Italy vs Czech Republic
Italy are always a team to watch when it comes to major international tournaments, and the four-time world champions will head into Euro 2020 as potential dark horses to win the title.
The Azzurri are currently riding a sensational unbeaten run, one that they will be keen to preserve when they take on the Czech Republic for an international friendly.
The international friendly 2021 betting odds have the in-form Italians installed as heavy favourites on home soil. But despite the Czechs’ chequered form of late, they are quite capable of giving even the top teams in Europe a good challenge.
Italy’s sensational unbeaten streak continues
Italy are heading into Euro 2020 as the most in-form team in the continent. The Azzurri are on an incredible 26-match unbeaten run and have won their last seven in a row.
Despite the lack of world-class defenders that Italy have been famous for in past decades, Roberto Mancini has managed to restore the Azzurri’s amazing defensive reputation. In their 12 matches since the start of 2020, Italy have conceded a mere two goals, including seven consecutive clean sheets.
Mancini opted not to play any of his first-choice stars in their recent 7-0 friendly win over San Marino, but he is expected to field a much stronger starting XI in their final pre-Euros friendly against the Czechs.
Veteran Juventus centre-backs Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci are expected to start at the heart of Italy’s vaunted defence in Euro 2020 and could be given a runout in front of keeper Gianluigi Donnarumma.
Jorginho is likely to be rested after his Champions League triumph with Chelsea, so there will be a spot open in central midfield alongside Marco Verratti and Nicolo Barella. Roma’s Bryan Cristante got the start against San Marino, but Stefano Sensi, Manuel Locatelli, or Lorenzo Pellegrini could get the nod this time around.
Meanwhile, Ciro Immobile is expected to lead the Italian attack and provide some international friendly 2021 highlights. The 31-year-old striker is coming off another strong season with Lazio (25 goals in 41 games) and has scored 12 goals in 45 caps for his country.
Although, Andrea Belotti is making a strong case to start as the main striker at the Euros. The Torino skipper scored against San Marino, his third goal in his last five caps for Italy.
Uncapped Giacomo Raspadori, who was the surprise inclusion in Mancini’s 26-man Euro 2020 squad, could also make his Azzurri debut.
Federico Chiesa and Lorenzo Insigne are expected to start either side of Immobile or Belotti if Mancini opts for a 4-3-3 formation.
Czechs searching for consistency
The Czech Republic have had quite an inconsistent year. In their 11 matches during that time, they have won six, lost five, and drawn one, which was an impressive 1-1 home draw against top-ranked Belgium in a recent World Cup qualifier. However, they lost their very next game away to Wales 1-0.
Unlike the star-studded Czech sides of 1996 and 2004, both of which made it to the top three at the Euros, manager Jaroslav Silhavy’s current squad does not have much in the way of world-class talent.
The best player in the side is midfielder Tomas Soucek, who was instrumental in West Ham’s surprisingly successful Premier League season. Aside from doing his defensive duties well, he is also a master at making timely runs into the box and scoring important goals. He had 10 goals in 38 Premier League games this season and has seven in 33 caps for his country.
Soucek’s West Ham team-mate Vladimir Coufal is also an integral member of the team, and Bayer Leverkusen’s Patrik Schick (10 goals in 24 caps) is their main goal threat.
The Czechs have quite an uncomplicated style: they are well-organised defensively and rely primarily on crosses in attack. In that regard, they should provide a decent challenge for the Italians, who have not had the most formidable foes in recent games.
Italy and the Czech Republic have faced each other six times. Each country has won twice, and there have been two draws.
The Czechs surprisingly beat the Italians in their first two meetings, including in their only matchup in the European Championships in Euro 96.
However, the Azzurri have since gone unbeaten in their last four, with two draws and two wins. Italy won 2-1 in their most recent meeting in 2013. Chiellini and Bonucci were both in action in that game, with the former scoring the equaliser after the Czechs took an early lead.