Italy coach Cesare Prandelli says he expects a stern test from Nigeria when both sides lock horn in an international friendly match at Craven Cottage, London, later today (Monday).
The former Fiorentina boss is also facing a dilemma concerning the best possible strike partner alongside AC Milan striker Mario Balotelli, but has resolved to hand ex-Manchester United striker Guiseppe Rossi the opportunity to impress on the frontline.
Two minutes away from reaching her first quarter-final in a first appearance at the FIFA World Cup, Roberto Baggio cancelled out an Emmanuel Amunike opener and sealed victory for the Azzuris with his brace to hurt many Nigerians’ feelings on July 5, 1994.
But Prandelli insists the African champions, who defeated Ethiopia 4-1 (aggregate) to reach Brazil 2014, have individual players playing the best football of their career in recent times.
“They (Nigeria) have in recent years improved a lot tactically on an individual level,” said Prandelli.
“Not a lot collectively, but individually. They have great physical strength. Extraordinary amounts that no one else has. Therefore they are ready to get good results playing football.”
The Italy boss says he is still searching for the ideal player to complement ex-Manchester City forward, Balotelli, in attack and Rossi will be handed the opportunity after missing last weekend’s friendly against Germany in Milan due to a bout of tonsillitis.
“Balotelli is the first-choice centre-forward,” added Prandelli.
“Now we have to find out who the ideal second striker will be and Rossi is ready for this game.
“I have some pretty clear ideas on certain system and combination we can use , even if we have yet to establish which is the best one for us.”
Italy will play the Super Eagles on the back of three successive draws against Denmark, Armenia and Germany, while Nigeria returns to action in the wake of a 2-0 victory over Ethiopia on Saturday.