Monday June 2 2014
Picking apart Prandelli’s squad

Cesare Prandelli’s Italy 23 has sparked debate, so Livio Caferoglu runs through the potential reasoning for the World Cup

We live in a day and age where cynicism rules king. Rarely has the Azzurri satisfied the wants and needs of her supporters, and since the debacle of 2010, they have become accustomed to picking holes at any given opening. It’s the baggage that comes with expectancy.

First, we had the notable exclusions of Francesco Totti, Domenico Criscito, Emanuele Giaccherini and, to a lesser extent, Alessandro Florenzi. A second bout of objections returned when Giuseppe Rossi’s omission from the final cut and Marco Verratti’s inclusion - seen as a direct consequence of an injury to Riccardo Montolivo - were confirmed. In the midst of all this, though, Cesare Prandelli was busy looking at the bigger picture.

The Fiorentina forward had defied all the odds to bounce back from a latest knee injury that had kept him out between January and April of this year, by ending the campaign with 17 goals. On the flip side, almost half of his strikes came from the penalty spot, even prior to his setback. His fitness was always likely to be a race against time, and judging by his anonymous display against Republic of Ireland, others may be better suited in his place.

Injury got the better of Milan midfielder Montolivo, who broke his leg in the opening stages of the stalemate at Craven Cottage. In his subsequent absence against the Irish, it was Verratti that looked to stake his claim in the Nazionale set-up. Always looking to nip at an opponent’s heels with a youthful exuberance, he kept things ticking over by releasing the ball quickly and intuitively – a facet of Italy’s play that is sorely lacking in Andrea Pirlo’s absence.

As for the aforementioned quartet, Totti was never a serious contender for a place on the plane to Brazil due to his self-imposed exile. Meanwhile, Criscito toiled in a turbulent season with Zenit St Petersburg, while Giaccherini’s role at Sunderland has dwindled in recent months. The argument that Italy only attend international tournaments with experienced personnel falls flat, however, when discussing the case for Florenzi.

Looking back at Prandelli’s selection, there are three key areas which have mustered scrutiny – the lack of left-back cover, the overload of central midfielders and the absence of a recognised trequartista.

Thanks to Italy’s goalkeeping expertise, Gianluigi Buffon, Salvatore Sirigu and Mattia Perin pick themselves. Central defence is also well-stocked through the great Juventus wall of Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Barzagli and Leonardo Bonucci, and complementing them is Gabriel Paletta, who deservedly takes his place as cover after continuing to look as rugged and robust as an Italy defender should be. Four centre-backs are sufficient, regardless of what formation Prandelli utilises.

At right-back, Ignazio Abate has cemented the position and will look to offer much-needed width on the counterattack. The problems then begin to emerge at left-back, where Mattia De Sciglio is the only player capable of filling such a berth, despite being most comfortable on the opposing flank. Matteo Darmian was one of 2013-14’s surprise packages and may be a jack of all trades in his ability to play anywhere at the back, but would an even out-of-sorts Criscito perform better as a natural left-sider?

Prandelli has garnered criticism for his handling of Verratti, but that should all be forgotten with the Paris Saint-Germain man’s inclusion. Eight midfielders have been named in total, and it is this area of the pitch that Italy’s functionality is most crucial. Marco Parolo did a lot of running on Sunday but offered little penetration, as did Claudio Marchisio. The same applies for Thiago Motta, who can stunt teams efficiently yet becomes obsolete when Daniele De Rossi is on the pitch.

It’s a sin that Prandelli has regularly committed in his four-year reign. The Roma midfielder’s incredible versatility allows him a free role of sorts, playing anywhere through the middle, between both boxes. Thus, he provides the best foil and protection for Pirlo to pull the strings, and Verratti now looks to be the missing part of the jigsaw. The uncertainty over the position explains Alberto Aquilani’s inclusion. Barring Pirlo, the Fiorentina star is Italy’s highest-scoring midfielder and has proved to supplement a playmaker like Pirlo in Borja Valero for the past two seasons.

