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After missing out on the World Cup for the first time in 60 years back in 2018, this Italian team has certainly taken a turn for the better under Roberto Mancini.
They topped their European qualification group ahead of Finland, Greece, Bosnia, Armenia and Liechtenstein, winning all 10 games and under current management they’ve now gone an impressive W27-D7-L2.
Northern Ireland, on the other hand, failed to qualify for the 2021 Euros after a defeat to Slovakia in extra time in the playoffs. In fact, you have to go back nearly two years to June 2019 for their last competitive victory over 90 minutes, coming over Belarus by one goal.
Against the best sides they have faced over that period - Germany and the Netherlands - they have lost all three games by an aggregate scoreline of 11-2, and it’s difficult to get hopeful about their chances in Parma.
Italy -1 Handicap
With the Euros just around the corner, the Italians will be using these World Cup qualifiers as vital time to gel their squad.
They’ve won by two or more goals in seven of their last 10 unbeaten home games, conceding just four times, as one of the times they failed to cover that mark came against the Netherlands, and this should be a fairly routine start to a qualification that they won’t want to mess up again.
You only have to look at some of the stars in their squad to know they’ll pose a serious threat to this struggling Northern Irish outfit.
The visitors did come close in their last two competitive trips to Norway (1-0) and Austria (2-1), but neither of those teams come close to the Azzurri and this will be their toughest visit to any side since Germany beat them 6-1 in November 2019.
It’s hard to look past the ‘-1 Handicap Margin’ for the hosts at a fairly short price, but with the chance that this one could be a very one sided affair like in that game with Die Mannschaft, we can’t look past that being the bet of the game.
The last time these two sides met came back in 2011 at Euro’s, as Italy won 3-0 that day and we could very well be in for a similar scoreline this Thursday.