earned himself his first call up to the national squad at the mature age of 29, whilst Marco Borriello is inline to earn himself a fourth cap (he has yet to score). Finally, Di Natale is also given his chance. In an eight year international career he has made 30 appearances and scored 9 goals. (Italy are 7/2 to win both halves.)

Lippi has stated that he knows 17 of his squad who he will take to Africa, which leaves six berths for the squad players to make a claim for.

With both managers making wholesale changes to their line ups and formation expect this to be a niggly, bitty game. With a draw or a squeaky Italian win on the cards. (8/11 to be under 2.5 goals, 11/8 to be over.)

101gg predicts: Italy 1 – Cameroon 0 (6/1)

Italy 20/21; Draw 9/4; Cameroon 4/1

Full match odds here.