Romulo may feel slightly unfortunate at not being handed a place in the 23. The Brazil-born ace is arguably the closest substitute to De Rossi in terms of playing style, albeit starting further up the pitch, but exhibits similar attributes which make the Roma star such an invaluable commodity. He could have occupied both of Parolo’s and Aquilani’s spots to cater for Rossi’s inclusion. It appears his lack of fitness and his honesty were his undoing.

In attack, Mario Balotelli’s status remains intact, although Ciro Immobile is doing his utmost to dislodge him. Mattia Destro may be Italy’s most clinical finisher in 2014, but he is unsuitable for the role of target-man. Elsewhere, Lorenzo Insigne and Antonio Cassano have been entrusted with the creative flair in and around the opposition box, while ‘wingers’ Antonio Candreva and Alessio Cerci are two of the most direct runners on the ball on the peninsula. There is no magician a la Totti this time around, but there hasn’t been for the past eight years.

The fans are no nearer to guessing the side that Prandelli will name against England on June 14, but the man himself knows. While he may have banked on flexibility over individual quality in South America, rest assured that the Coach has picked the team he has deemed most suitable for a World Cup tilt.

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Have your say...
On another note about Lippi, on the road to the world cup 2006, Italy was undefeated 23 games which included qualifiers and friendlies. He went with 6 forwards to that world cup.also with 4/4/2 -- 4/1/4/1 -- 4/4/1/1 formations and in certain games he'd use all 3 formations in a single game. Not bad!.......
on the 5th June, 2014 at 12:18am
I agree with Interista23 on his quote and also Anonymous on Cigarini instead of Aquilani.People lets not forget CP has a soft spot for Fiorentia players and Ex Fiorentina players [Montolivo]. And for this type of roster 3/5/2 or 3/4/2/1 with 8 Mids these 2 formations would be great to our disposal.....not to mention 2 support strikers on the 3421 formation that could act as mids also. JUST A THOUGHT....
on the 4th June, 2014 at 8:38pm
Cassano was different class Saturday.Opened up Ireland and was the missing creative player we were missing.
Him with Balo starting against England is a must.

Rossi has something like 7 goals in 30 games for Italy.
Not great.
on the 4th June, 2014 at 1:09pm
...He has very little if any Champion's League experience and he has never played in a major tournament before so I really can't understand why so many people think he would have been Italy's saviour had he been called. The best forward partnership is Cassano + Balo, and I question why CP has decided not to call Cassano for any of the qualifying games. I'm concerned about the exclusion of Destro because though still unexperienced he had a superb season with Roma and is younger than Rossi.
on the 4th June, 2014 at 10:25am
I an not a big fan of CP but credit where is due; he was right not to call Rossi. All those crying over Rossi's exclusion and saying that he's Italy's best forward should think more before they speak. While I agree he is a good forward he remains as unproved as most of the forwards called. His potential has always been hampared by injuries and he's too injury prone to call especially when still not full fit. The lad never played with continuity at club level, let alone with Italy....
on the 4th June, 2014 at 10:22am
This squad is strong and I think we have a good chance at the WC. Keeper is world class, midfield is world class and Balo has potential to be world class. Only issue is the full backs. I know he'll play 4312 but personally, I'd play 352. Forza Italia ****?
on the 3rd June, 2014 at 8:11pm
great to hear informed comments from the readers of this blog.
Some lessons for CP to learn from Lippi's triumph in 2006:
1- It's about the team and team spirit, Lippi used all his outfield players and goalscoring duties were shared.
2- Strong defense is key, in 2006 we conceded just 2 goals, an own-goal and a pen.
3- Tactically you have to trust your own game and try to impose your style of play at all phases of play, always go for the killer goal, e.g. in S-F vs Germany.
on the 3rd June, 2014 at 12:45pm
My team against England would be:

Abate, Bonucci, Chiellini, De Sciglio
Pirlo, Verratti, De Rossi

I would inject Cassano probably for Insigne in 2H.

Reason both Insigne and Abate are fast players and England need to know that. Pirlo and Verratti can play together and we would have 2 excellent playmakers and MV is also good in defending.

We would have 3 very good free kick specialists.

