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Monday, 17 December, 2018

Italy can assert superiority after the break

World Cup non-starters begin rebuild

Leonardo Bonucci is in the Italy squad
1 of 1

International friendly
7.45pm Monday

Italy will be absent from the World Cup finals for the first time since 1958 but they can start the long process of rebuilding under new head coach Roberto Mancini by beating Saudi Arabia in St Gallen, Switzerland.

Mancini has selected an experimental 26-man squad featuring five uncapped players and 12 with fewer than ten caps.

However, he is also focused on making a winning start and has included 77-cap defender Leonardo Bonucci and 33-cap striker Mario Balotelli, who played under him at Manchester City.

Italy have played two friendlies since their World Cup elimination - losing 2-0 to Argentina and drawing 1-1 with England - but the Saudi Arabia game is one they will fully expect to win.

Saudi Arabia are the interesting team for World Cup punters to assess. They are in Group A alongside Russia, Uruguay and Egypt, but it is hard to see them reaching the last 16.

They overcame European opposition earlier this month, defeating Greece 2-0 in Seville.

However, it was an under-strength Greek side and the outcome was influenced by the 43rd-minute dismissal of debutant left-back Dimitris Giannoulis.

Italy should pose a much sterner test for the Saudis and should give them a better gauge of where they need to improve.

First and foremost Saudi Arabia will look to keep things tight and they are likely to be well coached by manager Juan Antonio Pizzi, who was a Copa America winner with Chile in 2016.

Italy may take time to settle given the number of new faces in their squad and they might have to wait until the second half to get their noses in front.

Draw-Italy double result
1pt 3-1 Betway

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Saudi Arabia are the interesting team for World Cup punters to assess. They are in Group A alongside Russia, Uruguay and Egypt
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