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Friday May 25 2012
At the feet of Balotelli

As Cesare Prandelli admits that he could take all six of his present strikers to Euro 2012, Alex Fusco takes a closer and concerned look at Italy’s attacking options.

The Italian national side can look towards the European Championship with a reasonable degree of optimism, but as Cesare Prandelli whittles down his preliminary 32-man squad selection to his final 23, concern – from outside the camp at least – surrounds his attacking options.

In a fair and just world, Giuseppe Rossi would be leading the Azzurri assault on Europe this summer. Just 12 months ago, off the back of a scintillating season in Spain, his star was firmly in the ascendency, and set to shine brightly in Poland and the Ukraine. Unfortunately, bad luck and injury reared their ugly heads, and Rossi will be ruled out until next March after damaging the same knee ligaments twice within the space of a season.

A measure of ill-fortune also struck Antonio Cassano, Rossi’s preferred striking partner in Prandelli’s 4-3-1-2 plans. In November last year, the Milanista suffered an ischaemic stroke that required minor heart surgery. Returning to action in April, he’s hardly had the ideal preparation for a major tournament like this one.

Elsewhere, Antonio Di Natale once again finished the campaign as the top Italian marksman on the peninsula, hauling Udinese into the third and final Champions League place. However, he’s not above question – especially on the international stage.

Having not played for Italy since World Cup 2010 and never previously being selected by Prandelli, he has consistently failed to translate prolific domestic form on to the international scene as his 10 Azzurri goals testify.His physical condition is also a cause for concern – Totò will be 35 in October, and his capacity to play three matches over the space of eight days, as the group stages require, is doubtful at best.

We also have to consider that Parma’s Sebastian Giovinco, Fabio Borini of Roma and Siena’s Mattia Destro are without a single international goal. In fact, Borini and Destro have only one cap between them. Granted, all three have enjoyed sparking campaigns at club level, but the international stage is a far more imperious proposition. Whether they will be able to make a mark against the strongest defences on the continent remains to be seen.

In the absence of Rossi, the main attacking burden lies on the broad shoulders of a certain Mario Balotelli. This season has seen him exhibit his usual convergence of pure talent and inexplicable ill-discipline, as 13 League goals and four red cards will attest. His volatile rapport with City boss Roberto Mancini has been described as a father-son relationship – perhaps a hormonal, sulking teenager with a penchant for idiocy and a clearly aggrieved father, unsure whether to soothe or smite his young charge.

And here lies the problem. Balotelli has the ability to win matches, as proved by his impact on the last day of the Premiership season when his entrance proved the catalyst for an unforgettable City comeback that delivered a first League title in 44 years. But he also suffers an unfortunate habit of becoming embroiled in the ridiculous – confronting a seething Joey Barton after his dismissal was as inadvisable as it was uncalled for. If Balotelli were to self-destruct in Poland, despite his promises that he won’t, the explosion could well shatter the dreams of an entire nation.

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Have your say...
What a shame Quagliarella and Miccoli haven't been called up- Italy may have gone a bit farther in the World Cup had Qualgliarella came on a bit earlier and/or Miccoli been included in the squad.

Italy almost always leave their best players behind- thinking now of the criminally under used Marco Simone, Giuseppe Signori, Vialli and even Roberto Baggio and Zola..

Must admit, I don't really see how they can win it but never write them off- they have a habit of doing well every six years or so..
on the 5th June, 2012 at 11:25am
I too would have liked Quagliarella to have been picked, especially as he was the one decent thing that came out of the debacle that was South Africa 2010. Balotelli has all the potential to be a world star but his temperament IS dodgy. Still, compared to the 2006 list the striking options aren`t as good but if Italy rely on their skill and do not resort to the `what we have we hold` mantra who knows? Forza Azzurri!!
on the 30th May, 2012 at 8:28pm
I agree with Kaez: stop playing Montolive in hole!!! Cassano behind Di Natale and Ballo would be sweet
on the 30th May, 2012 at 7:58am
Balotelli is useless. As man city proved, the took him off and stopped playing him for the last 6 games of prem'ship and suddenly man city looked great again! Balo is a waste of time and effort, for a manager to have to ask a player not to get sent off I think the picture is very clear, I have great faith in italy, a good mix of youth is what was needed, balotelli will have 1 game to prove himself and I garente he'll get sent off, and then italy can do what man city did and leave him out and win
on the 27th May, 2012 at 9:11am
Giovinco on the left, Di Natale in the middle and Balotelli on the right. OR Giovinco behind Di Natale and Balotelli.

Cassano would start if fit, but he is not and a should be useful sub.

As for the youngsters. Why not. It could be a secret weapon. France won Euro 2000 with inexperienced Henry and Trezequet and other hopless experienced strikers..it was Trezquet who scored the last minute equaliser...
on the 26th May, 2012 at 7:44pm
I think people are underestimating Giovinco. Although he hasn't been given a chance on the national team until now, he was outstanding on the u-21 level. And he continues to impress on Parma. I don't know what else he can do to prove that he is a world class player.
As for Destro and Borini, they have shown that they are very good player with a lot of desire. I doubt that they can win a tournament, but they have the skill to be very useful.
on the 26th May, 2012 at 7:19pm
Great article that dives in depth and details on the Italian team striking options

I totally agree that Italy will miss Rossi, but I guess Balo will shine and we'll see a third player with Messi and CR7

Cassano is the only real experienced player in the attack aside from the domestically great di natale, but it was mentioned that he is still not 100% fit even though I would expect a lot from this guy regardless of his condition.
on the 26th May, 2012 at 5:53pm
This is a great team, and rather than being pulled apart Prandelli should be congratulated for bring the first manager in a long time to promote youth. Germany and Spain do it regularly. It's about time Italy put faith in their youngster's and let them grow. A good show in 2012 will make them a formidable force in world cup 2014.
on the 26th May, 2012 at 10:07am
He should of called up Totti and Del Piero.... Then Italy would be deadly to play against. Just saying....
on the 26th May, 2012 at 4:31am
Balo is the key now. We are fine in most positions except in attack. Cassano isn't 100 per cent fit and I can't see him play full games. Cassano's circumstances are like Totti's in 2006. Lippi had to rotate him with Del Piero.

