Italy World Cup Roster 2014: Updates on 23-Man Squad and Starting 11 Projections
Only 2014 World Cup hosts Brazil have more World Cup victories (four) than Italy (five) does, making next summer's international football Mecca the latest opportunity for the Azzurri to add to their country's prestige.
Currently tied with the Netherlands as the eighth-best team in FIFA's rankings, Italy will be one of a handful of squads expected to make a deep run at the World Cup.
Cesare Prandelli's men cruised to a comfortable six-point victory in Group B of their World Cup qualifying table, ensuring that Italy will be one of 32 countries in contention for the title next year.
However, the Azzurri boss is hardly sure of the official 23-man roster he will deploy in Brazil. This tweet from Football Italia's Twitter account explains:
Italy boss Cesare Prandelli has warned that he has still not chosen his World Cup squad. "I must evaluate..." http://t.co/Pm3dmkvJg1— footballitalia (@footballitalia) October 16, 2013
Although Italy faltered down the stretch in qualifying action, Prandelli will sleep easy knowing he has various options at virtually every position on his roster.
We'll take a look at the projected starting XI for Italy at the World Cup over the next few months. News and analysis on any potential roster changes will also be provided in the slides to come.
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Oct. 21: El Shaarawy's Status Could Determine Formation
Stephan El Shaarawy hasn't featured for Italy in quite some time, and his status as the World Cup approaches could directly impact what Prandelli does with the rest of his roster.
The AC Milan man was omitted from Italy's starting lineup for their September match with Bulgaria and was an unused substitute in that contest. He was also excluded in the lineup a few days later against the Czech Republic.
The 20-year-old had a foot injury that caused him to miss Italy's last two qualifiers and the subsequent club matches in that same time frame for Milan. According to Sky Sports, via Fox Sports, El Shaarawy is set to make his return to Serie A action sometime in early November.
He has plenty of time to feature for Milan and continue to improve for Italy, but a lot could happen between now and finalizing the World Cup roster.
His presence will certainly give Prandelli pause about using a 4-3-3 formation in Brazil.
Alongside Mario Balotelli and Lorenzo Insigne, El Shaarawy would allow Italy to put out a potent front line capable of doing real damage on the attack.
Without him, Italy are far from in trouble.
Giuseppe Rossi, Alberto Gilardino, Alessio Cerci and Pablo Osvaldo are all options to feature alongside Balotelli and Insigne. Francesco Totti is also another name Italian football fans should hope to see on the final roster.
Simply put, the options up front are endless.
Prandelli could also opt for a 4-3-2-1 formation, with Balotelli up front. He could even have a 3-5-2 formation where the midfield—arguably the most talented group of players overall—will be more important, with Balotelli being joined by the hot hand at the time.
El Shaarawy is a talented player, and his ability to break the game open will be valuable in Brazil. It might not be valuable in the starting XI, though.
This might make the roster situation even more difficult for Prandelli than it already is.
Projected Starting XI
As mentioned previously, there is more than one way for Cesare Prandelli to approach Italy's final roster for Brazil.
Here's a look at the latest projections for Italy's starting XI at the 2014 World Cup:
Projected Starting Lineup
Goakeeper (1): Gianluigi Buffon
Defenders (4): Ignazio Abate, Giorgio Chiellini, Mattia De Sciglio, Andrea Barzagli
Midfielders (3): Andrea Pirlo, Daniele De Rossi, Claudio Marchisio
Forwards (3): Mario Balotelli, Lorenzo Insigne, Giuseppe Rossi
GK (2): Federico Marchetti, Salvatore Sirigu
D (4): Christian Maggio, Angelo Ogbonna, Leonardo Bonucci, Emanuele Giaccherini
M (4): Antonio Candreva, Riccardo Montolivo, Thiago Motta, Alessandro Florenzi
F (2): Pablo Osvaldo, Stephen El Shaarawy
GK: Emiliano Viviano, Morgan De Sanctis
D: Domenico Criscito, Manuel Pasqual, Federico Peluso, Davide Astori
M: Alberto Aquilani, Marco Verratti, Andrea Poli
F: Francesco Totti, Alberto Gilardino, Fabio Borini, Sebastian Giovinco, Alessio Cerci