Wednesday August 15 2012
What to expect from young Italy

Cesare Prandelli has named an experimental squad for Italy’s first post-Euro 2012 match. Luca Cetta looks at what we can expect from today’s friendly against England.

Andrea Pirlo strode to the penalty spot, his cunning plan in mind. With self-assurance mocking the severity of the situation, he casually lifted his penalty off the ground. As Joe Hart scrambled, he could only watch the chipped kick saunter past. Pirlo’s conversion made it 2-2 and was the decisive moment of the shoot-out. England would miss their next two penalties. Antonio Nocerino and Alessandro Diamanti scored to send the Azzurri through to the last four of Euro 2012.

Less than two months after that Quarter-Final in Kiev the two nations square off again. It will be the 24th meeting, but one with vastly different implications. Italy’s nine past triumphs – the shoot-out victory technically a draw – shades England’s seven.

Both Cesare Prandelli and Roy Hodgson have named understrength squads. To show Prandelli’s level of experimentation, Devis Mangia has been required to make a number of changes to his Under-21 squad after it was raided for talent. His hand for the Berne friendly was forced by the omission of Juventus and Napoli players, involved in last weekend’s Italian Super Cup. This accounts for 10 members of the European Championship squad.

Prandelli still retains Euro 2012 combatants Daniele De Rossi, Federico Balzaretti, Ignazio Abate, Angelo Ogbonna, Nocerino and Diamanti. Salvatore Sirigu – touted as a future No 1 – is first choice goalkeeper here, but Mario Balotelli is a late withdrawal due to conjunctivitis. They form the backbone of the team, with Prandelli looking to the fringe players to stake their claim.

The ex-Fiorentina tactician is already focusing on 2014 and the Juve-Napoli omissions, plus those of Antonio Cassano, Antonio Di Natale and Riccardo Montolivo, allows for a glimpse into the future. “The idea is to prepare for the next two years from the start by knowing which young players are ready to make the grade,” he noted.

The forward line is of particular interest. All strikers chosen were born in the 1990s. Mattia Destro is the only one to have previously worked with Prandelli as part of the initial 32-man Euro 2012 squad. Given that, plus his season at Siena and start to life at Roma, the mobile forward has been confirmed a starter.

Also included are the raw Manolo Gabbiadini, Stephan El Shaarawy and Balotelli’s replacement Diego Fabbrini. The quartet have combined for just 19 Serie A goals to date. Destro has netted 14 of those. Of his attack, Prandelli says: “I want players with different characteristics to assess with the future in mind.”

El Shaarawy starts alongside Destro, with Diamanti just behind. An experienced midfield trio of captain De Rossi, Nocerino and the recalled Alberto Aquilani will take the field from the first whistle. The new Fiorentina midfielder has a chance to show he deserves a permanent position in the Giro Azzurro and means much talked-about regista Marco Verratti is set for a substitute debut appearance. Meanwhile, the inclusion of Ezequiel Schelotto suggests Prandelli is monitoring a potential switch to a wing-based system.

Defender Davide Astori will begin alongside Abate, Balzaretti and Ogbonna. This leaves Francesco Acerbi – identified as a potential future regular – to commence his Nazionale journey on the bench, with Mattia De Sciglio to be given an indication of what is required at this level.

It is hard to take a great deal from an August friendly. Just think back to Italy’s losses in recent years against Croatia, Hungary and Ivory Coast, or draws with Switzerland and Austria. Last year’s triumph over Spain proving an anomaly to the trend. The Azzurri may be wearing a one-off shirt design commemorating the heroes of 1982, but beside that it is all forward thinking. For Prandelli it is an important contest. He acknowledges it as a prospective look towards Brazil 2014 and a chance to assess which youngsters could help Italy get there.

