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Thursday June 7 2012
Italy need club-like Di Natale

Italy may end up needing the goals of Antonio Di Natale at Euro 2012 if they are to progress, but will they be forthcoming? Antonio Labbate writes.

Antonio Di Natale was the last Italian player to touch the ball at Euro 2008. It wasn’t a happy memory for himself or the country as a whole. His failure to slot home during the Vienna shoot-out gave Cesc Fabregas the opportunity to put Spain into the semi-finals and he, unlike the Udinese striker, didn’t miss.

On Sunday, it will be Spain again for Italy and Di Natale as Group C kicks off with an intriguing clash between the tournament favourites and a wounded Azzurri who have their clear problems in attack. This, after all, is a side who haven’t scored an international goal since Giampaolo Pazzini netted in the 2-0 friendly win in Poland. That was four games, seven months and 300 minutes ago.

There is little doubt that it is in attack where Prandelli’s preparations have been most affected by injuries. Having struck upon a first-choice combination of Antonio Cassano and Giuseppe Rossi in qualifying, the Coach had to revamp his plans after Villarreal’s Rossi snapped knee ligaments and the Milan man was forced to have minor heart surgery.

With no guarantee that either would be back in time for the competition, Prandelli assessed his options and once again opened the door for Toto Di Natale in late 2011. Although injury ruled him out of February’s 1-0 loss to America, the 34-year-old was included in the squad last month – given the unavailability of Rossi – despite never previously being selected by Prandelli. “Tell me if there is a player who deserved a call-up more than Di Natale,” the CT stated when asked to justify his selections.

The Coach, in his defence, had always insisted that he had no need to take a closer look at the former Empoli man. Prandelli pointed doubters towards the player’s recent scoring record at Udinese, one that illustrates that he has celebrated 109 goals in 165 League games over the last five seasons. In 2010 he was the most prolific player in the Italian game, while he was the third-most lethal in both 2011 and 2012.

Di Natale, however, is not immune from criticism or scepticism. While nobody can doubt his achievements in front of goal at the Stadio Friuli, one can question his impact on the international scene. They can also argue that he is too old to make a consistent contribution at a competition, like a European Championship, where there is little recovery time between games.

The Udine idol won his 37th cap on Friday night when he came on as a second half substitute for Cassano in the 3-0 loss to Russia. It was his first appearance in Italy blue since the 3-2 loss to Slovakia at the 2010 World Cup which resulted in first round humiliation for the then reigning champions.

Up to now, his record of 10 goals may be seen as respectable by some, but you need to look a little deeper into the numbers which underline that Di Natale has never been significant for his country. His strikes have only come in seven different games and he’s only scored once in his last 15 appearances. He’s also completed 90 minutes for his country just nine times and has been hauled off on 15 others.

It is when you consider such a backdrop that it becomes clear that Di Natale is going to have to dig very deep if he is to make any sort of impact at the championship. Anything less and Euro 2012 – indisputably his last chance at international recognition – could end as disappointingly as Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010.

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Have your say...
@ Adam

Just think positive and hope that Italy will do something against Spain, all the strikers bought are good and the 3-5-2 will suit the team
on the 9th June, 2012 at 8:30pm
I think this is maybe a bit harsh on Di Natale. Coming off the back of an amazing season in 2010, he really should've been starting every game, instead he started none, and was only used as a last resort. even then he still managed a goal
I think he can bring a lot to the team and if he was given more of a role in 2010 maybe Italy wouldn't have gone out so soon.
I do think quagliarella may have added something to the squad though
on the 8th June, 2012 at 3:38pm
Italia have to start with di natale proven goal scorer he will get italia the goals they need,plus the whole team need to be 100% focused and united especially with all thats being on( calcio scomesi)
on the 8th June, 2012 at 12:50pm
Im no hater. as iv said I want italy to win but im just saying this time last year they were in better shape than now, as i said time will tell if Prandelli got it correct, I hope cassano and balotelli get 4 or 5 goals each however I just feel it might not go that way and I would prefer to see Di natale start, this however is just my opinion I didnt mean to upset anyone,
on the 8th June, 2012 at 10:24am
Thanks Gino, if italy go with Cassano and balotelli I dont think they will score enough as i said (i could be wrong)I really want italy to win the euro's if you asked me this time last year I would have been more optimistic about italy winning, I think it all depends on the first game start well and you can build start bad and suddenly Crotia seem like gods and ireland a banana skin, that being said
italy should try beat spain not play for a draw if they believe, they can do it.
on the 8th June, 2012 at 9:17am
I've always liked Di Natale, but Italy have never used him as the focal point of their attack and as a result have never seen the best of him!

I fear that now we seem to be adopting the 3-5-2 (the formation he's used to at Udinese) he will not feature much because Cassano and Balotelli will be ahead of him in the pecking order.

