Tuesday March 4 2014
Azzurri for the future

Cesare Prandelli’s continuation with Italy seems to hinge on a focus on youth. Anthony Alborino considers the names in profile for the World Cup and beyond.

Rumour is rife that Cesare Prandelli will extend his contract as Italy Coach up to 2018 and develop his role further to include a greater focus on youth progression. The former Fiorentina boss is certainly not afraid to give call-ups to young and uncapped players and Italy boast an array of gifted prodigies who are clamouring to make their way to Brazil for this summer’s World Cup.

However, with such competition for a place on the plane to South America, which of the Azzurri’s most promising youngsters should make the cut?

Regardless of how the Italy World Cup Odds are shaping up, perhaps Prandelli’s most challenging selection headache will come in attack, with no less than six Italians currently occupying the top 10 positions in the Capocannoniere charts, with Giuseppe Rossi’s knee injury in particular opening the door for potential prospects.

Torino’s Ciro Immobile is tied with Gonzalo Higuain and Luca Toni on 13 goals, and his tally is all the more impressive when you consider that none of those came from the penalty spot.

The 24-year-old’s burgeoning partnership with Alessio Cerci has been one of the main factors behind his incredible form this term – the pair have scored nearly 62 per cent of the Granata’s goals – however, it remains to be seen if Immobile can replicate this level of performance for his country, when his more established teammate might not be present. Immobile is in line to make his debut for La Nazionale in their friendly against Spain on Wednesday at the Estadio Vicente Calderon, and this could be a vital test of his credentials.

Lorenzo Insigne of Napoli is another young forward hoping to make an impact in the match, and while he has been much less prolific this year, his guile and unpredictability, as well as his overall contribution to the team could make him the wildcard of the Italian frontline.

Used to playing on the left side of a front three, the Neapolitan is still only 22, and is slowly establishing himself in a competitive Partenopei side under Rafa Benitez. He would be a very useful option from the bench if nothing else.

An even younger attacker making waves for his exploits in Serie A this season is Domenico Berardi of Sassuolo, who alone has scored 48 per cent of the Neroverdi’s goals, and became the second youngest player to score four goals in a single game in their famous 4-3 victory over Milan.

Only 19 years of age, the Calabrian is somewhat of a raw talent, and despite having already scored 12 times in the 2013-14 term, this summer’s World Cup could be too soon for him, unless he can manage to convince Prandelli with his displays in the second half of the campaign. His elbow aimed at Cristian Molinaro could be a costly delay to his international development, as he has been dropped from the Under-21 squad.

Then there is Roma’s Mattia Destro, who has been drafted into the squad in the absence of Mario Balotelli – this is largely thanks to him having scored six goals since returning from an eight-month spell on the side-lines in early December, and although it is unlikely that he would usurp his Milan counterpart in the starting XI, he provides an excellent alternative.

One player who should almost certainly make it on the plane is Paris Saint-Germain’s Marco Verratti, who has long been singled out as the heir to Andrea Pirlo in the Italy set-up – he has come on leaps and bounds at the Parc des Princes, and would go to Brazil as the understudy to ‘L’Architetto’.

It’s very difficult to envision an Azzurri line-up which doesn’t include veteran custodian Gianluigi Buffon, but he will not be around forever, and it looks likely that Mattia Perin will be handed a chance to take his place in the coming years. The Genoa ‘keeper has been included in Prandelli’s latest squad as a reward for good form, but may not be Brazil-bound as his more experienced compatriots Federico Marchetti and Salvatore Sirigu may still be preferred.  

Meanwhile, the inclusion of two other 21-year-olds - Rossoneri duo Mattia De Sciglio and Stephan El Shaarawy - could be in doubt, with both enduring injury-troubled seasons. De Sciglio has only featured 11 times for the Diavolo this term, while El Shaarawy has suffered a severe dip in form and a long spell in the treatment room since his blistering start to 2012-13, during which he scored 14 goals.

