Italy have enjoyed a comfortable passage to the Brazil World Cup, qualifying for the 2014 tournament with two games to spare, and in their final Group B encounter tonight against Armenia in Naples they will be hoping to crown their campaign with one last victory.
The Azzurri have only faced this evening’s visitors to the Stadio San Paolo on one other occasion, emerging 3-1 winners in the away qualifying fixture on 12 October last year.
Cesare Prandelli employed the services of a large part of the Juventus team that day at Yerevan’s Hrazdan Central Stadium, with Gigi Buffon, Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio and Sebastian Giovinco all starting, as well as Emanuele Giaccherini coming on for Pirlo for the final 15 minutes.
And it was Pirlo’s opening goal from the penalty spot that paved the way for further strikes from Daniele Rossi and Pablo Osvaldo, taking the Azzurri safely out of reach.
On the scoresheet for the hosts was Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who just ten days previously had lined up in the orange and black of Shakhtar Donetsk at Juventus Stadium as the Champions League anthem rang out at the Bianconeri’s new home for the very first time.
Back to the present, Armenia will determined to better their last result against Italy tonight, as Vardan Minasyan’s men still have an outside chance of reaching the play offs.
The visitors are sitting only one point behind second-placed Bulgaria, but even with a win in Naples they would have to hope that both the other Group B results went their way.
Armenia have been inconsistent overall in qualifying, but go into this evening’s game with good momentum after beating Bulgaria 2-1 in their last qualifier. And with star player Mkhitaryan in excellent scoring form for Borussia Dortmund, they will not be an easy team to overcome.