The current World Champions Italy have crashed out of the Confederations Cup, suffering humiliating defeats against Brazil and Egypt. Now is the time to ask—will the World Cup in 2010 be another Azzurri dream, or a nightmare?
Italy were woeful versus Brazil and the match served to highlight major issues with the players selected for the Confederations Cup and those left at home. Many have pointed out that Mr Lippi should have used this tournament to learn about the players available to him and unlike many I believe he has.
He's learnt that left over from the glory of Berlin he has Buffon, De Rossi, Grosso, and Pirlo who are still first choice. Chiellini is an addition to those four and he is Italy's best central defender.
The Brazil game also showed that despite being "past his best" Fabio Cannavaro still has more to offer than any other player at CB today. Zambrotta seems to have slowed considerably and over the next year I expect Santon (alleged to be suffering a muscle problem) to be eased in his place at RB, with Grosso continuing on the left.
The Milan man can expect to be kept in the squad, his versatility giving Lippi more options elsewhere. The dreadful Dossena will I hope be cast aside from now on, giving hope of promotion to Andreolli, Santacroce, and Criscito.
In midfield much change is required, Pirlo and De Rossi may well be joined by Gattuso, who did look heavy legged in South Africa but understandably following such a lengthy lay off. Montolivo provided an option and CL football this term should add experience to his obvious ability.
Both Pepe and Camoranesi looked well below the level required, the level of opposition proving beyond the former, and perhaps one tournament too far for the latter. The Juve pair of Marchisio and Giovinco need to be tried in the senior squad, while Alberto Aquilani, who was voted to Euro 2008's UEFA Team of the Tournament, needs to stand up and be counted.
Up front was easily the most disappointing of any area. I agree with Lippi that this area needs to be chosen based on the opposition, something the coach got absolutely right in 2006, but the options he selected here were terrible.
Toni looked the worst—perhaps his mind being unsettled by transfers into Bayern meaning he needs to move yet again and prove himself to Lippi that he is worthy of inclusion. Gilardino is another who needs to find form at international level quickly.
Rossi looked great coming off the bench but lost against Egypt—another lesson learnt. Quagliarella showed glimpses of his ability in the few moments he was given and adds definitely something different to the others.
Pazzini I feel is a must in the squad for 2010. The other striking berths are a judgement call Lippi must get right - a balance vital to the Azzurri and I feel he needs to pick whoever is in the best form from Balotelli, Cassano, and Del Piero.
All three can win games on their own, the attitude and application of the first two can easily be managed by Lippi, while who can ever rule out another Indian summer for the Juve talisman—another Capocannoniere season from him might just see him sneak back into contention.
With a few new additions and a little tweaking of tactics Lippi is more than capable of getting it right and once again leading his country to glory, the next year promises to be full of change as he tries to get the magic formula once again.