Personally I'd like to see him start instead of Balotelli, but I can't see that happening. He's best chance is coming off the bench and doing the business
on the 8th June, 2012 at 8:49am
@ Adam
You are the biggest hater I have ever seen. You do not know anything, even on the Cassano blog you showed disrespect, you need to look at the stats of the last three seasons, Di Natale is a great forward and Cassano, who doesn't score loads of goals scored six goals in qualifying. Sorry to be rude but stop hating.
3-5-2
Gk Buffon
RCB- Bonucci
CB- Chiellini
LCB- Balzaretti
RWB- Maggio
CM- Pirlo
CM- De Rossi
CM- Nocerino
LM- Motta
STR- Cassano
STR- Balotelli
on the 8th June, 2012 at 8:42am
come on Adam and Garry a bit of positivety woudn't go a miss. Italy's spine of Buffon, Chiellini, De Rossi, Pirlo, Balotelli is very strong and not to be underestimated. Balotelli has obvious talent and has the potential to become one of the best strikers in world football. De Rossi is one of the best defensive midfielders in the game, Pirlo with his has been immense for Juventus this season and Chiellini is just a rock at the back. Lets back the boys - Forza Azzurri.
on the 8th June, 2012 at 1:18am
Toto has to start if we are going to play a 3-5-2 then he starts up front with ballotelli. my team- buffon bonucci de rossi chiellini maggio motta pirlo marchisio balzaretti di natale ballotelli. even a 3-4-3 like napoli we might use yet, di natale cassano ballotelli attack. we still have a strong team just need balance and i think we might surprise a few eams, keep the faith!!!! at least we are stronger than england.
on the 7th June, 2012 at 10:33pm
i believe di natale should start against spain maybe along aside cassano ,i agree id have took matri and pepe,also wouldnt play de rossi at the back got to be chiellini and bonucci ,de rossi sitting deep with pirlo just in front of him ....lets hope for the best forza ragazzi !!!!!!!
on the 7th June, 2012 at 8:31pm
Great Comments Adam! I've been promoting DiNatale for the last several years. Not just for his goal scoring but also for what he creates on the field. He has Pele'-Maradona qualities that get overlooked because of his low-key persona! He is the Real Deal!!!
on the 7th June, 2012 at 4:44pm
I agree with the Pepe and Matri shouts, surly Pepe ahead of Giacherini? for me prandelli should look at paolo Cannavaro or Zacardo if he is going for the three man defence? both have played it all season Zacardo has expirience of being involved in the world cup win although he wasnt great and scored a comical own goal its a shame he hasnt had a look in since as he has also won the bundesliga and done well for Parma
on the 7th June, 2012 at 3:59pm
He has yet to prove himself but I agree with most comments to start with Cassano and Balotelli I believe they both have something to prove in this Euro. If not then use Di Natalie if worst comes to worst. I think the squad will surprise against spain, it will be tough but anything is possible considering spain has many of their own injuries.
Forza Azzurri!
on the 7th June, 2012 at 3:31pm
Doesn't this just emphasize what a state the national team is in. Personally I'm just hoping we don't get too badly beaten in the opening game against Spain, this is the worst Italian side I can remember watching.
on the 7th June, 2012 at 3:04pm
Unfortonately, I agree with Adam:
2 loses and a draw to Ireland. I can see it crystal clear! I believe he didnt pick Pepe and Matri coz they'd be number 8th and 9th Juventino in the starting 11 ! Lippi mistake was his picks in attack, Prandelli doing almost the same mistake...I hope I am wrong!
on the 7th June, 2012 at 1:58pm
He is 34 years now, what more could he possibly contribute to the Nazionale at this age? Instead of Di Natale & Borini, I would have taken Matri & Panzini even in their poor state of form.
on the 7th June, 2012 at 1:27pm
i'd start with di natale and balotelli. di natale is surprisingly quick considering his age...
on the 7th June, 2012 at 1:24pm
You have to remember that both Donadoni and Lippi often fielded Toto on the left-hand side of a front 3; a position in which he is no where near as effective.

That said, I do suspect his mind-set when it comes to key moments-the penalty miss vs Spain, The penalty miss vs Arsenal in the champions league play-off, and the fact that chose not to play for Juve; being content to remain a big fish in a small pond at Udinese, instead of testing himself with a move to a big club.
on the 7th June, 2012 at 1:18pm
I agree with some comments, di natale should get the start.. And I dont think balotelli will lead this team on attack and cassano has his chance to prove he's an elite player.. That being said - Forza Azurri!!!
on the 7th June, 2012 at 12:57pm
We've seen him fail too many times for Italy. Balotelli is a great player. Cassano always puts in 100% for Italy. Giovinco could be the surprise package of the tournament. Let's use the 3 of them before we go back to Toto...
on the 7th June, 2012 at 12:14pm
Di Natale plays best with Udinese's attacking scheme. Azzuri's midfielders should give him many unexpected through balls when he is going to run. OR somebody should run into space when Di Natale hold the ball, as his creativity would easily release team mates who understand his intention.
on the 7th June, 2012 at 11:46am
If Italy play Cassano and Balotelli they wont score goals, not enough to get to the last 8 even, I can see this euro's being more of a disarster than the world cup 2010, time will tell if Prandelli has got it right but Italy are missing fire power Matri should have gone, whats the point in Borini? He and Giovinco will prob see 15 mins playing time, My prediction...

Spain
Croatia
Italy
Ireland

2 losses and a draw to Ireland
on the 7th June, 2012 at 11:39am
Di Natali is a good forward but, he has never been so with Azzuri's shirt. Cassano and Bollotelli should lead Italy attack.
on the 7th June, 2012 at 11:23am
Don't know about that, but he never impressed in La Nazionale.

I'm a believer of what they called 'club's player' and 'national's player' and I have always seen Di Natale as a club player.
on the 7th June, 2012 at 11:04am
Di Natalie needs to step up now! He has been class for Udinese who play 3-5-2?? so if Italy use this system and allow him to move around the pitch in the same way he does for Udinese surly he will get the chances? please Prandelli please use im from the off and give up on Cassano (all hype) and Balotelli (i will walk if abused) Di Natalie needs to start perhaps with one of the others. Italy need goals and he is the guy italy have turned too, therefore he cant fail.
on the 7th June, 2012 at 10:56am

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