Italy meet Australia in Kaiserslautern with a place in the quarter finals at stake.
Australia are sweating on the fitness of Harry Kewell ahead of their second round tussle with Italy in Kaiserslautern.
Italy came through the first round as group winners, although it was not all plain sailing for Marcello Lippi’s team. They were given plenty of scares by both Ghana and the USA before overcoming a Czech Republic side reduced to ten men in the first half.
Alessandro Nesta misses today’s game with a muscle strain and Marco Materazzi, who opened the scoring against the Czechs, will take his place.
Filippo Inzaghi celebrated his 50th appearance for Italy by adding a second and he could be rewarded with a place in the starting line-up.
Lippi will revert to a 4-3-3 formation and must choose between Inzaghi and Luca Toni to play up front with Alberto Gilardino and Francesco Totti.
Full-back Gianluca Zambrotta believes Italy must be focused from the off for today’s encounter.
“We need to look again at our approach to the game – in the early phase of matches we always suffer,” he said.
“The US were first to the ball during the early stages of that game and the Czech Republic had their best spell against us in the first half.
“Against Australia we need to really cover a lot of ground.”
Midfielder Simone Perrotta compared Australia to the United States, a team Italy struggled to overcome in the group stages.
“Australia are a similar side to the United States, that is true,” said Perrotta, “But I think they are stronger in terms of technique.
“Up front they have a very strong player in Mark Viduka and then there is Harry Kewell who spins off him and is also very dangerous.”
Lippi is taking nothing for granted, in part because of the respect he has for Australia coach Guus Hiddink.
“Guus Hiddink is a real expert manager who knows Italian soccer very well,” Italy counterpart Marcello Lippi said.
“Australia is a very organized squad, I’ve had my scouts following it. We know them well, between all their ‘Italians’ and ‘English’ players.”
Hiddink has led The Socceroos to the knockout phase on only their second finals appearance, but his players are not content to stop there.
Defender Lucas Neil believes that Australia can surprise the Italians.
“We will respect Italy, but we won’t fear them, and I’m sure they’ll do the same because they’ll have to respect us,” said Neil, who has impressed as the heart of the Australian defence.
“This is the World Cup and anything’s possible so we’ll be going out there with no fear,” he added.
“We’ve got as many strengths as they have now,” he said.
“Italy have won three World Cups and starred in many tournaments and their reputations are massive so it’s a real David and Goliath situation,” he said.
“They’re a ruthless team. They’re used to going out, getting a goal and protecting it but I can’t see it being a 1-0 against Australia. It’s going to be a fantastic game.
“We’ve taken on the biggest team (Brazil) and given them a good run for their money and made people look at us. I don’t consider Italy a lesser team than Brazil but why should we fear them?”
Hiddink may be without Harry Kewell, who scored the equaliser against Croatia that secured Australia’s place in the last 16.
The Liverpool attacker is still suffering a groin injury that has plagued him throughout the tournament and is doubtful to start.
Hiddink will definitely make two changes to the side that started against Croatia due to Brett Emerton’s suspension and Zeljko Kalac’s blunders.
Jason Culina is expected to come in for Emerton at right wing back, with Mark Bresciano coming into midfield, while Mark Schwarzer is set to return in goal.
Italy: Gianluigi Buffon; Gianluca Zambrotta, Marco Materazzi, Fabio Cannavaro, Fabio Grosso; Simone Perrotta, Andrea Pirlo, Gennaro Gattuso, Mauro Camoranesi; Francesco Totti; Alberto Gilardino.
Australia: Mark Schwarzer; Marco Bresciano, Lucas Neill, Craig Moore, Scott Chipperfield; Vince Grella, Jason Culina, Tim Cahill, Mile Sterjovski, Harry Kewell; Mark Viduka.
Referee:: Luis Medina Cantalejo (Spain).