Pablo Daniel Osvaldo will always divide opinion. His unpredictable nature is both a strength and a weakness. It is deeply frustrating that a player who is capable of producing incredible moments of brilliance so easily lets himself down with bizarre episodes of petulance. For every overhead kick or brilliant solo effort, there is an ill-advised tweet on training ground bust up. In a tournament situation where a team’s fate can often be decided in an instant, Italy Coach Cesare Prandelli must decide whether Osvaldo is worth the risk.
At his best, the 28 year-old is a smart finisher, who links well with the right strike partner. Unfortunately for Osvaldo, his best has too often failed to materialise this season. A tough spell at Southampton yielded just three goals in 13 appearances, while he’s netted just twice in the Europa League for Juventus, who he joined in January after a training ground bust-up with defender Jose Fonte.
Osvaldo’s dip in form is ill-timed, with many of his World Cup competitors enjoying excellent campaigns. This season, 11 Italian forwards have netted 12 goals or more in Serie A. Of those, Ciro Immobile, Giuseppe Rossi, Domenico Berardi, Mattia Destro, Antonio Cassano, Alberto Gilardino, Alessio Cerci and Mario Balotelli, plus Lorenzo Insigne, are in contention for a World Cup berth.
Prandelli took five forwards to both Euro 2012 and the 2013 Confederations Cup and will likely select a similar amount once more. If we assume Balotelli is guaranteed a spot, then Osvaldo is fighting with eight players - most of whom are younger and in better form - for four places. The odds don’t favour the Buenos Aires native, nor does his record with the Azzurri.
Osvaldo has netted a reasonable four goals in 12 appearances at international level, the last of which came in a 2-2 draw with Denmark. He’s best known, however, for his role in the reverse fixture, where he was foolishly sent off 16 seconds into the second half for lashing out at Nicolai Stokholm. Italy went on to win the match 3-1, but it did little to show he can control himself in big matches.
Prandelli brought Osvaldo back into the squad after his suspension, but come the Confederations Cup, he was out again, this time for openly criticising the then Roma Coach Aurelio Andreazzoli, after the Coppa Italia Final defeat to Lazio, and refusing to pick up his runners-up medal that day.
Osvaldo had enjoyed an excellent 2012-13 season, scoring 16 goals. The Confederations Cup was a chance to show Prandelli that he can be a top level forward, but he blew it. Had Osvaldo taken that opportunity, then he may have had a better argument to put forward for the World Cup. Instead, his chances seem slim. Prandelli has a multitude of more reliable, more in form forwards to chose from, many of whom will be part of his long-term thinking.
Osvaldo’s inclusion in Italy’s most recent fixture - a friendly defeat to Spain - suggests he will be considered by Prandelli, but whether memories of his outstanding overhead kick against Catania or wonderful solo effort for Southampton in a draw with Manchester City can outweigh his questionable attitude and poor form remains to be seen.
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