Italy Coach Giampiero Ventura has selected his squad ahead of their World Cup qualifier against Spain, which will be played at the Juventus Stadium on October 6. The Azzurri will go into the match in confident mood, after they defeated La Roja 2-0 just over three months ago in the Euro 2016 Round of 16.
Since then, their opponents have replaced veteran boss Vicente Del Bosque with ex-Porto man Julen Lopetegui and so the encounter will provide an interesting test for Ventura. The former Torino man explained in his pre-match Press conference that the game – although important – would not prove to be decisive.
This may have been a small sign, as the Spanish national team have not lost a World Cup qualifier in 23 years, but the 68-year-old’s selections in attack prove that he has the desire to go for the victory.
There was no place in the squad for Napoli’s Lorenzo Insigne or Stephan El Shaarawy – both of whom were taken to Euro 2016 – but neither have been ever present in their respective sides in the opening weeks of Serie A. Whilst form is obviously an important part of squad selection, Ventura has a clear plan with which to deploy his attacking players.
His 3-5-2 formation has led to the exclusion of the aforementioned wide men, but has paved the way for some exciting strikers that can be used in a front-two partnership. Andrea Belotti is one of those players, having started this season exactly where he left off in the previous campaign.
In just four starts for Torino, the man nicknamed “Il Gallo” (the rooster) has scored five goals and provided one assist, including a hat-trick against Bologna in Week Two. There was also a place for his ex-Granata teammate Ciro Immobile, who scored in Italy’s win over Israel in September. Belotti missed this match through injury, but Ventura has spoken of his desire to deploy them together at some point during the Azzurri’s next two matches.
It is a man playing on foreign soil however, whose explosive form has been rewarded with a call-up. Utilised as part of a two man strike force in Villarreal’s 4-4-2 formation, Nicola Sansone has scored four goals in his first seven Liga appearances.
Adapting to life in a new country, the 25-year-old also appears at ease working in a new formation, after he was part of Sassuolo’s regular 4-3-3 during his three seasons with Eusebio Di Francesco at the Mapei Stadium. His flexibility in changing his role has been a key factor in this recent call up, as Ventura has sought out players who will slot easily into his football philosophy.
There was little doubt that the Azzurri squad needed an overhaul after Antonio Conte, as exciting young players such as Domenico Berardi and Gigi Donnarumma were ignored, while Insigne and El Shaarawy were included only to be barely used.
Whilst the latter pair have not even received a call-up on this occasion, it is perhaps easier to understand the reason behind this, as Ventura has taken the time to explain that it will be difficult for these players to find a spot in his system.
It may not be the revolution that was needed, but in calling up the likes of Belotti and Sansone, the new boss is making careful moves towards change one step at a time.