Tuesday February 5 2013
A glimpse of the future

Italy play Holland on Wednesday. David Swan calls on Cesare Prandelli to start with Marco Verratti, Stephan El Shaarawy and Andrea Ranocchia.

Italy’s three-game gauntlet continues on Wednesday, with match two featuring a visit to Holland to take on the Dutch.

The first was last November against France and the third will be next month against Brazil. It is not often you get three consecutive games against teams that are generally considered powers of international football outside of an international tournament. You have to go back to 1993-94, where Italy played Portugal, France and Germany in consecutive games, for the last time it happened away from a Finals phase.

So it is important not to waste these games, because the next time Italy play three teams like this in a row, it will probably be at a tournament where it matters most. Coach Cesare Prandelli showed a willingness to try things against France – a 4-3-3, Marco Verratti playing from the start – but that needs to continue on Wednesday and next month.

Verratti, for example, needs to start again. He was Italy’s best player in November and demonstrated that he can do it against good sides, so give him continuity and see if he can do it against a better one. Prandelli will learn nothing by playing Andrea Pirlo – we know he can perform at that level and do not need to see another good performance just to make sure he still has it.

Stephan El Shaarawy is in a similar boat. Prandelli needs to see that he can do it against top teams. He was good against France and deserved his goal, but against England in August he posed little threat. It has been a mixed bag at club level too – a couple of precious goals at the San Paolo against Napoli earned his team a point, but he was taken off against Inter and did little against Juventus in the League meeting at San Siro. He is very young and this is his first real, breakout season, so we cannot be too harsh, but if you are going to take a starting berth for Italy, these are the games you need to affect on a regular basis.

While those two are choices that he should, and probably will make, in defence he is going to be forced to try someone different. With Giorgio Chiellini and Angelo Ogbonna injured and Leonardo Bonucci left out for a code of ethics breach, the usual suspects that have played alongside Andrea Barzagli over the last year or so are absent.

Davide Astori and Andrea Ranocchia are good options to have, and it is testament to Italy’s central defensive reserves that these two are fifth and sixth picks, but Astori in particular is relatively untested at this level.

Ranocchia’s case is a little different. Despite criticism for his club form, he has not really put a foot wrong for Italy in his eight games so far. Only a combination of a dip in performance level for Inter and the Scudetto-winning block of defenders at Juventus have seen him marginalised at international level.

Within those eight caps are games against Germany and Spain, so he has a march on Astori when it comes to the top level, and that is not including his Champions League games with Inter. He is only 24 – defenders can take longer to hit their peak – and Prandelli would do well not to toss him aside, particularly as 2014 is likely to be Barzagli’s last tournament, which would leave the Azzurri in need of another central defender to complete the quartet. It would save a lot of time and energy if they had one ready to step in.

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Have your say...
Buffon, Sirigu, Viviano

Abate, Bonucci, Chiellini, Criscito
De Sciglio, Ranocchia, Ogbonna, Santon

De Rossi, Montolivo, Pirlo, Marchisio
Poli, Aquilani, Verratti, Florenzi

Balotelli, Cassano
Destro, El Shaarawy

on the 9th April, 2013 at 2:55pm
ElShaarawy-Balotelli-Rossi (or Insigne)




