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Monday April 11 2016
Euro 2016 Squad Selector: Barzagli

In the run-up to Euro 2016, Football Italia will be asking who Antonio Conte should select in his Italy squad. Chris Smith makes the case for Andrea Barzagli.

A true elder statesman in the Italy camp, Andrea Barzagli certainly doesn’t fit the mold of many of the young, promising players Antonio Conte has brought into the fold. But the veteran Juventus centre-back brings much-needed grit and experience to a squad that needs to tighten up at the back if they’re to progress past the group stage at Euro 2016.

He may be 34-years-old and has already announced his intent to retire from international football after the Euros, but what better way to go out than featuring at the back – likely alongside Juventus teammates Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci – in France this summer?

That Juventus partnership has been one of Europe’s best backlines over the past few seasons, and all three should be natural choices should Conte play the three-man defence he typically deployed in his time at Juventus. Their chemistry was instrumental in helping Gianluigi Buffon set the Serie A record for the longest stretch without conceding, and they lead the league in clean sheets.

Yes, Barzagli has lost a step or two over the years, but his vision, ability to read the game and strength make him a tremendous asset, especially in a cagey international tournament. He’s rock-solid mentally and remains productive at the highest level. It’s almost unthinkable that Conte would leave a key piece of one of European football’s strongest defensive units behind when the stakes are so high.

The competition in Group F suggests that Barzagli’s style of football isn’t entirely out of place, either. Belgium possess pace in Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku and a host of young, energetic players, but Ireland and Sweden play a more conventional game, where Italy will be likely be on the front foot and hold much of the possession. Sweden especially will be heavily dependent on the individual talent of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and bringing Barzagli into the side could help nullify that threat.

Given their attacking struggles – two 1-0 wins against Malta spring to mind as warning signs – it is critical for Italy to remain disciplined and organised at the back, and Barzagli offers a commanding voice and well-demonstrated chemistry with his defensive partners. Having a World Cup-winner in the side will also provide steady leadership and a calming presence for the younger, less-experienced players in the squad.

Having a skilled attacking side is critically important; but, as Italy showed in 2006 (and, to some extent, in 2012) there is a place for defensive football, or at least defensive solidity, in the modern game. Given their squad and attacking limitations, a robust defensive display may be the Azzurri’s best shot at beating Europe’s top teams. It would be foolish not to include perhaps the finest example of the prototypical Italian centre-back in the squad for Euro 2016.

Check out the rest of our Squad Selector blogs and have your say by clicking here.

Keep up to date with the latest news and action from Spain's Primera Division with Football Espana - from the team behind Football Italia.

Have your say...
@moto rizzi
Go watch another sport. Football isn't for you.
on the 13th April, 2016 at 7:28pm
Barzagli is not in the same category as Baresi, Maldini, Costacurta, Nesta or Cannavaro - what I would call world class defenders. You have to remember the time during which these guys played and the quality of the opposition they came up against. BCC have hardly ever been outstanding when playing against top teams in Europe - both under Conte, Prandelli and Allegri. I can assure you that if Serie A had the defence riches it had a decade ago, none of these guys would be in the national team.
on the 13th April, 2016 at 11:01am
Any one who has seen Barzagli play know he's world class unless they know nothing about defense. Along with Bonucci and Chiellini the 3 best in he world without a doubt. All 3 would be superstars on any team outside of Italy. Worthless opinions from stupid people. How many goals did Brazil let in one game with the superstars on defense (8) against Germany 2014. Get a life and move on.
on the 12th April, 2016 at 10:07pm
@mez 6, with Chiellini injured and after extra time.
And it's Bayern for crying out loud, the attacking line-up is already better than most European national teams anyway.

It's not like Italy has an influx of defenders anymore, the new guys are too young and unproven while the old guard is tested and proven in the toughest competitions multiple times. If there's a problem in Italy's line-up right now, it's all on the players ahead of defense.
on the 12th April, 2016 at 6:19pm
Quite good for tactical reasons but too slow now to cope with quick players. Leave him at home and take Rugani for the experience.
on the 12th April, 2016 at 1:53pm
I don't like age discrimination. Age has nothing to do with anything. The old argument every football fan uses.. "he is OLD hence he is rubbish" is nonsense. I prefer to look at things more objectively. Barzagli is a good defender, but No sir - not world class. None of Juve's defenders are world class. They let in 8 goals in two games against German opposition. But, Conte has no choice as he has very few experienced defenders at his disposal.
on the 12th April, 2016 at 1:50pm
He is useless. He is slow. Clumsy. He reminds me of shrek. I have no idea how this man has been part of this team for so long. He really is useless
on the 12th April, 2016 at 12:30pm
Definitely bring him to the Euros if he is fit.Plays well and at 34 for a defender it is OK.However, Alessio Romagnoli should be called up.Plays decently well and is young.Fast players like Abate should be there too.Hopefully De Sciglio improves but appears to be down!
on the 12th April, 2016 at 11:36am
wow! buffon @ 37, barzagli @ 34, bring on totti @ 38 & azzurri can go to euro'16 as the most aged team! really stupid choices by a stupid coach.... the failure drama continues.
so you smith writing about barzagli as if he is a world class defender! where you drunk when you wrote it?
on the 12th April, 2016 at 4:44am
Get rid. ASAP
on the 11th April, 2016 at 7:19pm
Barzagli is a real no brainer, even if he's on the bench. The dude is easily in the top 5 or 6 Italian defenders.
on the 11th April, 2016 at 6:33pm

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