Davide Astori is in strong form at just the right time, to give assurance of a place at the World Cup, writes Anthony Alborino.
While Juventus duo Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli can be more or less assured of a starting place at the core of Cesare Prandelli’s defensive line-up, Cagliari’s Davide Astori is among a number of talented Italian centre-backs hoping to do more than just make up the numbers in Brazil.
Such is the reputation that calcio sometimes endures, but often enjoys, it is said that the Scudetto is won by the side with the strongest defence. Whilst this sentiment is not ringing true so far this season, in Sardinia they have discovered that a steadfast rearguard can also do wonders for your survival chances.
Currently lying in 15th position with 36 points, the Rossoblu have shipped 46 goals in 34 games, and safety was effectively secured with their recent 2-1 victory away to Genoa, incidentally the only team in the bottom half of the table boasting a superior defensive record.
It was the club’s first success on the road since February 2013, and it came in no small part thanks to Astori, who played a pivotal role in bringing an end to their miserable run of 22 games without an away win. His 11 clearances and three tackles, as well as a crucial goal-line intervention, exceeded anybody else’s defensive contribution, as he highlighted his importance to the side once again.
In truth, the Milan youth product’s burgeoning partnership with Luca Rossettini has been keeping the side afloat, but the towering 27-year-old has been head and shoulders above the majority of his teammates during the second half of the campaign. He has proven decisive in the absence of the departed Radja Nainggolan and oft-suspended captain Daniele Conti, who has seen red two too many times since the turn of the year. Convincing outings against Inter, Udinese, Bologna and Verona have seen his stock rise, as despite a stuttering start to the campaign, he is experiencing a rich vein of form at the best possible time.
Astori has consistently shown himself to be a reliable defender, who has excellent timing, and is good with the ball at his feet. Now enjoying perhaps the most fruitful season of his career thus far, he is being courted by some major European sides, and is very likely to be plucked from Sardinian shores in the summer.
Having never really been tested at a higher level though, many may question his inclusion in Italy’s 23-man squad. He has seven caps to his name, and was selected in the starting XI for friendlies against England, the Netherlands and Haiti, as well as the Confederations Cup tie with Uruguay and a World Cup qualifier against Armenia last October. While frequently called upon by the CT, he tends to play reserve for his more experienced compatriots, warming the bench during games where there is more at stake.
The Bergamo native is unlikely to challenge for a starting berth, but you can expect him to make the plane to Brazil, as he is regarded by Prandelli as an able deputy.
Think you know your Italian football? Share your knowledge, tips and comments to win cash prizes in OLBG's tipster competition  - £5,000 monthly.