Looks like Italy can look confidently at WC 2014.
on the 6th February, 2013 at 6:13pm
Italy squad have been improving little but the should still groin in defense the need a strong center Def. to control . I also I do not know why the do not call Cassano any more he would be a good insert in this squad special with Ba
on the 6th February, 2013 at 1:20pm
National team managers always start the best players (even in friendlies). The fact that Buffon and Pirlo are starting shouldn't shock anyone.
I'm sure Verratti will get lots of playing time in the 2nd half. Its not a big deal.
on the 6th February, 2013 at 1:17pm
Great point regarding Cerci Ivan! On his day he is fantastic, & a call-up to the national team could do wonders for his confidence. Candreva would be way down my list. Cerci, Diamanti, Sestu, Sau, Giovinco, Fabbrini all have more skills than the Lazio man. Even though Sau plays cf for Cagliari, I am confident that he could also be effective out wide.
on the 6th February, 2013 at 1:06pm
Reading these posts, it is good that so many of you share the same concerns as me re:Prandelli. Tactically he is a little naive and stubborn-he seems to have learned nothing from our defensive problems, when using a back four. Then you have his player selections-always playing the old in friendlies, when we know what they can do; this will harm our contingencies and not allow players to 'bed in'. Then there is his logic-4 keepers?! De Sanctis instead of Consigli?!
on the 6th February, 2013 at 9:40am
To me, Prandelli is doing a great job. I think Verratti will play the second half...\
As for the attacking trident, I believe it is better to play on the right flank with Diamanti or even Cerci of Torino, and not Candreva. Cerci is a very good wide player, aggressive, and good at scoring even. I see him better than Candreva and Diamanti as a wide player. He needs to improve his defensive abilities to match the effort done by El Shaarawy on the left flank.
on the 6th February, 2013 at 8:45am
I couldnt understand why Prand called up so many >30 players, as for me, I wont pickup any in ALL friendly games! just maybe 1-2 games just before major tournament for gel!
in Pirlo and Buffon case in particular are doubtful. both proven and do not need to "gain" their start XI position should give young hopes more experience in the same position that provide backup and future for Italy.
on the 6th February, 2013 at 1:03am
This has always been a problem for italy. There is never a manager that will take a risk or experiment with new fresh players. A prime example was summer last year in the final with spain- we had a great tournament then threw it all away in the final coz prandelli stuck with the same 14 players which by the end we injured and tired- there was a squad of 22 but most of them didnt get a look in. This is the prime time to the new breed and experiment with a completly diffrent team!
on the 6th February, 2013 at 12:47am
I agree joe, buffon is like pirlo world class neither need to play all friendlies. Giving marchetti a chance is important for the future and god forbid an injury to buffon. Would like to see both marchetti and consigli play a full 90 minutes in friendly games.
on the 5th February, 2013 at 9:08pm
If you ask me, the most intelligent thing Prandelli could do is start Marchetti in goal for all friendlys (though, keep Buffon in goal for all qualification matches).
It is clear that Marchetti is the second most talent keeper in Italy. So why did he do so poorly at World Cup 2010? Because he was not psychologically prepared for international level. God forbid another injury happens to Buffon at the wrong time, then lets give his back up some experience?
on the 5th February, 2013 at 6:37pm
I think its good to play San marino before confeds cup in June. Hopefully get a good win with lots of goals before confed cup and get the strikers firing on all cylinders. Although we are respectful so wont go out to hammer san marino by a really big score. Maybe 5-0. Tomorrow will be interesting as we are missing quite a lot of players, mind you so are the dutch. Should be a good test for both our teams.
on the 5th February, 2013 at 6:11pm
Prandelli isn't starting verratti, which I can't understand. Pirlo has already shown how good he is. Now its Verratti's turn to get some playing time. He isn't getting a lot of it at PSG, so this is his chance to prove his ability. Verratti did well last time.
on the 5th February, 2013 at 2:29pm
I forgot Ogbonna would have him instead of Peluso or Bonucci. Cant believe I forgot him he is a quality player. We are much stronger with a back 3 instead of back 4 just need to look at 2 euro games with spain, although we all know the final was no true reflection due to huge fatigue and Motta s injury etc. I really hope we can win euro under 21 tournament in the summer and that the confed cup helps us really build for next summer which I pray will see Buffon lift the world cup to the heavens.
on the 5th February, 2013 at 1:43pm
Balotelli, El Shaf, Osvaldo, Cassano, Icardi, Rossi. Also would consider destro if on form. For me these players arent good enough and shouldnt be called, De Sanctis, Sirigu, Viviano, Gasteldello, Candreva, Gilardino, Giovinco. Ranocchia and Astori in time my opinion of them may change. I like Canna but clearly cesare doesnt.
Players that should be regular inclusions soon: De Sciglio, Immobile, Insigne. Leali is for me the future. Good luck to both our teams against germany and holland.
on the 5th February, 2013 at 1:39pm
For me I would Play 4-2-3-1 something like the below in summer..


Abate Barzagli Chelini Balzaretti

De Rossi Pirlo

Candreva Marchisio SES


Mario is strong enough to hold the ball with the others supporting him, Marchisio makes good 3rd man runs.Only question mark I have is Candreva from the start..Diamanti is also good enough for that side of the 3. with 2 sitting its tough to break down also good for counter attacking
on the 5th February, 2013 at 1:33pm
I agree with the Pirlo rest we know if healthy no matter what he will be are guy in the middle so come on. I dont like Candreva I feel like he cant or does not complement nothing to the team. Cigarini snub personally Iam not happy about second best option in the middle IMO other than Pirlo. more along and alot better than Verratti and mentality better than Montolivo although I do like him. Couple other skeptical things as well. Prandelli has to realize whats best for Nazionale.
on the 5th February, 2013 at 1:30pm
I also cant believe that Prandelli favours candreva over Diamanti. Diamanti is top draw. I also agree verratti needs to start again. I keep saying it but really want to see Roncaglia in the team, also would have liked to see Peluso called up. If everyone is fit my 25 would be, Buffon, Marchetti, Consigli, Chiellini, Bonucci, Barzagli, Roncaglia, Abate, Santon, Balzaretti, Criscito, Peluso, De Rossi, Pirlo, Diamanti, Verratti, Marchisio, Montolivo, Nocerino,
on the 5th February, 2013 at 1:27pm
To play veratti I completely agree it would also save us the risk of being pirlo dependant when we can't midfielders to make a break through, he deserves a start, with el sharaaway that's true for a country so full of criticism SES needs time and could become the modern striker alongside balo and rossi in the future, and I definately prefer astori for this match, big, strong, good in the air, and great marking, he is another TRUE italian defender to rise p this season
on the 5th February, 2013 at 1:08pm
"we will learn nothing in playing Pirlo" Exactly! Also, with Juve's heavy fixture list, there is the risk of burning Pirlo out. I cannot believe that Prandelli appears to favour Candreva over Diamanti. Candreva has a good long shot, but Diamanti has wonderful attacking attributes. Although 433 favours SES, IMO, it doesn't favour the team. For the last two years Italy have looked vulnerable with a back four.
on the 5th February, 2013 at 12:45pm

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