Slovakia vs. Italy Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg South Africa 10 AM EST Thursday June 24, 2010
by Jason Green of Predictem.com
Match Odds: Slovakia 6.00 / Italy 1.55 / Draw 4.00
Over/Under: 2.5 goals
Moneyline: Slovakia +435 / Italy -180 / Draw +300
In the last Group F match for each team on Thursday afternoon defending champion Italy faces Slovakia. Italy has 2 points with 2 draws and Slovakia is in the basement in the group with 1 point. The Italians can qualify for the knockout stage if they win this match as well as a few other possibilities. The only way they can win Group F is if they beat Slovakia and Paraguay and New Zealand play to a draw and the Italians have a better goal differential of Paraguay.
Slovakia is up against a wall, but they are still alive and can still make the round of 16. They cannot win the group, but if they beat Italy and New Zealand does not beat Paraguay they are in. They can also come in second if they win and the Kiwis beat Paraguay if Slovakia can end with more goals than Paraguay.
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In their last matches both teams played on Sunday with Italy playing to a surprising 1-1 draw with New Zealand and Slovakia losing to Paraguay 2-0.
The Italians were major favorites against New Zealand, but gave up an early goal and could only salvage a draw. The Italians killed the Kiwis in terms of time of possession (71% to 29%) and shots taken (23 to 3), but only really had a couple good shots on goal. After they scored the equalizer they looked out of sync and even after head coach Marcello Lippi changed the formation and substituted several players the Italians could not score.
In losing the match against Paraguay the time of possession battle was pretty even and they were only out-shot by 5 (11 to 6). Slovakia held back on defense even after Paraguay took the lead. They will have to come out with more offense in this match, as they need a win.
The defense is the strength of the Italians, but they will have to come out with some offense in this match to win and control their destiny.
It is an interesting fact that Italy has been scored on twice in this World Cup and they were the only 2 shots that were on target.
Slovakia Recent Form:
6/20/2010 Slovakia 0 Paraguay 2 (World Cup)
6/15/2010 Slovakia 1 New Zealand 1 (World Cup)
6/5/2010 Slovakia 3 Costa Rica 0 (Friendly)
5/29/2010 Slovakia 1 Cameroon 1 (Friendly)
Italy Recent Form:
6/20/2010 Italy 1 New Zealand 1 (World Cup)
6/15/2010 Italy 1 Paraguay 1 (World Cup)
6/5/2010 Switzerland 1 Italy 1 (Friendly)
6/3/2010 Italy 2 Mexico 1 (Friendly)
Marcello Lippi may start another striker for Alberto Gilardino, who in the match against New Zealand did not have one shot on goal and had the fewest touches of any player for the Italian squad.
Italy G Gianluigi Buffon, who is still considered the best in the world, is still out with a back injury and will be out for the rest of the World Cup.
Slovakia striker Marek Hamsik netted 12 goals for Napoli this season, but was a non-factor in the Paraguay match and even though his squad will need his offense against Italy he will not score against them.
Slovakia’s offense was horrible in the match against Paraguay only having one shot on goal and that was in injury time.
Italy has not looked good offensively, but I think that will change in this match. Slovakia will have push forward to generate offense and that is not their strength. Italy will key on that and also take advantage of the counter-attacking chances they get.
Italy GK Federico Marchetti has not been tested much, but gave up a goal on the only real shot he faced in the New Zealand match. However, Slovakia will not get by the strong Italian defense so he will keep a clean sheet in this game.
Look for the Italians to dominate the midfield with their passing and to have quite a few opportunities to score, which they will do at least twice.
Jason’s Pick: Slovakia will not be playing their style of soccer and that will kill them against Italy. The defending champs will come out and dominate this match and win by a score of 2-0.