Alessio Cerci: Why Italy's Late Starter Could Be a Big Star at World Cup 2014
Alessio Cerci is having a career-best season with Torino this year, thriving in Giampiero Ventura's ambitious 4-2-4 formation on the right wing.
Cerci, predominantly left-footed, has little defensive responsibilities and a similar style to Arjen Robben.
Therefore, Cerci predictably cuts inside more often than not, but, just like Robben, it is tough to stop the 25-year-old.
Cerci is in line to break all records for goals and assists in his career, having scored five goals and added a massive haul of 10 assists while inspiring the Granata to comfortably avoid relegation this season.
His reward: a call-up to the Italian National Team and the opportunity to win himself a place at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
It is a remarkable rise to prominence after Cerci fell out of favour at Fiorentina, and Ventura has massaged his ego brilliantly to get the best ouf of the Roman.
I feel that Cesare Prandelli will utilise the player much more than many expect, simply due to how perfectly he will fit into Prandelli's ideal formation.
The former Viola coach has a great tactical repertoire, so moving away from the currently preferred 4-3-1-2 should not be a problem. I feel that Prandelli will be heavily influenced by the blossoming relationship between Stephan El Shaarawy and Mario Balotelli at Milan and that a switch to a 4-3-3 in the near future is a distinct possibility.
With a 4-3-3 formation, that third place in the attacking trident is well up for grabs, and when you consider the candidates available, nobody is a better natural fit than Cerci, which would give the Azzurri a dual threat from the wings with two inverted wingers.
Of course, this would be rather adventurous against the better sides in the world, leaving the Azzurri's full-backs a little bit exposed, but against weaker opposition on paper, Italy could certainly overwhelm sides with Cerci involved.
With such a wonderful left foot, Cerci can often provide some of the most dangerous deliveries from the right wing, in-swinging and always so inviting for strikers to attack.
Cerci is also deceptively quick, too, and can often scamper around the outside of his opponent, getting in behind the opposition if he is pressed by the left-back and prevented from delivering such dangerous crosses.
Prandelli will also be conscious of the fact that if the Azzurri play with width, they have a greater chance of exhausting the opposition in such humid conditions in Brazil, even if the tournament does occur in the country's winter, some of the host cities will offer conditions not ideally suited to pressing tactics that can quickly drain energy resources.
With a real dearth of natural wide men in the modern game, Cerci will naturally stand out when afforded the opportunity, and with his unique style, the 2014 world cup could be just the stage for the player to peak in his career.
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