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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...
Macs,

Your comparisons with top class players are uncalled for and out of place.

* "Cerci a wildcard (13 goals/12 assists Robben type). Insigne a raw talent much like a young Baggio or Del Piero with speed." *
on the 2nd June, 2014 at 8:24pm
I can't believe cerci has been picked! Aquilani isn't much better! Even Rossi injured is better than both of them together! Apart from that I'm 100% with prandelli! But maybe we should have taken a goal poacher like Toni! Maybe if he was a few years younger!

Forza Italia
on the 2nd June, 2014 at 8:07pm
Montolivo did not start any group games at Euro 2012. He played in the knock out games but other than the england game was subbed soon after half time. He was in& out of the team in the confed cup. So it's a blow but Pirlo, De Rossi and Marchisio are much more critical to Prandelli's team. Not sure I like the abuse aimed at Mr P. Don't agree with everything but 100% trust he knows what he is doing. At the end of the day our success will depend on SUPER Mario and fantonio bringing their A game!a
on the 2nd June, 2014 at 7:45pm
@Suffolk Eyetie

Leave Mario at home? lol.. yes that would make a lot of sense.
on the 2nd June, 2014 at 7:33pm
Pradelli made good choices, however I dont agree with many choices .Italy need calssic striker the one like inzaghi, Veiri, Toni etc..
Rossi or at least Destro should have been included.
all attacker are not classic forward includin ciro and balo.
other thing since Prandelli like ROMBO and no Totti the squad should have included Diamnti.
some players no need for them Like Aquilani and Parolo other options will be better.
last point why to go without real left back and try to creat one
on the 2nd June, 2014 at 7:25pm
Leaving out Rossi is a brave decision by Prandelli as he is probably Italy's most accomplished striker.
If it's true that Rossi's fitness and form are good, then you can only imagine that Prandelli doesn't see him as fitting into his team.
I believe that it was Immobile rather than Insigne who kept Rossi out as the latter is more of a left winger.
Immobile has a lot to do to convince me that he was the better pick.
on the 2nd June, 2014 at 7:12pm
I cant believe what I have read about Romulo. He has the chance to go the world cup and tells prandelli he is only 70% fit so feels he should give up his place. Pathetic, even at 70% he is a far better option than Aquiliani. With Montolivos injury and Romulo request the gods must be shining on Aquiliani. There was no one else to take in the squad. He should never nave been in the 30 never mind 23, florenzi should have gone. Rossi we love you. Cesare is a clueless *****
on the 2nd June, 2014 at 7:05pm
Funny how different people view matches. Can't agree with article as Marchisio was one of the bright points. I would have taken Rossi as I feel he would have improved with fitness but only the Medical staff know his true fitness. It takes a brave manager to persist with Mario but a braver one to leave him at home. I still feel he is worth the risk. Varratti deserved his place as did Darmian. The squad was as expected with no real shock with most people choosing at least 20 of the 23 in the squad
on the 2nd June, 2014 at 7:03pm
Rossi's exclusion is deserving of only a passing reference? A ridiculous omission. I can almost buy that Isigne is Cassano's relief as a creator on the left (although Balo can also play that role with either rossi-imobile central). But inexcusable is bringing 8 mids, when two are Parolo and Aqui, at the expense of Rossi. The latter, specifically, is useless and actively hurts the team when on the pitch. In a pinch, you have cerci and isigne that can play in the 'mid.' Aqui for rossi is a joke
on the 2nd June, 2014 at 6:59pm
I like Prandelli. Cerci & Immobile do not look ready for the Azzurri. I would have still taken both, as young players given their club form. Rossi, should have gone for what he can contribute. He is intelligent and has great quality, and will only get stronger physically. I would've taken him over a midfielder and Criscito. De Sciglio showed against Ireland he cant cross a ball with his left foot, and had plenty of ball, not a good sign. Good article well written!
on the 2nd June, 2014 at 6:21pm
Buffon
Abate
Chiellini
Barzagli
De Sciglio
De Rossi
Pirlo
Marchisio
Verratti
Cassano
Balotelli
Looks to be the most likely starting 11 as described by the article.

Cannot understand the logic of giving Rossi 70 minutes to prove his fitness if CP wasn't going to take him.
on the 2nd June, 2014 at 6:21pm
The great juventus wall...that concedes one goal per game in the national side..I think its the juventus midfield wall that saves Barzagli - old slow and clumsy. His aerial presence is shocking. He is fortunate to be there other than his experience. Chiellini is not that much better. A little younger, slow and cynical. Its the defence that worries me I am afraid to say, as shown last year in the Confed Cup. The rest I am happy with.
on the 2nd June, 2014 at 6:20pm
One door closes as another door opens ! I watched the game live in London v Ireland and thought that sirgu verratti and palleta were the best. They showed there class and along with the right line up should be ok . We need pace upfront and on the flanks . Cerci should play against england . Forza Italia good luck
on the 2nd June, 2014 at 5:56pm
Excluding Giuseppe Rossi was a mistake.
Francesco Totti would have been a player I'd have wanted to see again. If it weren't for his ego, he probably would have played.
Sometimes, it's best to "shut=up & put-up!"

Forza AZZURRI!
on the 2nd June, 2014 at 5:40pm
Excluding Giuseppe Rossi was a mistake.
Francesco Totti would have been a player I'd have wanted to see again. If it weren't for his ego, he probably would have played.
Sometimes, it's best to "shut=up & put-up!"