England think they are already through with Uruguay. Lets ruin their party.
on the 3rd June, 2014 at 12:41pm
My team against England would be:

Abate, Bonucci, Chiellini, De Sciglio
Pirlo, Verratti, De Rossi

I would inject Cassano probably for Insigne in 2H.

Reason both Insigne and Abate are fast players and England need to know that. Pirlo and Verratti can play together and we would have 2 excellent playmakers and MV is also good in defending.

We would have 3 very good free kick specialists.

England think they are already through with Uruguay. Lets ruin their party.
on the 3rd June, 2014 at 12:41pm
Rossi, with his volleyed pass out wide on Saturday, got the biggest cheer during the first half. Thought he was going just based on that. Saw another article which said if we're struggling, wouldn't you like to see him from the bench?
on the 3rd June, 2014 at 8:33am
Its a good squad and finally there is a coach in Italy that select on merit rather than name.Rossi omission can be argued,but the coaches know his physical fitness I like Rossi but his omission is not something of a surprise.He is on and off and physically he is not alway in top shape.What Italians need to understand is that names dont bring you success and the team flying to Brazil is hungry.Those new additions will add desire to the team.Rather than those old legs!
on the 3rd June, 2014 at 8:15am
The article mentions lack of a trequartista. Well, it has been a long term problem for italian ftbl not just Azzurri, since the golden days of Baggio, Zola, Mancini, Totti, ADP, etc. one can argue Verratti or Insigne can perform that role but strictly speaking, Insigne is better suited to 4-3-3 and Verratti can be used -and yes even with Pirlo- in an advanced role in either 4-3-2-1 or 4-3-1-2 system. Having said that, it's pretty clear Verratti's long term position is regista, i.e replace Pirlo.
on the 3rd June, 2014 at 8:09am
The only area for scrutiny in CP's selection is personnel..think Ranocchia/ Ogbonna in place of Bonucci; Santon/ Criscito instead of Darmian; at least one of Florenzi and Giacch should v been in; Verratti's place should never be up for debate; in attack two Torino forwards is one too many. Rossi is our best attacker when fit but only CP knows exctly why he wasn't selected..Rossi n his agent meanwhile should accept the decision n stop showing discontent via media..for me Berardi can b the future.
on the 3rd June, 2014 at 7:58am
TO you took words out of my mouth. Take Rossi,insigne, and Casano. Insigne and Cerci could of played attacking midfielder and provide a spark as last resort. . I did not know Aqualani had a concussion as he plays the same way when unhurt ( not trying to be funny). I think with Balotelli on pitch is going to make everyone better. He has not played for azzurri last few friendlies
on the 3rd June, 2014 at 3:32am
Its been a while since ive really got into the Azzurri, kinda hard to follow in Oz, but i tell you what, imagine if El Shaarawy's season wasnt interupted by injury and Rossi was fit and firing, those blokes are big outs for mine, but the WC gives the unlikely ones a stage to suprise see: Rossi and Schillaci.

Bring it on!!
on the 3rd June, 2014 at 3:24am
pardon my ignorence but why do we have to bring 3 keepers to the WC? Mamma mia, lets be honest the 3rd keeper is going to just warm up the bench and cut oranges the whole time.
on the 3rd June, 2014 at 3:13am
When Montolivo unfortunately went down Prandelli had an opportunity to replace him with either Rossi (who probably would have recovered fully) or a better quality midfielder. Sadly he has decided to fill that spot with Aquilani yet again! It's such a waste and I hate to say it, Prandelli is going to rue that decision! I hope I'm wrong!
on the 3rd June, 2014 at 2:00am
My starting line up versus England:


