Predicting Italy's World Cup Squad Following Latest Internationals
Having won the competition eight years ago, Italy’s 2010 World Cup campaign was one they sought to quickly put behind them. Marcello Lippi left and a raft of older players were dropped, never to return to the national team setup under new coach Cesare Prandelli.
The former Fiorentina boss set about drastically altering both the style of play and the public perception of the Azzurri, taking them around the peninsula as a force for good while imposing a much more attack-minded mentality. That led in turn to an excellent showing at Euro 2012, where only a rampant display by Spain in the Final denied them the ultimate prize.
In the two intervening years, Prandelli has continued to improve the side, leading them to their best ever qualifying campaign as they topped Group B and sealed their place in Brazil with two games to spare. Now making his last few experiments with the squad, the coach has a solid core of players who are almost certain to be at the tournament this summer.
Over the following pages, those players are listed by position, along with a number of those just on the fringes of the final 23-man shortlist.
All stats courtesy of WhoScored.com
The Juventus goalkeeper made his Azzurri debut in 1997 and is now the nation’s most capped player of all time, his 139 appearances enough to surpass Paolo Maldini and Fabio Cannavaro. He is in fine form for the Bianconeri, having kept 13 clean sheets in Serie A, and has conceded just 16 goals this season.
Now the undisputed backup to the Juventus legend, Sirigu has been making similarly impressive displays for Paris Saint-Germain. The former Palermo ‘keeper has kept an identical number of clean sheets to Buffon and will be ready should he be called upon.
Simply unflappable, Juventus have sorely missed the 32-year-old this term as a string of niggling injuries have limited his appearances. When available he is an easy choice, his calm demeanour and excellent reading of the game making him a perfect complement to the rugged Chiellini.
If Cesare Prandelli opts for a three-man defence, Bonucci will be an automatic choice in the central role. If Italy play with four, he is likely to back up his Juventus colleagues who are far more comfortable in that system. Possesses a range of passing only bettered by Andrea Pirlo.
Simply the best defender of his generation, the Juventus stopper is one of the first names on Prandelli’s list. Excellent on the ball, his passing is as essential as his ability to neutralise the world’s best strikers, something he has done time and time again for club and country.
Mattia De Sciglio
More versatile than the other full-backs available, the Milan youngster has been excellent since breaking into the side at San Siro. With his injury woes behind him, he will look to translate that onto the international stage.
Daniele De Rossi
The Roma midfielder missed out on the squad selected to face Spain, again falling foul of the "Code of Ethics" put in place by Prandelli. Punching Mauro Icardi has led to a domestic suspension, ruling him out of contention but at his best, his passing, athleticism and passion make him the heart of the Azzurri side. Has often been deployed in central defence to great effect too.
Until recently, the 28-year-old had become a reserve at Juventus, but injuries, suspensions and sheer determination have seen him win back his place. Offering a dynamism and tactical flexibility that few of his peers provide, Marchisio’s timing and eye for goal make him an essential player for Cesare Prandelli.
The Milan captain is another long-term favourite of Cesare Prandelli, having played under the coach at Fiorentina. Despite the poor form of the Rossoneri, he has contributed two goals and four assists, while averaging 2.6 tackles and 1.9 interceptions per game.
Along with Buffon, Maldini, Cannavaro and Dino Zoff, Andrea Pirlo is one of only five players to reach 100 appearances for Italy, a total he will undoubtedly add to in Brazil this summer. Still a vital player at the heart of midfield, his average of 70.1 passes per game leads all players in Serie A, and the Bearded Genius has completed them at a rate of 89.2 per cent.
Without doubt the key figure for Italy, his performances will perhaps affect the side more than any other player in Cesare Prandelli’s squad. With 22 Serie A goals in 31 appearances for Milan since leaving England, he is in excellent form and usually reserves his best displays for the Azzurri.
The Torino striker has been a revelation since moving into a central role this season, netting 11 goals whilst adding eight assists, many to team-mate Ciro Immobile. Equally adept out wide, the 26-year-old offers versatility and creativity that few can match, particularly now that Alessandro Diamanti has left for China.
Simply put, if he’s fit, he’s on the plane. With 14 goals in 18 games, the striker was in superb form before his latest knee injury and is a long-time favourite of Prandelli. Forms an excellent partnership with Balotelli which is central to the coach’s plan and has been since almost the day he took over from Marcello Lippi.
On the Edge
The Genoa ‘keeper received his first call-up this week, giving him the edge over his rivals for the third goalkeeping slot.
The Milan full-back has struggled for form and fitness this term, but if he finds both, he’s certain to make the trip.
A debut cap for the Argentinean-born defender, who is a vastly improved player from the one we saw at Liverpool. His place may depend on the form of both team-mate Mattia Cassani and Juve’s Angelo Ogbonna, but may have done enough v Spain to seal a spot.
Another Parma player hoping to be in Brazil, he may be left in a straight fight with PSG’s Thiago Motta and Verratti for a spot in midfield.
Averaging 84.3 attempts per game, the 21-year-old trails only Barcelona’s Xavi in terms of sheer volume of passes among Europe’s top-five leagues, but was left looking on as Italy faced Spain on Wednesday. He connects with 91.4 per cent of those, making him a good alternative to any of the first-choice midfielders, but Prandelli appears unconvinced.
Not a regular at Roma, his impact as a substitute has brought him to Prandelli’s attention and if that continues, he’s a certainty.