Preview: Italy vs Bulgaria – prediction, team news, lineups
European champions Italy return to qualifying for the World Cup on Thursday when they host Bulgaria at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence.
After a triumphant summer that changed the perception of them around the world, the Azzurri are looking to continue their perfect start in the qualification process for Qatar 2022.
Less than two months after basking in glory at Wembley, the Euro 2020 winners are poised for a trio of encounters that could see them halfway through the Middle East global match in just over a year.
Roberto Mancini’s revolution came to a sublime conclusion with victory over host England in July, and his second continental title sees Italy as one of the favorites to claim the biggest prize in Qatar.
They will meet in Tuscany with the aim of continuing a streak of 34 unbeaten matches, during which they boast a remarkable goal difference of +76, against opponents who beat 2-0 in Sofia in the spring.
Italy overcame Bulgaria with relative ease, thanks to goals at the end of both halves by Andrea Belotti – a penalty that he himself had controversially won – and substitute Manuel Locatelli, who ended the match with a wonderful curly shot at the end of the game. final.
Between victories over Northern Ireland and Lithuania (both also 2-0), the Azzurri took pole position in Group C, where Switzerland is their main rival for the only automatic qualifying spot.
His remarkable no-loss streak now covers a period of nearly three years, and Mancini certainly won’t expect standards to drop shortly after reaching such a pinnacle, particularly with a decisive game against Switzerland on the following itinerary.
Having scored at least a first point of the campaign in their third qualifying game last March, Bulgaria now faces the most difficult task of the process, with an away game in Italy.
The Lions face a nation that narrowly denied them a place in the 1994 World Cup final with little hope of making the playoffs for next year’s event by virtue of a second-place finish. Already five points behind Switzerland despite having played one more match, the team supervised by Yasen Petrov is more likely to fight for third place with the other Group C players in the coming months.
Three goals behind even before the 15-minute campaign against the Swiss were contested, things have improved a bit for the Bulgarians, as their only point to date came from a goalless draw in Northern Ireland.
Indeed, Bulgaria have led the way in just two of their last 28 matches, the most recent of which was a friendly success against Gibraltar in November, as they followed their dismal start to World Cup qualification with a series of postseason friendlies. none of which could win.
The most recent of those outings saw France crush them aside 3-0 as they failed to muster a single shot on goal and gave up 70% of possession. Having failed to qualify for the final stages since 1998, four years after finishing fourth in the United States, when Italy lost in the final, Bulgaria’s drought is sure to continue until 2026 at least.
Italy possible starting lineup:
Donnarumma; Di Lorenzo, Chiellini, Bonucci, Emerson; Verratti, Jorginho, Barella; Insigne, Immobile, Chiesa
Bulgaria possible starting lineup:
Mihaylov; Hristov, Antov, Bozhikov; Nedelev, Malinov, Kostadinov, Chochev, Karagaren; Despodov, Delev