Considered most at threat to be cut from the provisional squad, differing circumstances meant Marco Verratti and Lorenzo Insigne secured their spots in Cesare Prandelli’s 23 man World Cup squad. It is an opportunity that could present both as wildcards this summer.
Marco Verratti’s inclusion in the Azzurri’s final 23-man World Cup squad could be seen as a result of Riccardo Montolivo being ruled out of the tournament. The Milan captain’s cruel injury in a pre-tournament friendly against Republic of Ireland at Craven Cottage on Saturday opened the door for Verratti to be picked in his place.
It was argued previous in the Italian media the PSG youngster’s place was at threat, and if that was the case he put in a solid display against the Irish to prove his doubters wrong. The 21-year-old was at the heart of Italy’s early running, confident in possession and distributing the ball upfield.
Verratti’s assured performance seemingly convinced Azzurri Coach Cesare Prandelli that he merited inclusion in his World Cup plans and it is this faith that could well serve La Nazionale in Brazil. The PSG man has long been deemed the heir apparent to Azzurro midfield lynchpin Andrea Pirlo and Verratti is aware he won’t dislodge the 2006 World Cup winner in this tournament: “In recent months I’ve played as a regista- but with Pirlo here I think that might be impossible for me!”
Where Verratti becomes a useful addition is in his versatility. “Being able to play a number of different positions is certainly to my favour,” the former Pescara prodigy has admitted. Verratti’s ingenuity and creativity could prove a valuable asset in a midfield role alongside Pirlo and Daniele De Rossi as he can play further forward, linking defence with attack, or in a deeper role.
Verratti’s former Pescara teammate Lorenzo Insigne may just be the biggest surprise inclusion in the squad, but make no mistake about it, the Napoli forward’s performances and flexibility warrant a place.
Giuseppe Rossi was seen as a certainty, as long as he could prove his fitness, and ultimately Prandelli seemingly wasn’t convinced he could stand the rigours of a month-long tournament. With Ciro Immobile, Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano included as out-and-out strikers, Insigne leapt ahead of Rossi and Roma’s Mattia Destro to claim a squad berth and now has an enormous opportunity, much like Verratti, to reward Prandelli’s faith.
The 22-year-old forward often played out wide for Napoli this season and although he has in the past stated his desire to play through the middle, he offers Prandelli a wealth of options in different tactical systems.
If Prandelli decides to partner Balotelli with a support striker, Insigne could thrive in that role, as he can draw defenders away from the Milan man by drifting out wide and could prove a perfect foil. Should Prandelli opt for a 4-3-3, Insigne could just as capably occupy a wider role.
Insigne proved in his match-winning performance in the Coppa Italia Final that he is a man for the big occasion, giving the Fiorentina defence a torrid time, his two goals a testament to his undoubted ability. He also netted the winner against England in the recent European Under-21 Championships.
The Azzurri will rely heavily on stalwarts Gianluigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini, Pirlo and the mercurial Balotelli to form the core of what they hope will be a successful tournament. However, this current Italy has a refreshing air of youth brimming through the squad and Verratti and Insigne are two of those upstart young guns.
They may not have been in the final squad if circumstances were different, but both are determined to have their say in Brazil and may prove to be the jokers in the pack.