Abate Bonucci Chiellini De Sciglio

De Rossi Pirlo Marchisio

Cerci Cassano

on the 2nd June, 2014 at 11:21pm
I hadn't appreciated when I first looked at the squad that we had 8 midfielders. I can't see what Aquilani offers. In recent seasons he even seems to have lost the ability to shoot which used to be one of his only strengths! It seems De Sciglio is set to be our left back with Chiellini covering. I think Pasqual offered a natural left back option and is quite solid. All in all I agree with the article. The omission of Rossi is the biggest gamble.
on the 2nd June, 2014 at 11:19pm
@ Jenkins You must be really angry he got us to the final of the Euros. You're right lets fire him now.....
on the 2nd June, 2014 at 11:11pm
Why is Insigne on this team? One good game all year and he is our next Baggio. Destro was much better scroring at a great rate all year. Darmian, Parolo, were never part of this team now they are on the 23 man squad. What incensed me was that Prandelli chose Romulo not even aware of his fitness. As for fitness they were run off the field by the Irish. Terrible display by the Azzurri on Saturday. Marchisio and Motta were awful invisible as always. Skilled players like Totti nowhere to be found...
on the 2nd June, 2014 at 10:30pm
Terrible blog- Rossi was the best striker in Italy before his injury- how you can put him down because he was injured is beyond me. Perin did not deserve to be there overrated. Paletta was awful on Saturday as was the whole team other than Cassano and Sirigu. Prandelli is totally disorganized does not invite Cassano for 2 years now he is Number 10- Totti should have been there as well. Destro is an obvious sub for the inconsistent Balo. Who has the central striker skills other than Balo? 1/2
on the 2nd June, 2014 at 10:23pm
Its sad that monto is injured but lets be honest most of us have sat over the last 3 months wanting him not to be picked. We talk about aquilani but what about motta- hes complete- rubbish! How he gets in is beyond me! 8 midfielders- bet we dont see verratti at all, which would be scandalous, CP talks to much and actions very little. Balo, motta, aquilani, should have all been left at home, rossi shouldnt have even made the 30- injured is injured simple! Destro, cigarini, romulo should be in!
on the 2nd June, 2014 at 10:04pm
Destro left at home- so we are subjected with balo, moody, fades in every single game, and has been poor all season! Stop banging on about rossi- apart from the fact hes as delicate as a wafer biscuit, ppl exagerate how good he actually is- hes as overated as balotelli, creates nothing hes another who doesnt know if hes a striker or a playmaker, and he doesnt do a great job at either- but hes better than balo! Immob needs service- hes a striker, he doesnt wonder off to neverland like balo!
on the 2nd June, 2014 at 9:56pm
The man must have something up his sleeves by including Insigne and Cerci and I'm down for Cassano. If italy play with a 3 man back who will playing in left midfield?, Marchisio, De Sciglio, Insigne, Parolo? Or do you think he will dare to play a 433/ 451 or 4231 with Insigne/ Cerci?
on the 2nd June, 2014 at 9:40pm
Monti's absence is a blessing, he never performs in the big games, and I wouldn't worry bout Aquilani, so long as the others play well he wont get near the pitch. As for the back, Italy doesn't produce world class defenders anymore, we already know this, so its essential to maximise the attack, hence the extra midfielder. This squad's strength is the MF, the large group CP has picked provide the widest array of options possible. Don't get hung up on Balo, my moneys on Immobile.FORZA AZZURRI!!!
on the 2nd June, 2014 at 9:32pm
Lor your cooked! Like Acquilani, Marchisio is a total waste of time & energy (something he does not have)After this WC I may be defecting because I just don't understand how Marchisio and Acquilani are in any national side let alone an Italian one!
on the 2nd June, 2014 at 9:23pm
I don't understand Cassano over Rossi. Aside from the fact that he scored less goals (16-12), Cassano also missed 2 huge PK's for Parma down the stretch. Rossi would have been perfect off the bench to spark the team. As a Napoli fan, I'm happy for Insigne, but I can't see him doing much if he even plays.Our hopes will rest on rest on Balo & Immobile.
on the 2nd June, 2014 at 9:17pm
I have a feeling he is going for the Christmas tree formation. 4-3-2-1

De Sciglio
De Rossi
on the 2nd June, 2014 at 8:59pm
My friends, 2 things are going to finally happen after this Tournament is over:

1. No one will ever speak about Balotelli again

2. Prandelli will be the most Hated man in our country (Italy).

Forza Azzurri anyway
on the 2nd June, 2014 at 8:26pm

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