Wednesday June 12 2013
Italy’s W-Under Kids

Currently impressing at the Under-21 European Championship, which of Devis Mangia’s Azzurrini squad could be looking at a World Cup adventure next year? Luca Cetta writes.

June is a busy month for Italy fans. The Confederations Cup is about to start, while the Under-21s have been impressing audiences in Israel. Devis Mangia’s Azzurrini are through to the last four of the European Championships following victories over England and the hosts, plus a draw with Norway.

We know not to overhype kids but it’s tantalising to see Italy’s future before your eyes. When Marco Verratti executes another fine cross-field pass or when Lorenzo Insigne curls in a free-kick you can’t help but be excited. To delve into the realms of Fantacalcio, it’s intriguing to look ahead to next June and think who could graduate to the Azzurri. A lot can happen in 12 months but hey, speculation is what this time of year is all about, right?

Not all the young brigade are in Israel, with Cesare Prandelli opting to include Milan trio Mario Balotelli, Stephan El Shaarawy and Mattia De Sciglio in his Brazilian travelling party. And were it not for the Championships, Prandelli says he would have taken more of Mangia’s squad to the Confederations Cup. “We gave up Marco Verratti because the U-21 European Championship is an important tournament. Without the championships in Israel then four of the players in that squad would be with us here right now.”

The Paris Saint-Germain midfielder and – presumably – Napoli attacker Insigne are two of the four who are part of the long-term plans. Two-cap player Alessandro Florenzi is another to have caught Prandelli’s eye, while Fabio Borini and club teammate Mattia Destro have been called up in the past year – the former at Euro 2012. Any of the trio could form the other pair.

While missing out on Brazil, the quintet are currently furthering their international development in a tournament atmosphere. No doubt Prandelli would have kept a close eye on the Azzurrini’s early matches and will remain in contact with Mangia. The Championships are a great opportunity to put a hand up for selection during the upcoming season. And Prandelli has shown he is not afraid to give younger players a chance. Aside from the aforementioned five, others will be knocking on the door

The weakest part of the squad is its defence. The goalkeepers are too raw and at the same time Salvatore Sirigu and Federico Marchetti are still serving their apprenticeship under Gianluigi Buffon. Only Giulio Donati and Marco Capuano have any meaningful top flight experience under their belt. Meanwhile, with the likes of Angelo Ogbonna and Andrea Ranocchia also seeking a spot with Prandelli, it’s unlikely this U-21 group will see Brazil. In addition, a player not selected in either squad, Davide Santon, will be aiming to stake his claim.

Further afield is where this Azzurrini shine. They are built to attack with flair. Attacking midfielder Riccardo Saponara, 21, epitomises this. He netted against Israel and has generally looked promising. According to Adriano Galliani, the Rossoneri will utilise a playmaker next term and are counting on their new signing: “We will play 4-3-1-2 with either Saponara or Kevin-Prince Boateng as trequartista.” It looks a long shot, but a big year could give Saponara a chance given Prandelli is crying out for a player in that role.

Luca Marrone is vastly experienced at this level and offers versatility, but is not a club regular, hampering any immediate Azzurri desires. His tournament unfortunately ended after one match, denying the opportunity to further impress, but his is a difficult task to displace members of a strong Azzurri midfield.

Striker Manolo Gabbiadini has made his mark on the tournament with a brace against the hosts. He is a promising talent, but needs regular playing time in his preferred position to reach the next level. His chance will likely arrive at Atalanta, where he is co-owned. First-choice for the Azzurrini, Ciro Immobile needs to start scoring frequently in Serie A. The strikers will be battling veteran Alberto Gilardino, who currently has a place in the squad.

One can’t help but feel excited by this current U-21 outfit following what has been a promising tournament to date. They now must negotiate the equally-strong Spanish or Dutch in order to emulate past Azzurrini sides and become European Champions. Come Brazil 2014, this group are sure to have their stamp on Prandelli’s squad.

