Euro 2012: Ranking Prandelli's Juventus Contingent with Italy so Far

Jack Alexandros RathbornContributor IIIJune 28, 2012

Euro 2012: Ranking Prandelli's Juventus Contingent with Italy so Far

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    Juventus will consider themselves to be Serie A's greatest benefactors of Euro 2012.

    Italy's great success in reaching the final will surely provide the Bianconeri with a boost as we enter next season. All of the eight players from La Vecchia Signora that were called up by Cesare Prandelli will come back to their club as better players.

    In order of their Juventus squad numbers: Gianluigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini, Claudio Marchisio, Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Pirlo, Emanuele Giaccherini and the incoming Sebastian Giovinco make up a large part of La Nazionale.

    Here I rank those mentioned above, based on their performances in Poland and Ukraine so far.

8. Sebastian Giovinco

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    Sebastian Giovinco has only been on the pitch for 32 minutes at Euro 2012.

    Juventus's new signing had a marvellous season with Parma, especially towards the end, as the Atomic Ant helped Roberto Donadoni guide the Gialloblu to seven consecutive victories. In the process the 25-year-old registered 15 goals and 16 assists.

    With such scintillating form it is a surprise that Cesare Prandelli has not utilised him more often. Alessandro Diamanti's impact as a substitute has stunted Giovinco's action to two appearances against Spain and Croatia in the group phase.

    With two great performances against England, and now their greatest triumph under Prandelli's reign against Germany, it seems unlikely that Giovinco will appear again at Euro 2012.

    Brazil 2014 looks to be his best chance at making a significant impact for the Azzurri now.

7. Emanuele Giaccherini

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    A useful squad player with the Serie A champions last season, Emanuele Giaccherini was a surprise starter in Italy's opening match against Spain.

    Cesare Prandelli's surprise choice of formation meant the former Cesena lined up as a left midfielder in a 3-5-2. This is a role he has played under Antonio Conte last season, therefore it was not a complete risk as some originally stated.

    Considering it was his debut for the Azzurri, the 27-year-old performed admirably, which secured a second start against Croatia.

    However, Slaven Bilic was able to expose Italy at times down Giaccherini's flank. Ivan Rakitic was able to pull the Bianconero out of position, which left Darijo Srna room to roam in to the space vacated.

    He was subsequently dropped for the Ireland match and Prandelli selected Federico Balzaretti, who is a more natural fit in either of Prandelli's preferred formations. 

6. Andrea Barzagli

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    Andrea Barzagli entered the European Championships in Poland and Ukraine with a spectacular season under his belt. I would consider the 31-year-old to have been Serie A's best defender alongside Milan's Thiago Silva last season.

    Unfortunately Barzagli picked up a calf strain in the build-up to the tournament and missed the games against Spain and Croatia.

    His return to the Azzurri defence has added stability to the side. Prandelli's side conceded twice in two matches without the Juventus stalwart, but then proceeded to last over 300 minutes without conceding, before a Mesut Özil penalty in stoppage time of the semi-final.

5. Leonardo Bonucci

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    Leonardo Bonucci is constantly improving. The ex-Bari defender is realising his potential and eliminating the errors from his game.

    The latest evidence has been on show in Poland and Ukraine, with Bonucci starting four of the Azzurri's five matches, only missing out in the Ireland match as Cesare Prandelli set up offensively in order to take the initiative against inferior opposition.

    The 25-year-old's relationship with Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini has been a crucial part to Italy's sensational run to the final, and on this evidence Bonucci looks to be an essential part of the Italy side for many years to come.

4. Giorgio Chiellini

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    Giorgio Chiellini could be considered the best Italian defender of his generation.

    The 27-year-old always leaves everything on the pitch and will raise the performances of those around him with his never-say-die attitude.

    Chiellini can operate as a left-back superbly, which provides Cesare Prandelli with a multitude of options, knowing that if Leonardo Bonucci can be relied upon, Italy can effectively close off their left side of the pitch.

    A quality European Championship for the Livorno youth product who has proven to be Italy's defensive anchor under Cesare Prandelli. Chiellini's distribution from the back with quick and incisive passes to the rotating quartet of midfielders has also been a positive for the Azzurri throughout the tournament.

3. Claudio Marchisio

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    Claudio Marchisio has been an integral part of Cesare Prandelli's magic quartet of midfielders.

    The most important part to the former Fiorentina coach's preferred 4-3-1-2 formation is when the four midfielders continuously alternate their positions in order to confuse the opposition and restrict man-marking.

    Marchisio could be guilty of some wayward finishing throughout the tournament, but the 26-year-old has contributed with plenty of energetic dashes from box to box, alongside his snappy passing to quicken Italy's tempo—a style that has proved so effective against England and Germany.

2. Gianluigi Buffon

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    Gianluigi Buffon began the tournament with widespread criticism for his remarks on the Scommessopoli scandal during a press conference, in which the 34-year-old stated that he thought it was only natural for two sides to agree upon a draw if the result was mutually beneficial for both sides.

    Since then though, Buffon has put in some outstanding displays for the Azzurri, only conceding three times in five matches. The Juve legend has pulled off some outstanding saves along the way, which are not applauded as much as other goalkeepers due to his sustained excellence.

    Moreover he has been able to organise the defence with his charismatic leadership and displayed his passion for his country especially during the national anthem.

1. Andrea Pirlo

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    Who else could it be really?

    The great Andrea Pirlo has rolled back the years to prove that he can still operate at the highest level he ever has in his career.

    The Juventus magician has dictated the majority of his games with his splendid range of passing and calming influence in possession. Pirlo put on a trademark performance against England, completely outclassing his opponents and dissecting the defence with angles that only he can see.

    Who could argue should he be able to successfully complete this late charge for the Ballon d'Or and steal it from Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. After all Pirlo has enjoyed a magnificent season at Juventus to further enhance this growing bid.

    One final match awaits Pirlo which could cement his legacy as one of the greatest midfielders in European football history. A career that has been crammed with multiple triumphs to date, one more victory in Kiev on Sunday would be sweet for a multitude of reasons.

    It was only 12 months ago that Milan felt he was not worthy of an extended contract, allowing the 33-year-old to move on a free-transfer to Juventus, a move that Adriano Galliani surely regrets more and more each day.

    To be able to hurt the Rossoneri by leading the Bianconeri to a scudetto, before starring as the protagonist in an Italy side that been labelled the most entertaining team at Euro 2012.

    One more game awaits the Azzurri and victory against Spain on Sunday is quite possible on the basis of their current form, but this Juventus core will have to maintain their excellent performances to dethrone La Furia Roja.

     

    Jack Alexandros Rathborn is a football analyst for Football Radar, covering Italy's Serie A. You can follow him on Twitter; @jackrathborn and @FRcalcioJack.