Cesare Prandelli has finalized his roster heading into the Euro Cup. With the tournament set to kick off June 8, Italy has its squad set for competition.
Italy's final roster heading into Euro 2012 is as follows:
Defenders: Ignazio Abate (AC Milan), Federico Balzaretti (Palermo), Andrea Barzagli (Juventus), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Christian Maggio (Napoli) and Angelo Ogbonna (Torino).
Midfielders: Daniele De Rossi (Roma), Alessandro Diamanti (Bologna), Emanuele Giaccherini (Juventus), Claudio Marchisio (Juventus), Riccardo Montolivo (Fiorentina/AC Milan), Thiago Motta (Paris Saint-Germain), Antonio Nocerino (AC Milan) and Andrea Pirlo (Juventus).
Looking at this roster, the one thing that stands out is youth, particularly up front. Di Natale is the only attacker over 30 years old (34). Cassano is 29, while Giovinco is 25 and Balotelli and Borini are 21.
Pirlo is the only midfielder over 30, aged 33.
Defenders Balzaretti, Maggio and Barzagli are over 30.
Buffon is 34 and coming off a World Cup campaign in which a back injury limited him to 45 minutes of play. He is the key to Italy's chances in Poland/Ukraine. He's still a world-class goalkeeper and a fantastic leader for this young squad.
The core of the defence is made up of Juventus stars Chiellini, Bonucci and Barzagli, coming off a Scudetto-winning season from these players.
Andrea Pirlo heading into this tournament healthy is another huge plus that Italy didn't have two years ago. Pirlo missed the first two games of the 2010 World Cup and only saw the field midway through the second half of Italy's third group game, facing Slovakia.
With Italy down 2-0, Pirlo provided a spark, and an attack that lacked any flow prior to that came to life, with Italy eventually losing 3-2 and being eliminated.
Up front, Italy is younger and poised to be more potent. Where former manager Marcello Lippi relied too heavily on aged veterans, Prandelli has injected a youth movement. Di Natale's production at Udinese wasn't ignored and he retained his spot.
The enigma that is Mario Balotelli will be a big story to watch. The 21-year-old will get a chance to represent his country, and Azzurri supporters hope he can stay out of trouble this tournament. Balotelli's on this roster because of his talent; he can help Italy go far.
Prandelli's approach is the opposite of Lippi's two years ago. Whatever Italy's result is at the Euro, it can't be much worse than in South Africa in 2010. If Italy underachieves, at least it can be attributed to their youth and is providing experience moving forward. That's something they didn't do in 2010, when all their eggs were in one basket, not thinking about what would be best for the future.
This team is being given a chance to grow together, which will serve them well in the long run.
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