I won't use Borini, Destro and Gio's lack of experience as an excuse. They will have to play eventually and all the forwards Anonymous had listed are out of form. These are the risks Prandelli need to take.
on the 26th May, 2012 at 4:31am
Within higher pressure such as in Euro game might effect balotelli since all players know how his tamper is. This could be tricky "advantage" for any Italy opponent to trigger his temper. Some says that you could never change personal habit. Prandelli should try plan B to use another pair striking upfront, put cassano/gio to support giovinco/cassano and destro is the best way. Another important thing is NEVER TRY TO PUT MONTOLIVO in the HOLE role after his repeated failure.
on the 26th May, 2012 at 3:52am
I think Italy will be able to shine in Euro 2012.
Balotelli, Cassano, Destro, & Giovinco are great choices.
The team looks great on paper. I hope they will do well on the pitch. My disappointment is that Prandelli didn't call up Quagliarella & Pepe. I believe that those are the only mistakes Prandelli have done so far. Borini has no experience & wasn't scoring much for Roma at the end of the season. Di Natale shaky to me ????

Good Luck & Forza Italia
on the 26th May, 2012 at 3:33am
i cant blieve that people,are giving super mario a.hard time, he is italy best striker period. and they should embrace hin not critisise him. if giving the service i am sure italy will have a great euro,s and mario will be the man to lead them MARK MY WORD, COME,N SUPER MARIO PROVE THeM WRONG,,,,,
on the 26th May, 2012 at 2:22am
I'm not sure why people think Di Natale is not fit for Gli Azzurri; has no one seen him play? The man is a goal/assist machine. You say that he barely made an impact for the national team, but that's because he hardly gets given a full match to play in, our managment has been pathetic over the years, and our players pay for it.

Di Natale should play as centre forward, with the likes of Balotelli, Cassano or Giovinco playing off him.

Football Italia, too many mistakes from your writers.
on the 26th May, 2012 at 1:44am
I can see why Prandelli has opted for mainly youth upfront because he's gearing Italy up for the future, he's treating the Euros as a Spring Board after mixing them against the best. But I like to think you're in it to win it and with Rossi's injury another experienced forward in form should have been picked and without doubt my out and out choice would've been Miccoli (an older version of Rossi - it would have been like for like!). I just hope Prandelli's gamble pulls off.
on the 25th May, 2012 at 11:49pm
So how do the young get any experience, by playing for their country, we are not one of the best at the moment but we should give them and the manager a chance to become one of the best. As for DI Natale he deserves to be there and if he clicks into action then we are in for a good tournament, and even if we don’t win it its OK! We are rebuilding and that takes time. FORZA ITALIA…
on the 25th May, 2012 at 11:43pm
Italy have every thing ready apart from the forwards, i think he is to bring 6 he should bring Cassano, Di Natale and Di Natale for the experiences which has proven over and over again more experiences are in the right place at the right time. Also he should bring Giovinco, Destro and either Gabbiadini or insigne or even the sights of Macheda who are all doing well for the u21
on the 25th May, 2012 at 11:21pm
I think Italy's chances are being overstated. I will be surprised if Italy qualify from their group. Apart from Spain, Croatia will be almost impossible to beat by Italy.
on the 25th May, 2012 at 8:27pm
Those forwards you listed are all ordinary.

The manager will field Cassano, Bal and Borini against Spain. Let's see how they deal with those three. Destro will be the next Italian forward to rival Baggio, he is that good. Want to see him rotated. Do Natale doesn't convince me and I don't think he should go. Once a chocker always a chocker.

Italy have the firepower not only to win the tournament, but to embarrass a few teams on the way.
on the 25th May, 2012 at 7:35pm
I'm (almost) relieved that the concern is up front rather than with the back line. My hope is that the defenders do their job, requiring fewer goals from the strikers. That said, players like Nocerino, who has had some stellar, if inconsistent moments, this past season, can help make a difference up top.
on the 25th May, 2012 at 5:56pm
Balotelli received two red cards this season not four. This is yet another example of what he's up against, bloggers exaggerating his disciplinary record as well as the media in general.
on the 25th May, 2012 at 5:49pm
Unless Italy use him through the middle as a main target man and not as a wide forward (with defensive duties) he MAY steer clear of red cards? A Maverick worth taking non-the-less!
on the 25th May, 2012 at 4:38pm
I fear the worst this summer. Italy lacks a big centre-forward who can bang in the goals. Balotelli could potentially fulfill that role, but he's just as likely to self-destruct as take Italy all the way to the final. Di Natale shouldn't have been called up, and Giovinco, Borini, and Destro do not have enough experience. I was surprised Prandelli didn't at least call up one of Matri, Quagliarella, Osvaldo, or even Pazzini. I was also disappointed that Pepe wasn't called up.
on the 25th May, 2012 at 4:30pm

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