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Tuesday, March 30, 2004 

International Friendly Preview: Portugal - Italy



While Wednesday's encounter between Portugal and Italy is being billed as a "friendly" match, it's no secret that this contest will be a serious test for both nations ahead of Euro 2004.

Both sides are eyeing the prize at this summer's big tournament and a win for either side on Wednesday will be a huge boost of confidence.

Furthermore, these two nations could potentially face off in the quarterfinals of the tournament should one side finish first and the other end up in second in their respective groups.

If history is an indicator, than Italy have nothing to worry about as they have dominated this rivalry. In 22 matches with the Portuguese, Italy has 16 wins, 2 draws and just 4 losses. During these 22 matches, Italy has outscored Portugal 46 to 19.

Their last meeting was on February 12, 2003 in Genova where Italy won 1-0. This time around, the match is being played in Portugal for the first time since 1993 when Italy won 3-1.

Team News:

Portugal:
Newcastle's midfielder Hugo Viana has been dropped from the squad and is considered a long shot to make the team for Euro 2004.

Tottenham's Helder Postiga is on the verge of being axed from the squad and this could be his last chance to shine for Portugal.

Porto's Vitor Baia and Maniche continue to get snubbed by Scolari, same goes for Stuttgart's Fernando Meira.

Nuno Gomes makes a return to the international fold, after his two-goal display in Benfica's 4-3 loss to Inter in the UEFA Cup on Thursday.

Fernando Couto, Deco, Petit, Rui Jorge and Tiago have all been training separately from the rest of the squad because of minor injury problems and are all doubtful starters for Wednesday's match.

Italy:
Trapattoni is without three of his first choice players as AC Milan's Alessandro Nesta, Inter Milan's Fabio Cannavaro and Juventus' Gianluca Zambrotta are all injured.

Look for Parma's promising Matteo Ferrari and Inter's Daniele Adani to start in the center of back line with AC Milan's Giuseppe Pancaro to take over from Zambrotta at left back.

Lazio's Giuseppe Favalli, who has not played for Italy since 1998, and Parma's Marcello Castellini are some of the surprises in Italy's 22-man squad announced on Sunday.

Juventus' striker Marco Di Vaio will pair up with Vieri in attack in what should be a formidable partnership.

Probable Starting Lineups:

Portugal: Ricardo; Paulo Ferreira, Fernando Couto, Jorge Andrade, Rui Jorge; Costinha, Petit, Rui Costa, Luis Figo, Simao Sabrosa; Pauleta

Italy: Buffon; Panucci, Ferrari, Adani, Pancaro; Gattuso, Pirlo, Camoranesi; Totti, Di Vaio, Vieri

Source: Soccerage

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