Have your say...
Samuele Longo is a raw but very exciting prospect. He remains unknown quantity so far but once he has a break through season it will only be a matter of time before he plays for the Azzuri.
on the 18th August, 2012 at 12:48pm
Insigne, Destro, Borini are the three best young strikers with the most promise. aquilani is horrible so is montolivo but not as bad. Verratti will be good but he so dam young he is just not ready. Schelotto is not the good either another over hyped player. Prandelli needs to call up Cigarini plan and simple.
on the 16th August, 2012 at 4:16pm

He's one for the future I believe.
on the 15th August, 2012 at 9:56pm
what did we learn? destro is ready for a competitive match call up. he was really the only positive light out of a largely poor game. what else did we learn? sirigu is not good enough. viviano should be third choice is prandelli keeps going with buffon and de sanctis as one and two. astori is also not good enough and nor is aquilani. astori spent most of his time making needless slide tackles and generally fouling. aquilani is just not a top level player. el sharaawy is also nowhere near ready.
on the 15th August, 2012 at 9:07pm
Well after all the hype what did we actually get. El Shaawary and Destro did ok. De Rossi excellent. Aquilani awful. Ogbonna ok. Astori is not for me. Sirigu very poor. The reserves- Gabbiadini/ Verratti/ Fabbrini not ready yet.
The simple truth is we have a hard qualifying campaign and very few should make it into those squads.
Its another loss. There is much to do.
on the 15th August, 2012 at 8:58pm
I'm also very excited about this new generation of Italian players coming on to the scene AND so many at that coming into play...and oh boy! are these youngsters technically good and vicious. We are definately going to be seeing amazing and talented Italian players and team doing some heavy duty damage around the world - Brazil World Cup 2014 - watch out...The " Azzuri" are on mission to seek and destroy
on the 15th August, 2012 at 5:46pm
I must say Prandelli is giving the youths what others have'nt. the next generation is very exciting to watch, plenty of good talents out there. I will be watching the game tonight and hope to see Italy wins it.
on the 15th August, 2012 at 5:28pm
I just hope this is an experimental side. I do not want Prandelli developing a swell head like Lippi and going into a world cup with fringe mediocre players.
on the 15th August, 2012 at 5:15pm
Italy's midfield and attack look great (balotelli, borini, destro, SES, insigne, gabbiadini, fabbrini, verratti, marrone, florenzi etc etc). I mean, the list is endless. And even though the defense isn't as good as it used to be, it looks promising. Acerbi, De Sciglio, Ogbonna, Capuano, and a few others have great potential.
on the 15th August, 2012 at 4:48pm
While this is certainly an impressive crop of young players it is a little unsettling that all the really high end talents are all attackers. How are we supposed to incorporate all of Balotelli, Destro, Insigne, Borini, El Shaarawy, and Longo into 1 squad. While that may really be a blessing the alarming part is the lack of high quality defenders in the youth ranks. Outside of De Sciglio, Santon, and Masi I don't see much quality among the youth ranks. Overall this is an exciting generation.
on the 15th August, 2012 at 2:13pm
in the words of giorgio chinaglia last winter, the u21 italian team is the best generation of italian soccer players to come around, probably since the late 80s...while guys like destro, borini and verratti have claimed the headlines, there is an abundance of talent there...time for serie a teams to give them regular playing time!!!!!!
on the 15th August, 2012 at 1:41pm
I love the new italian talents most is lorenzo insigne he is the next Roberto Baggio.forza azzuri
on the 15th August, 2012 at 12:18pm
I really like what Prandelli is doing and this is an interesting squad.
The only thing that I am slightly baffled at is the inclusion of De Sciglio. He's played a few games for Milan but was steady rather than overly impressive. Has he done enough to be seen as a better prospect than Davide Santon?
on the 15th August, 2012 at 11:15am
I agree with you Inter Fan...your team especially has to step up and start developing young Italian talent....something that it has not been doing too well over the past few years....
on the 15th August, 2012 at 10:51am
I have never been so excited about the future of Italian football! Thank you Mr Prandelli! We just need the club sides to help by giving these youngsters a chance! Just think we have Borini, Insigne, Balotelli, Calvano and others to add to this list! I hope we can keep all this great talent within the Peninsula. The Future is bright the future is Azzurri!
on the 15th August, 2012 at 10:17am

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