Forza AZZURRI!
on the 2nd June, 2014 at 5:40pm
Marc F...
Montolivo has always done well with the Azzuri??? You and CP are the only 2 people in the world who think that. Unless you mean he has always done well for the opposition
on the 2nd June, 2014 at 5:11pm
There is no reason why we cant play with both Pirlo and Verratti both on the field. With both them on we should be able to keep control of the ball a lot more and thats what you need in the heat. Id like to see 3-5-2.
on the 2nd June, 2014 at 4:45pm
i agree with you marc the other blog most ppl dont seem to understand that losing him is a huge blow hes the only real link between midfield and attack its a massive loss,personally i would play verratti behind a front two of cassano and balotelli cassano movement off of the ball causes huge problems for defenders because he wants to run the channel while balo will run in behind you cant play verratti where pirlo plays hes two small and light weight and doesnt have the range of passes from there
on the 2nd June, 2014 at 4:42pm
I wouldn't call missing Montolivio a blow ,rather a misfortune . He wasn't enjoying a good season with Milan and never was able to deliver on big occasions .However Rossi's exclusion was more of a sad news .Rossi always proved his ability to score goals . Our best attackers are Balotelli and Cassano .Both are hot-heads ,unpredictable and moody characters that may give you a good performance one day and totally screw up the next day . B3ei
on the 2nd June, 2014 at 3:57pm
Prandelli picked a squad with difference makers like Cassano, Verratti, Insigne. The Azzurri are going to play exciting football. Chiellini is the substitute left back.
on the 2nd June, 2014 at 3:52pm
I'm pretty comfortable with this selection, perhaps barring the Rossi exclusion. Criscito has always been a nearly man, judging by what Darmian gave on Saturday, he is a much more enthusiastic option. As always, with Italy - we have the tactical and technical ability, but motivation and determination might get the better of them. Watch Marchisio this world cup...
on the 2nd June, 2014 at 3:52pm
I'm not over the moon about Aquilani being anywhere near the squad. Although he played well in the Euro 2008 QF against Spain, he's never impressed since. I assumed he was picked due to the injuries to Montolivo and Romulo.
I'm happy Verratti got the nod. He was busy, linked the play well, and gave a bit of urgency in possession on Saturday. Whilst it's a shame for Rossi, I'm most pleased with Cassano's inclusion who's sharp and can make the difference in a game.
Forza Azzurri!
on the 2nd June, 2014 at 3:30pm
I'm not over the moon about Aquilani being anywhere near the squad. Although he played well in the Euro 2008 QF against Spain, he's never impressed since. I assumed he was picked due to the injuries to Montolivo and Romulo.
I'm happy Verratti got the nod. He was busy, linked the play well, and gave a bit of urgency in possession on Saturday. Whilst it's a shame for Rossi, I'm most pleased with Cassano's inclusion who's sharp and can make the difference in a game.
Forza Azzurri!
on the 2nd June, 2014 at 3:29pm
As for Rossi I am a big fan. But I believe Cesare made the right choice. Let him recover, because with out a doubt the will be in the Euro squad. The Italians are really a different team. This will be a good starting point for them. Let them mold and bind together so we can get the 5th and 6th star on our jersey
on the 2nd June, 2014 at 3:28pm
I will agree Montolivo has experience and has a great understanding of the game. It would have been great to have him in and aquilani out but things happen. Things also happen for a reason. Look at the year with sal "toto" schillaci cane on as a substitute because of injury and won the golden boot. the italian squad is stacked and may not be the favorites but they certainly do have a chance to win.
on the 2nd June, 2014 at 3:24pm
I will agree Montolivo has experience and has a great understanding of the game. It would have been great to have him in and aquilani out but things happen. Things also happen for a reason. Look at the year with sal "toto" schillaci cane on as a substitute because of injury and won the golden boot. the italioan squad is stacked and may not be the favorites but they certainly do have a chance to win.
on the 2nd June, 2014 at 3:22pm
As for Destro, he will have his chance Immobile’s season was just too good for Destro to force him out of the squad as Balotelli's sub. As will Beradi, El Sharrawy, Florenzi and Jorginho, the future looks bright for Italy, along with Scuffet, Santon, and the current crop including Perin, De Sciglio, Darmian, Veratti, Insigne, Immobile, Balotelli.
on the 2nd June, 2014 at 3:21pm
Young dynamic team! Balotelli/Immobile scorers. Cassano a weapon to open defences. Cerci a wildcard (13 goals/12 assists Robben type). Insigne a raw talent much like a young Baggio or Del Piero with speed. Prandelli had no choice with Aquilani from the 28 left, sad for Rossi he was obviously not 100%. 8 midfielders is overloaded - prandelli is worried about the conditions & as we rely heavily on the midfield, cover is needed. Aquilani will be used like Barone in 2006, Parolo could be like Fiore.
on the 2nd June, 2014 at 3:19pm
Prandelli I cant see us without rossi.
on the 2nd June, 2014 at 3:18pm
Great Article! We should be happy with no Gilardino/Osvaldo which seemed certain not so long ago. Despite Montolivo's weak season, his injury is the reason Aquilani has a spot. Now it seems a shame Florenzi or Giaccherini were not in the 30 squad as prandelli would have probably picked either over Aquilani in the 23 but both Romulo and Montolivo being injured was never in his mind. We should be very happy there is Verratti, Immobile and Insigne as it seemed unlikely they would all be called.
on the 2nd June, 2014 at 3:12pm

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