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Friday October 12 2012
The Count of Monte Criscito

After a summer spent under suspicion, Domenico Criscito is back in the Italy team and in the form of his life. Scott Fleming writes.

Recalling Domenico Criscito to the Italy squad last Sunday was, according to Cesare Prandelli, an easy decision to make. “A very easy one.” Easy is not an adjective you could apply to the last four months of Criscito's life though.

The target of a dawn raid at Coverciano in late May, Mimmo was handed an official notice of investigation by police probing the Calcioscommesse match fixing scandal, and consequently excluded from the Azzurri's Euro 2012 squad a matter of days before the tournament began.

“I am not taking Criscito because he would have been under pressure which no human being can bear,” Prandelli reasoned at the time.

As he watched Italy and his replacement Federico Balzaretti being lavished with acclaim on their way to the Final in Kiev, the grainy image of him stood in a restaurant car park with former Genoa colleague Giuseppe Sculli and some rather dodgy characters implicated in the scandal – an image his agent claimed the entire case against him was built upon – was splashed all over the media.

The Zenit St Petersburg full-back then flew out from Russia in mid-July to appear before the FIGC's disciplinary commission in Rome, only to be told they had no further questions for him. Then, precisely a month ago, on the same day that La Nazionale faced Malta, he was finally exonerated, the case dismissed due to lack of evidence.

“I am very happy, as this is a good day for me,” said the former Juventus stopper. “At the same time I remain very angry at losing the chance to go to the Euros. If I had gone to Poland I would have been able to put that nightmare immediately behind me. Instead I spent months in hell.”

Given those comments, you might expect the rapport between Criscito, Prandelli and the FIGC to be frostier than winter in St Petersburg. But despite likening himself to the Count of Monte Cristo in an earlier interview, the 25-year-old isn't out for vengeance.

“I don't consider this call-up revenge,” he stated on Tuesday. “Rather a recognition of what I am as a player.”

Indeed he hasn't just returned to the squad, if reports are to be believed he's returned to the starting line-up for tonight’s World Cup qualifier in Armenia, edging out Balzaretti. If that is the case, then it isn't a sympathy vote, nor a welcome back gesture from Prandelli. Because during those 'months in hell' that he described, Criscito somehow managed to produce some of the best football of his career.

In August, during the biggest club game Russian football has to offer, Spartak Moscow were awarded a penalty against Zenit. In an amazing sequence of play the penalty was saved, the rebound blocked on the line, and a goal scored up the other end. Both the block and the assist for the Zenit goal were provided by Criscito. Luciano Spalletti's side went on to win 5-0, the Italian left-back playing a big part in three of the goals.

All sorts of words will be thrown around when Criscito takes the field at the Hrazdan Stadium in Yerevan, redemption and revenge among them. More important than any of that however, is the fact that Italy have recovered a very fine player. 

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Have your say...
Best thing that ever happened to italian soccer and its 's players is the economic downturn, finally we get to see italy's budding stars get some playing time and strut their stuff, The Count is a solid player going forward and defensively, I am not a big fan of Maggio as he is a liability defensively for italy, with the count back with italy this just makes us stronger and improves our quality, I like what I see in italy as teams are finally giving youth a chance
on the 14th December, 2012 at 3:47am
Well done to the under 21s its unlucky we only scored one goal, but a clean sheet and hopefully we can finish the job in Swedan on tuesday. Swedan will have to come at us, we have to exploit this and be a little bit more clinical in front of goal and we should hopefully put them to bed. Immobile is knocking on the door Prandelli.
on the 13th October, 2012 at 6:59am
Once again Giovinco fails on the international stage, when is Prandelli going to get the message. Hopefully have Balotelli back on Tuesday to start with Osvaldo. Pirlo was impressive last night unlike the recent article on here. Would like to see Verratti get some playing time with Denmark if possible depending how the game goes. Bulgaria s drew with Denmark is a good result for us. The Czechs may turn out to be our biggest threat. Prandellis says its a hard group, its a decent group.
on the 13th October, 2012 at 6:56am
As a defender Chiellini is the best in Italy and can play any position in the back line. But as LB Criscito has the edge. More offensive skills, and can run for pace. The key for this Italian team is to find a RB as Maggio is terrible.
on the 12th October, 2012 at 9:51pm
Prandelli called it a great performance? Going forward we where good and could have scored more goals but defensively very worrying, although with the defence we had out not that surprising. Id love to see in defense Chiellini and Roncaglia playing and Abate or Cassani also. Although Maggio had a decent game. Bonucci makes to many mistakes, if it werent for Gigi we would have conceded a few goals. The Armenia goal was a disgrace shouldnt have been allowed the rules are clear.
on the 12th October, 2012 at 7:14pm
I'm a Juve fan but have to admit, it's a great shout to drop Chiellini to the bench. He's a good defender, but awful on the ball and certainly no left back. I like Balzaretti as he's fantastic going forward. Criscito does the same but can also defend. Lets see what's happens
on the 12th October, 2012 at 4:11pm
Its great to see Criscito back where he belongs, he is a quality LB and in Italy there is no one better, and a product of the Juventus Youth System and anyone who thinks Chiellini is a better LB know nothing about football, Italys starting full backs should be Abate and Criscito with Santon and De Sciglio right behind them, its time for us to start using our young and very talented players such as Stephan El Shaarawy, Destro, Verratti and Borini against weaker nations. FORZA AZZURRI!!!
on the 12th October, 2012 at 4:04pm
Guys, Mustafa hates anything non Juve. He has no soccer credibilty or knowledge. He'd take big bird over Criscito if the bird wore a Juve jersey.
on the 12th October, 2012 at 2:23pm
I've not been watching him this season but I understand he's been in brilliant form for Zenit. Maybe his promise is finally starting to come through, I remember being frustrated watching him play for Juve and especially at the World Cup in 2010 but hopefully he's now at that stage in his career where he can kick on and show the world what people once raved about. A very promising young player at LB & an option at CB too, lets give him the chance to shine.
on the 12th October, 2012 at 2:18pm
Mustafa, Criscito is not average, no way!

As for Chiellini, sure, he is better as a centre back, much better. But Criscito is a better left back, because he is stronger going forward, whilst being sound defensively.

For me, Maggio is an average right back. Has he ever had a good game for Italy. He is fine at Napoli, when used as a wing back. For Italy, his defending has been shambolic, going forward he lacks a little composure, and his final ball needs to be better.
on the 12th October, 2012 at 12:42pm
Far from Average Mustafa......if he was playing for one of the European big guns he would be hailed as possibly the best in the business at left back.

He has also been very consistent for Italy and was missed during the Euros even with Balza having a good tournament

How many other quality Italian left backs are playing regular champions league football at the moment?

Forza Azzuri!!
on the 12th October, 2012 at 12:33pm
I like the title.

But, I prefer to see Chiellini than him. He is average and nothing more.
on the 12th October, 2012 at 10:59am

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