When and where: The 2014 World Cup qualifier kicks-off from the Vassil Levski Stadion in Sofia, Bulgaria at 2.45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by ESPN Deportes, while a live stream is available in both English and Spanish via ESPN3.
Cesare Prandelli is looking for a winning start to Italy's World Cup qualifying campaign in Bulgaria.
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Preview: After a mightily impressive Euro 2012 that shocked many, even in their own country, Italy coach Cesare Prandelli will be keen to avoid a hangover as his side set about the business of ensuring participation in the next World Cup.
Prandelli's attractive brand of soccer was in full evidence in Poland and Ukraine as Italy scored a memorable semifinal victory over Germany before falling to an imperious Spain in the final. Now firmly established among the early contenders to claim the trophy in Brazil, Prandelli is aware of the need not to take anything for granted.
"The danger is taking success for granted. Instead, we do our best when we have a little 'fear,'" the former Fiorentina boss said, according to ESPN.
Prandelli has problems with his attack for the trip to Bulgaria. Mario Balotelli is unavailable following a recent eye operation, while Antonio Cassano has been left out having not been deemed fit by Prandelli.
The man involved in the other half of a swap deal with Cassano between Milan and Inter, Giampaolo Pazzini put himself in contention for a starting berth following a hat-trick for the Rossoneri last time out against Bologna.
Yet Prandelli is expected to opt for Sebastian Giovinco in support of Roma striker Pablo Osvaldo. Italy should receive a boost with influential midfielder Daniele De Rossi expected to be fit to start following an ankle injury.
With Italy strong favorites to top Group B, Bulgaria will be hoping they can mount a challenge for second spot with Denmark and the Czech Republic. Beginning with three matches at home, the start of the campaign will be crucial to the hopes of Luboslav Penev's side.
With a team lacking outstanding individuals of Bulgaria teams of the past, it is understandable why Penev tried to tempt Dimitar Berbatov out of international retirement. The new Fulham signing turned down the approach, however.
D: Manolev, Bodurov, Ivanov, Zanev
M: Dyakov, Gadjev
Tonev, Popov, Gargorov
D: Barzagli, Bonucci, Ogbonna
M: Maggio, Marchisio, Pirlo, De Rossi, Giaccherini
F: Osvaldo, Giovinco
Prediction: While Italy could be in for a hostile atmosphere in Sofia, Prandelli's side should have far too much quality for a Bulgarian team that finished bottom of their group in qualification for Euro 2012. This should be a comfortable three points for the Azzurri as they begin their campaign for Brazil 2014.
Bulgaria 0-2 Italy
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