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Have your say...
Agree with Al on that one about Cigarini....
on the 8th March, 2014 at 4:49am
Daniel he didn't fail at Napoli mazzarri never gave him a chance like he usual does with young talent and I will never forgive him for that and he's a central midfielder not an attacking one which is why he didn't do so well in Spain it's not as tactical in Spain they rely on pure attacking minded football didn't fit his style of play at the time. I respect your opinion but in my opinion no one other than Pirlo has the intelligence and passing skills as good as cigarini not Monty or Verratti.
on the 6th March, 2014 at 8:40pm
'with no less than six Italians currently occupying the top 10 positions in the Capocannoniere charts' - but not one of them can scoooooore. i didnt even read this article. Italy are bad but at the same time no forward ever gets a decent ball passed to them they always have to have their backs to goal. the midfield needs to be PACKED
on the 6th March, 2014 at 5:06pm
Al, is Serie A really that competitive? Juve are on course for a record points total, & Roma are also amassing a huge amount of points. Also, Juve are further ahead of 2nd spot, than PSG are. TBH, aside from the EPL, none of the euro leagues are competitive this season. As for Cigarini, he's good, but let's not forget that he failed at Napoli & Seville. I'd take MV & Jorginho over him. Motta is important as he is the only alternative to DDR.
on the 6th March, 2014 at 10:27am
Cigarini is playing really well and may I remind you with atalanta you put him with a good squad I would just love too see that I can only imagine, so I would say top draw. He would be creating more chances than Montolivo and Motta that's for sure and as a Napoli fan they haven't looked that much greater with jorginho still need to fill that void in the middle. I like Verratti it's pathetic he didn't see the field today but I just think he ain't what everyone is making him out to be just yet.
on the 5th March, 2014 at 11:35pm
Mm your right there is more than 10 I just didn't want to sound to critical. And Daniel G there is no way you can justify the French league being competitive cause it's not. PSG buy the League tittle. The supporting cast Verratti has it's tough not to look bad and he still isn't anything spectacular you can put some joke in there and they wouldn't look bad. Serie A is the toughest league to impress in if your a midfielder, it's defensive and a very tactical league.
on the 5th March, 2014 at 11:27pm
Then we have his shocking off-field antics & the fact that he has hardly done the business for Italy before. I'm disappointed that there is no Jorginho-Napoli have looked so much better with him in the team. Like others have said, CP clearly has his favourites, players like Gila & Oz look locked down, even if they are being outperformed by others who play in their positions. This cannot send out positive messages to fringe players & must surely cause some resentment.
on the 5th March, 2014 at 7:09pm
Cassano must have upset CP, off the pitch, during the Euro's. That or CP is concerned about Cassano's health & doesn't want to burn him out. It cannot be because of ability or form as Cassano is still our best second striker. As for Cigarini, I wouldn't go as far as calling him top draw, but he can consider himself unfortunate to not be given more consideration. Osvaldo has good ability, but I cannot understand his inclusion. His strike rate has been mediocre this season tbc
on the 5th March, 2014 at 6:47pm
De rossi is consistent for italy he always gives 100%. He doesnt have a great record on the behaviour front but he seems to be the only 1 along with cassano that gets left out if they do something wrong. Angelo delivio has even commented about prandelli having 1 rule for 1 and another rule for balo. Balo is terrible argues if hes taken off, fights with managers (verbal and physical), unreliable, inconsistent in the final of the euros he stormed off like a child! de rossi should be in the team!!
on the 5th March, 2014 at 4:19pm
@Al, it really bothers me when people say 'he is too young'! Verratti will turn 22 this year. Besides, a player should be judged on his quality and performances, not his birth certificate. Ligue 1 is not a weak league, and anyway, Verratti has been doing the business in the CL as well. IMO, Verratti should have more minutes under his Azzurri belt than what he currently has.
on the 5th March, 2014 at 3:00pm
Maybe it is just me but I think that Prandelli should give Graziano Pelle some time on the pitch. I think that Pelle's form over the most recent seasons is convincing of a part in friendlies and qualifiers.
on the 5th March, 2014 at 2:54pm
Re DDR I hope people (Ancelotti?) will stop using DDR as the example of the sort of player Italy can rely on when criticising Balo. Balo has not headbutted anyone yet. DDR does have form. I am not saying he shouldn't be in the Italy squad (he's consistently one of Italy's best players) but it strikes me that people are willing to ignore his indiscipline while newspapers and websites are filled with articles if Balo mistimes a tackle! Really at 30 DDR should know better!
on the 5th March, 2014 at 9:50am
Re Verratti firstly while the French league is not great I'm not sure Serie A is much better any more and Verratti has got Champs League experience. He definitely needs to go perhaps as cover for Pirlo. While he has different characteristics he can play in that similar role alongside a protector in midfield. With DDR out (and I'll come to this later) we are lacking this type of player. I guess Thiago Motta is the only real alternative. Italy do lack a ball winner in midfield (other than DDR)
