For a player who was selected for both Euro 2012 and last summer’s Confederations Cup, Ignazio Abate’s place at the World Cup remains uncertain.
The adventurous full-back has had a tough campaign at Milan, with injuries limiting him to just 16 starts in Serie A. A continued series of niggles has prevented Abate from building up any consistency, while Milan Coach Clarence Seedorf currently prefers the more secure Daniele Bonera at right full-back.
It is a situation that will concern Abate, but the Campania native is still very much in contention for a place in Brazil. For a start, one of his direct opponents for a squad berth is Christian Maggio. The Napoli full-back has been out of action since March, after requiring emergency surgery on a collapsed lung.
Mattia De Sciglio, Abate’s Rossoneri teammate, has also endured a frustrating season. He’s featured just 13 times in Serie A and last started in the 1-1 draw against Lazio in March.
The other right-sided full-backs who are seemingly in with a chance of being selected are Sampdoria’s Lorenzo De Silvestri and Torino’s Mattia Darmian. Both were chosen for physical testing and have had strong seasons, but Abate would expect to have the edge over both in the final reckoning.
For Euro 2012, Prandelli picked both Abate and Maggio and did likewise for the Confederations Cup, with the versatile De Sciglio also included. If the tactician is to maintain his desire to select both a specialist right wing-back and right full-back, then Abate can be confident.
At the Euros, both he and Maggio played in three matches each, as Italy progressed to the final. Amongst his appearances at the tournament was an outstanding showing against England, who Italy will face this summer. Abate was also chosen for the crucial group stage victory over Republic of Ireland and the final defeat to Spain. At the Confederations Cup, it was a similar scenario, with Abate and Maggio again having three matches each.
Abate may not be as versatile as Cesare Prandelli would prefer, but he is unquestionably Italy’s best right full-back when on form. The experience he has gained with the Azzurri across the last two summers has been beneficial and his performances at both tournaments showcased his undoubted talent.
If he stays fit, Abate will surely be selected, but it is his physical condition that will have Prandelli wary. The tactician has been insistent that fitness will be absolutely key at the World Cup. His physical testing and training sessions have been designed to garner who is in the best possible shape.
Coming into the tournament on the back of a season where he has shown himself vulnerable to injury does not help Abate’s cause, while he has yet to manage 30 appearances in a Serie A campaign. It could be argued, however, that his infrequent playing time has left the 27-year-old fresh for the summer.
Either way, Prandelli wants his best players with him in Brazil and while the Coach will stay loyal to his instincts, Abate is surely amongst his preferred options.
Think you know your Italian football? Share your knowledge, tips and comments to win cash prizes in OLBG's tipster competition - £5,000 monthly.