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Have your say...
So true Elm, we are so retarded & cowardly when it comes to giving youth a chance. We have a great international record, but it could potentially have been even better, had we had more faith in our undoubtedly talented youngsters. Di Natale would have had 100 caps had he been born in another country.
on the 14th June, 2013 at 11:25am
Whilst i want to remain optimistic in regards to the U21's performances up to this point, i genuinly fear that half these players will simply fall off the radar due to lack of first team Serie A games of any significance whilst the remainder will probably debut at the age of 28 in the first team!This is what happens when one ploughs the leaugue with second rate players from abroad. Fingers crossed anyway.
on the 13th June, 2013 at 5:39pm
So Prandelli is now looking at a 4321. I've always liked this system and can remember really wanting Sacchi to use it in 1994: Baggio & Zola playing in behind Signori. If it succeeds this summer, then I'd love to see Cassano & Insigne supporting Balotelli: their movement & trickery will give defenders nightmares.
on the 13th June, 2013 at 12:21pm
Just watched the 2006 World Cup i believe some were in those u21 and some of senior squad is the next, del peiro, inzaghi, totti, grosso, Iaquinta and pirlo. While the world me be saying Spain this and that, will eventually end up beating the odds for another star
on the 13th June, 2013 at 11:30am
Don91, same here! Destro looked superb at Siena. He also really impressed me in the England friendly last August. There are mitigating factors though. His season has been affected by injury, by being in & out of the Roma side, being played out of position, (on the right flank), & now a clear lack of confidence. Hopefully next season he will not have to contend with these issues.
on the 13th June, 2013 at 10:46am
Needless to say, most of these guys have to get regular time in the Serie A if they stand of chance of playing for the Azzurri at Brazil 2014. I'd really like Gabbiadini and Insigne in the seniors. Same with Verratti and Florenzi.
on the 13th June, 2013 at 10:45am
I'd rather have seen u21 side at confeds cup as the senior side have been playing useless past couple games
on the 13th June, 2013 at 8:32am
De scigilio should have been given back to the under 21's he is not ready to be with the big squad, he has made many mistakes during his games and I understand Prandelli is giving him experience but all this preasure at a young age can scar a player especially in the defence position, mid fielders mistakes can be covered up as forwards.....I hope we see Antonio cassano next year as I believe his quality is sorely missed, again I understand Prandelli wants to give his younger talent a chance
on the 13th June, 2013 at 12:01am
Anyone else slightly dissappointed at the progression of Destro?

When I saw him a year ago I though he is our next world class striker but he seems to have had a poor season with Roma and not impressed too much with the u-21s
on the 12th June, 2013 at 4:25pm
Whilst its difficult not to get excited about the U21's they have played some excellent football, but like I have stated before the step up to full international is a big step. Its naïve to think that we could dump many of this side in to The Azzurri. Having said that I only watched the last 1/4 of the Haiti match yesterday and though I never worry about friendly pre-tournament results the performance was poor. Forza Azzurri & Azzurini
on the 12th June, 2013 at 3:37pm
as of right now, the most likely prandelli choices to be included in the squad for WC in brazil are florenzi & verratti. then, i'd imagine he will pick one or two more from the list of insigne, destro, borini or gabbiadini. the senior squad prandelli already has available now is pretty much your top italian players. hard to imagine that the squad could get any more stronger then it is. the rest are reinforcements.
on the 12th June, 2013 at 3:06pm
Sometime I wonder why does the national team have to put up with characters like Balotelli and Cassano when you have so many world-class players in the U-21 side.
on the 12th June, 2013 at 2:59pm
The Italian youth are doing great things at the U-21 tournament. I've found myself enjoying their matches more than the recent Azzurri performances lately. After the 2010 World Cup all of Italy was terrified for the future of Calcio, but it must be said now that the future looks very promising indeed

Forza Azzurrini
on the 12th June, 2013 at 1:51pm
I think the main thing about the U21s is the hunger they have shown which is exemplified by their willingness to move the ball quickly and stick to the basics. Compare this with the senior side where the attacks are slow and players are taking too many touches on the ball. Speed is the key at all levels and I really hope that the U21s keep their hunger and the senior side wake up in time for dinner!
on the 12th June, 2013 at 1:49pm
They have impressed against poor opposition.

Will be much tougher against either Spain or the Netherlands.

I would like to see Saponara get regular playing time at Milan next season.
on the 12th June, 2013 at 1:10pm
Prandelli should take the Under-21's, and pepper in some of the seniors, not the other way around. Sure, call it naive and inexperienced, but the passion, flair, attacking ability and attacking 'VOGLIA' the Under 21's have is worth the risk. Perhaps central defenders from senior, Buffon and some subs. It would stir up a hornets nest, but I just the way the Under 21's go about their matches is refreshing - no ego's or complacencies set in... a real joy to watch.
on the 12th June, 2013 at 1:02pm

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