Soccer: Italy wary of bad weather, organised Maltese

Italy coach Prandelli concerned about weather on Med island

Soccer: Italy wary of bad weather, organised Maltese

Florence, March 25 - Italy coach Cesare Prandelli said Monday that his side are not underestimating the challenge they will face against an organised Malta side in potentially difficult conditions in Tuesday's World Cup qualifier. The four-time world champions visit the Mediterranean island as the leaders of European World Cup qualifying group B with 10 points from four games. International minnows Malta, meanwhile, are bottom with no points and they were thrashed 6-0 by second-placed Bulgaria in Sofia on Friday. But Prandelli is wary, in part because of the bad weather that has hit the island. "We'll face a very well-organised side because they train together almost with the same frequency as a club team," Prandelli told reporters. "They are a team who know how to double up the marking and intercept the ball. "Their defeat against Bulgaria came about on a pitch where there was strong wind and it was conditioned by two blunders (that led to goals). "I remain convinced that each game is different to the previous one. "I'm worried about the weather conditions and the strong wind that we might find there because, if you aren't use to it, this can make you lose your concentration". Italy go into the game on the back of a good showing in Thursday's 2-2 draw with Brazil in a friendly. Prandelli raised eyebrows after that game by saying Malta are better organised than Brazil in defence. "When I said that Malta are more organised than Brazil, I didn't want to offend Brazil or take anyone for a fool," the coach said. "It's simply that they are well-organised and tight-knit at the back. "It may turn out to be an easy match if we make it easy. Right now, what counts are the points. "A 1-0 win may be good enough, it depends on how you achieve it. "The games against Malta and the Czech Republic (in June) will be crucial for qualification. If we get six points from them we can have a serene summer and prepare in the best way for the World Cup". Prandelli confirmed that young AC Milan forwards Mario Balotelli and Stephan El Shaarawy will partner each other on Tuesday. Balotelli, 22, is in excellent form. He scored with a spectacular strike from outside the box against Brazil and has found the net seven times in six appearances for Milan since moving from Manchester City in January. El Shaarawy, 20, is Serie A's second top scorer so far this season with 16 goals. "Balotelli and El Shaarawy form a partnership that has great margins for improvement," said Prandelli. "They can do very good things". Prandelli often reveals his starting lineup the day before a match but he opted not to this time as he has not yet decided what formation he will use.

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