Olympic Preview: Italy - Belgium

What: 2008 Olympic Games quarter-final
Who: Italy (1st, Group D, 7/9pts) vs Belgium (2nd, Group C, 6/9pts)
When: Saturday 16 August 18:00 China Standard Time
Where: Beijing Workers' Stadium, Beijing
Referee: Héctor Baldassi (Argentina)

On paper this match is one of the more one-sided events in the quarter-finals, but Belgium may hope to overcome an Italy side suffering from lethargy and thus pull off a shock...

The Generator

As much as Italy may have endured a hellish Euro 2008, there is evidence that the Italian talent factory is still churning out would-be champions. Sebastian Giovinco of Juventus has so far been perhaps the best Azzurini in this tournament, but he's not the only one of substance.

That said, few are relishing the plaudits right now after a fairly uneventful draw with Cameroon in the third game. Such a result caused the Azzurrini to shed their 100% record, and coach Casiraghi came in for some criticism.

"We were tired," was his response, but given that his side was virtually through already one wonders why he didn't opt to rotate more were that the case.

In any case, the likes of Nocerino, Giovinco, Rossi and Acquafresca, stars in their own rights already, played major roles in all three games and how they feel in anticipation of this game could be key.

The Belgian Compromise

Sadly talk in Belgium has been not so much about the game itself but about 'Kompanygate'. The influential defender has been summoned back to Germany by his club side, Hamburger SV, much to his displeasure.

He said earlier this week, "I have not got the energy and the strength to fight Hamburg on my own. I don't play for Brazil or Argentina but for a small footballing country. Our federation is frightened of HSV."

Having been sent off in the Belgians' loss to Brazil in game one he was called home: clearly, then, he regrets that he missed the last two games and will also skip the Italian challenge.

Regardless of their line-up, Belgium are distinct second-favourites here. As coach Jean-Francois de Sart put it to, ""Italy are a very strong, world-class team.

"We have the opportunity to make Belgian football history and I'm sure it would have an extra-special flavour if it happened against opponents of this stature. Let's hope we can stay in the tournament and add another chapter to this beautiful story."

Having only edged past New Zealand in their third game despite dominating, Belgium's problem is one of cutting edge. One feels that, given that chances will be at a premium against the Azzurrini, they need to instantly shed their wasteful nature if they are to progress.

Players to watch: Sebastian Giovinco is the great blue hope in the Italians' central midfield, and with Tomasso Rocchi back home injured it is up to Giuseppe Rossi to bag the goals: he's already hit two so far. Belgium have only scored three in the whole tournament, which is a poor tally considering that makeweights China and New Zealand were in their group. Lille's want-away Kevin Mirallas is the only forward to have hit the net so far, so all eyes are on him once more.

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Olympic Preview: Italy - Belgium Reviewed by admin Ucop on 4:48 PM Rating: 5

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