on the 5th March, 2014 at 9:45am
I agree about Osvaldo. I am not sure what Prandelli is waiting for with Cassano. Cassano did everything that was asked of him in the Euros and helped Italy to the final. He hasn't done much wrong since and is still left out. I have not seen Osvaldo offer anything and how he is in not in breach of the code of conduct is beyond me. If not Cassano then surely one of Toni, Pazzo, Immobile, Gila, Di Natali, Destro....the list goes on. Anyone really instead of Osvaldo!
on the 5th March, 2014 at 9:42am
Think theres more than 10 of them that shouldnt be there!
on the 5th March, 2014 at 9:39am
If we had Canna and Nesta now when they where in their prime then I think we would come very close in the summer to winning the world cup. I like the idea of these 2 day camps with current and hopeful future players and I like the idea of Cesare taking a wider roel with the younger teams. I think Parolo is going to do well if he goes to world cup. Hope we get a positive result tonight and good luck to under 21s as well. Upset about Berardi was looking forward to seeing him for under 21s.
on the 5th March, 2014 at 9:38am
Osvaldo isn't good enough, prandelli clearly has his favourites. my 6 strikers if fit for world cup would be : Balo, Rossi, Cassano, Insigne, Immobile, Destro or Gabbiadini. If Quags played more at Juve then he would be there in my view. He is a top player and needs to move in the summer to get some playing time. If Prandelli calls Marchetti instead of Perin for world cup I will go mad. Its the defense that's the problem in other areas the options we have are great.
on the 5th March, 2014 at 9:33am
I agree with "Al" Cigarini is top draw and its really bad he never gets called up. I Agree Cassano is top draw and should be in the squad. I am sick of saying it but why the hell is Gila in the squad. Can anybody seriously tell me he is a better player than Cassano, or come to mention it Gabbiadini, Toni, Totti, Di Natale etc that weren't called. We will for me badly miss the absentees I have alreay mentioned. Paletta needs to be on top form, your first game for Italy doesn't get any harder.
on the 5th March, 2014 at 9:27am
I forgot to mention Balotelli...another waste of space, injury prone, unpredictable, moody, chip on the shoulder and likely to get enough bookings to miss important games during w/c. May only be good if we go to a penalty shoot out as there isn't much running for him to do there so unlikely to be tired!
on the 5th March, 2014 at 9:05am
Those who are calling for way too old and a trouble maker. Remember they are going to brazil where the temperature will be between 30-40 degrees and very humid and we will need players that can run for 90 minutes. Take Insigne, Berardi, Immobile, Rossi, Cerci and Toni (for experience). No other Italian forward deserves it with the exception of Totti (good for 30 minutes in that heat). Give Cigarini a chance as he is far better than Verratti too.
on the 5th March, 2014 at 9:03am
Why was Jorginho of Napoli not invited? I want to know. Is he injured or something?
on the 5th March, 2014 at 6:47am
Verratti is too young and has a lot to learn, though I do like him and think he has a promising future he plays in France a weak league which isn't defensive minded and isn't tactical enough and he played bad against Spain in the final of the euro championship. Cigarini is the best midfielder behind Pirlo and should be his successor. It's just crazy too me and makes no sense why he hasn't been called up yet. There's about 8-10 guys who are a waste in the current selected squad. We will see!
on the 4th March, 2014 at 11:16pm
I would rather see Cassano than Osvaldo. The latter is potentially a problem while Cassano no longer is. In addition, Cassano plays regular football while Osvaldo is a bench player for Juve after failing at Southampton.
on the 4th March, 2014 at 11:09pm
Its disgraceful osvaldo is even in the squad, hes not even good enough to clean the other players boots!!! why do we allow such stupidness to wear the italian jersey!
on the 4th March, 2014 at 10:26pm
forza italia - forza Pranda
on the 4th March, 2014 at 9:28pm
it is an absolute disgrace that Osvaldo wears the number 10 jersey. Prandelli kept out DDR because he punched an opponent, while Osvaldo punched his own teammate and is included. Cassano is a better overall player than all of the strikers he selected for this match.
on the 4th March, 2014 at 9:24pm
I would say verratti should be a top quality in his own right without drawing any comparison to pirlo who for me is a completely different player. I also like roma florenzi he is starting to look like the real deal at roma. In terms of this world cup anyway insigne verratti de sciglio perin have to go they have been consistently impressive so far this season.
on the 4th March, 2014 at 9:16pm
Looking forward to tomorrows game, we got some great youngsters in attack by were lacking defence
on the 4th March, 2014 at 9:08pm
It will be very hard against spain without chiellini, de rossi, balo and rossi. Cerci has had a great season and people wont probably agree but i dont think he is international quality. Hope perin goes to world cup, he is the future. Hoping for a good performance tomorrow.
on the 4th March, 2014 at 8:04pm

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