International Game Time Thread: Italy vs. Malta

Beard. Hair. Pirlo. - Claudio Villa

Andrea Pirlo has a wonderful beard. It may make you want to save the world. Then again, that's what he does on a regular basis. The world, fear the beard of Pirlo.

All teams this international break will be playing their second game in the next 48 hours or so. Some teams have had a pair of World Cup qualifying matches, others have had a friendly to compliment

For Italy, they're going from an incredibly exciting match-up — and 2-2 draw last week — to...Malta? Yes, Malta — the same team that Gli Azzurri beat 2-0 back in mid-September thanks to a couple of goals from players who are nowhere to be found this time around. (We do know they are, just not around the Azzurri training camp.)

It's a stark contrast between the two nations. Italy is atop Group Two and looks well on the way to being part of the party in the summer of 2014 in Brazil. Malta, on the other hand, are sitting at the bottom of the group, allowing 12 goals in four games and have only managed to score once. That's a goal differential you'd expect from a relegation zone team — which makes it all that much more important that Italy don't mess around and continue to make that goal differential a thing that nobody wants to look at ever again.

A few minor notes regarding a couple of Italians

1. Claudio Marchisio has returned to full training and looks set to return to the lineup after missing out on the Brazil friendly last Thursday with tonsillitis and a high fever. Principino was slated to get the start against the Brazilians, but Riccardo Montolivo played in his place as Marchisio was rested. And as much as I like watching Marchisio playing for Italy,

2. Roma midfielder Daniele De Rossi and striker Pablo Daniel Osvaldo are suspended for tonight's match against Malta. So while one starting midfielder is coming back, another one has returned to the capital city a little earlier than usual.

3. Another Roma midfielder, Alessandro Florenzi, has been called up from Italy's Under-21 camp to take De Rossi's place in the squad. The 22-year-old Florenzi played 90 minutes in the Azzurrini's 2-0 friendly victory against Russia on Friday night.

There's that. Let's just hope Italy comes back with another three points.

Kickoff is scheduled for 3:45 p.m./2:45 p.m./12:45 p.m. in the United States depending on where you live. You don't need to say where, though. That's meant for the last meet and greet thread. Have at it. Also, the game will be streamed live on ESPN3, so you don't have to rummage through some random languages to watch Gli Azzurri today.

Oh, and one more thing: NOBODY GET HURT. NOBODY EVEN THINK ABOUT IT.

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