Match Preview Italy Wary of Nedved Threat in Czech Clash

Italy believes that Czech Republic midfielder Pavel Nedved poses the biggest threat to their hopes of reaching the last 16 of the World Cup. The match has the makings of a classic.


Pavel Nedved strikes fear into the hearts of the Italians.
DPA

Pavel Nedved strikes fear into the hearts of the Italians.

Italy needs a draw to advance to the knockout stages, while the Czechs must win to guarantee qualification. In fact, all four teams in the group, which also includes Ghana and the United States, still have a chance of making the next round.

Nedved knows all about Italian football having played in Serie A since 1996, and Fabio Cannavaro has identified his Juventus team-mate as the man most likely to cause the Azzurri defense headaches. "He is an annoying player to play against," the Italian captain said. "He has a great spirit and an inner strength that is an example to others. He's a real professional, a player to fear."

Italy midfielder Andrea Pirlo agreed with his skipper about the need to keep tabs on livewire Nedved. "We all know him because he plays in Italy. He's a great player who can decide a match. We'll have to watch out."

Pirlo insisted Italy will be going all out for victory against the Czechs rather than try to snatch a draw. "We always play to win," said the AC Milan playmaker. "That's always been our approach, to walk onto the field to play a winning game. So that's what we'll do against the Czech Republic."

Italy leads the group on four points, followed by the Czechs and Ghana both with three, and the United States with one. The Czechs have not lost to Italy in their three previous meetings, but their coach Karol Bruckner insisted his team were the underdogs. "Italy are an experienced side with a great defense. They are the favorites," he said.

Italy will be without their suspended midfielder Daniele De Rossi, who was sent off in the 1-1 draw with the US for elbowing Brian McBride in the face. In a tactical change, Italy coach Marcello Lippi is expected to move Gianluca Zambrotta from the defense to the left-hand side of midfield to combat the threat of Nedved.

Playing at their first World Cup since 1990, the Czechs have been rocked by injury problems, but they were given a major boost on Tuesday when striker Milan Baros resumed training. The Aston Villa forward, who was top scorer at the European Championships in 2004, missed his country's first two matches with a foot injury. "I am still not 100 percent, but of course I am hoping that I can play," Baros said.

Jan Koller, the Czech's other first-choice forward, is recovering from the torn thigh muscle which kept him out of the 2-0 defeat against Ghana and has an outside chance of playing. Defender Tomas Ujfalusi and reserve striker Vratislav Lokvenc will both be suspended after receiving their second yellow cards of the tournament.

afp

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