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World Cup qualifying preview: Bulgaria v Italy

6 September 2012 09:49

Giampaolo Pazzini's hat-trick against Bologna has earned him a recall to Italy's squad for their World Cup qualifier versus Bulgaria.

The AC Milan striker, who only moved across from Inter Milan on August 22 in a swap deal with Antonio Cassano, struck three times on his starting debut on Saturday to help his new team to a 3-1 victory over Bologna.

That was enough for Cesare Prandelli, who has brought Pazzini into his squad for Friday's opening qualifier against Bulgaria as well as Sunday's game versus Malta, which will also count in qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Pazzini has not played for Italy since he came off the bench and scored against Slovenia in a Euro 2012 qualifier last year but could very well start against Bulgaria as Prandelli has neither Mario Balotelli nor Antonio Cassano in his squad.

Balotelli and Cassano were Italy's main strikers at Euro 2012 as they reached the final but with the former requiring eye surgery and the latter simply left out of the squad, Pazzini is easily the most experienced forward Prandelli can choose from.

Apart from Balotelli and Cassano, Prandelli has selected the majority of the players he took to Poland and Ukraine, although midfielder Riccardo Montolivo will not travel with Italy to Sofia after injuring his thigh while playing for AC Milan.

Italy lost their most recent international, going down 2-1 to England, while Bulgaria come into Friday's match in winning form, having triumphed 1-0 over Cyprus in a friendly in August.

Iliyan Mitsanski scored the winner against Cyprus, less than three months after he also struck the decisive goal in Bulgaria's 2-1 friendly victory over the Netherlands.

The 26-year-old, who plays for Kaiserslautern in Germany, has only represented Bulgaria four times for those aforementioned two international goals and could lead the line for the home side when Italy come to visit.

Without Dimitar Berbatov, who retired from international football in 2010, and Stiliyan Petrov, who has been diagnosed with leukaemia, Bulgaria lack genuine quality but have only lost one of their four matches this year.

Bulgaria will not be an easy test for Italy, who will then host Malta in Modena on Tuesday in their second World Cup qualifier.

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Tuesday 2 September

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