Italy-Ireland friendly is a Juventus reunion

It’s going to be a Juventus reunion when Italy meets Ireland in

a friendly in Belgium on Tuesday.

During the early 1980s when Giovanni Trapattoni managed

Juventus, two of his players were Marco Tardelli and Cesare

Prandelli.

Trapattoni is now the Ireland coach, Tardelli is his assistant

and Prandelli coaches Italy.

The trio spent a total of six seasons together in Turin, from

1979 to 1985, and their reunion threatens to overshadow the action

on the pitch in Liege, where both Trapattoni and Prandelli plan to

play their reserves.

”Trapattoni is the top. It will be emotional to see him

again,” Prandelli said. ”I know he’ll give me advice. He was one

of the first people to call me when I accepted this job. He’s got

an incredible amount of strength. I don’t know if I would have the

patience to be where he is at the age of (72).”

Trapattoni had a relatively unsuccessful stint as Italy coach at

the 2002 World Cup and 2004 European Championship, and after

winning the 2006 World Cup under Marcello Lippi, the Azzurri

struggled again at last year’s World Cup, when they were eliminated

in the first round.

However, since Prandelli replaced Lippi after the failure in

South Africa the Azzurri have gone unbeaten in six official matches

and hold a comfortable five-point lead in European Championship

qualifying Group C following a 3-0 win over Estonia on Friday.

Ireland, which still hasn’t forgotten Thierry Henry’s hand ball

that prevented it from qualifying for last year’s World Cup, is

level on points with Russia and Slovakia at the top of Group B

after a 2-0 win at Macedonia on Saturday, courtesy of two goals

from Robbie Keane.

”It’s going to be tough to qualify for the Euros but we believe

we can and we want to really badly,” Tardelli told the Gazzetta

dello Sport. ”While we’ve gotten over the bitterness of Henry’s

hand ball, the scar still remains.”

Ireland has excused Keane, John O’Shea, Kevin Kilbane and

first-choice goalkeeper Shay Given from the trip, with Trapattoni

announcing a new forward pairing of Shane Long and Andrew

Keogh.

Likewise, Prandelli will rest first-choice goalkeeper Gianluigi

Buffon and forward Antonio Cassano, calling on Bologna ‘keeper

Emiliano Viviano and Inter Milan striker Giampaolo Pazzini

instead.

Prandelli announced the following lineup: Viviano in goal;

Mattia Cassani, Alessandro Gamberini, Giorgio Chiellini and

Domenico Criscito in defense; Claudio Marchisio, Andrea Pirlo and

Antonio Nocerino in midfield; and Riccardo Montolivo directing

Giuseppe Rossi and Pazzini in attack.

Rossi, who scored the opener against Estonia, and Pazzini, who

came off the bench to score the third goal, fit the Barcelona model

of shorter, more technical strikers that Prandelli is aiming

for.

At 1.73 meters (5-foot-8), Rossi is Prandelli’s prototypical

modern forward, while Pazzini is 1.80 meters (5-foot-11), Cassano

is 1.75 meters (5-foot-9) and reserve playmaker Sebastian Giovinco

measures just 1.64 meters (5-foot-5).

”Cesare has players suited for that type of football,”

Tardelli noted.

Italy has called up an extra defender for the match – Angelo

Obinze Ogbonna from Serie B side Torino.

Ogbonna was born in Italy to Nigerian parents.

”I’ve always felt Italian. I turned down an offer from the

Nigeria team a while back and I’m pleased with my choice,” Ogbonna

said.