Picking the Worst Italy XI of All Time
It's harder than you'd think to pick a truly woeful Italy XI. Prior to the late 90s, selecting a strong squad was rarely a problem.
The pre-eminence of Serie A, and the league's focus on home-grown players, coupled with the fact that most international sides played far fewer games, meant that Azzurri managers didn't have to worry about squad rotation or searching far and wide to find the best players. Italy's best clubs were all full of brilliant Italian stars, so all that was left to do was pick the XI that suited best.
In recent years, that's changed, and it seems there's always some qualifying game or meaningless friendly for teams to deal with. The league's different, too, and the country's best talent is no longer so easily found.
Being the least desirable player to pull on the gloves for Italy doesn't necessarily make you a terrible keeper, so inclusion here isn't meant to be too harsh on AC Milan's Christian Abbiati.
That said, it's hard to feel too sorry for a player who still believes in fascism in the 21st century, and Abbiati deserves the call up to Italy's worst-ever XI by virtue of the fact that as a player he's been so utterly average for so many years.
Plenty of brilliant keepers have graced the box for the Azzurri—but 36-year-old from the outskirts of Milan wasn't one of them, and he only ever earned four caps between 2003 and 2005.
Now more famous in Italy for his attention-seeking celebrity lifestyle, Francesco Coco showed promise as a youth but ultimately left calcio having achieved little. Known for having a relaxed attitude to professionalism, his most memorable contribution at the San Siro was perhaps being used as a make-weight in the deal that brought Clarence Seedorf to Milan from rivals Inter.
Andrea Ranocchia promised plenty when he first burst onto the Serie A scene with Genoa, and was lauded by some as the future of Italy's defence.
Now at 26, most fans would be happy to think of him as firmly in the past, and it's safe to say he'll never be anything more than an average centreback who's capable of committing some unforgivable howlers.
Inter paid almost €20 million in total for Ranocchia's signature back in 2011, making him one of the worst transfers in recent memory, too.
Marcello Lippi obviously saw something in Nicola Legrottaglie that most other observers missed.
Not only did the World Cup-winning coach bring him to Juventus from Chievo in 2003, but he revived the aging Legrottaglie's international hopes in 2008, by recalling him to the Azzurri squad after a lengthy absence.
He almost made the cut for the 2010 World Cup squad, which perhaps would have been suited him because Italy performed so poorly.
It's not that Andrea Dossena is particularly bad, it's just that he's not exactly brilliant, either.
The Lombardy native struggled to get a game at Sunderland, and was released by the club at the end of last season. He's yet to find a new home.
Another foreign player who chose to declare for Italy simply because he wasn't good enough for Argentina, Lazio's Cristian Ledesma got just a single game for the Azzurri.
Ledesma's a popular figure with the blue half of Rome, but failed to win over anyone with his performance against Romania back in 2010 and hasn't been recalled since.
Was it a touching tribute to his adopted home and the birthplace of his wife, or a cynical move to play international football? You decide, but he wouldn't be within a mile of any self-respecting, strong Italy XI.
If Ezequiel Schelotto had been born in Italy, it would be difficult to make a case for him appearing in the Azzurri jersey. But the fact that he's an Argentine, and still got selected, beggars belief.
Schelotto's closest familial tie to the country is through his great-great-grandfather, who emigrated in the 19th century. He played in a number of roles last season for Parma and Sassuolo, all of them poorly, but don't expect to see him in an Italy shirt again any time soon.
Juventus' Simone Pepe was at the heart of the team during Lippi's second, disasterous spell as national coach. Enough said.
There have been quite a few forgettable strikers to appear for Italy in recent years—and a few more that their managers probably wish they could forget. Emiliano Bonazzoli is one of them.
This reporter briefly remembers an indifferent patch of so-so form from the well-travelled striker while he was at Sampdoria in 2006, and he featured for Italy at the same time, in a friendly against Turkey. He's now playing for Budapest Honved in Hungary.
Honourable mentions should go to another Sampdoria non-scoring forward, Fabio Bazzani, every Man City fan's favourite italian flop, Bernardo Corradi, and Milan's unloved and goal-shy striker, Alessandro Matri.
The third Oriundo on the list. Italy has a long history playing footballers born abroad to immigrant families, with plenty of success. Giuseppe Rossi's a recent example, but they're have been plenty of success stories dating back to the great Omar Sivori and beyond.
Amauri isn't one of them. Such was the dearth of striking options available at the time, that after a single decent season at Palermo, the Brazilian was the talk of Italian football, having decided to take citizenship in Italy thanks to his marriage to a Brazilian-Italian woman.
Legal issues prevented him from playing right away, and by the time he made his debut for the Azzurri, a 2010 friendly with Cote d'Ivoire, his form had already vanished. Since then, he's flopped at several clubs, and managed just three goals for Parma last season.
At club level, Giuseppe Galderisi was a capable, if unspectacular, performer. He wasn't a prolific goalscorer, but he enjoyed a lengthy career with the likes of Juventus, Milan, Lazio and Verona before finishing up at New England Revolution in the late 90s.
In an Italy shirt, however, Galderisi had little luck and didn't score a single goal in the 10 games he played. He was part of the 1986 World Cup squad—the one that drew to Bulgaria and Argentina, and only beat South Korea thanks to an own-goal from the Asians, before being knocked out by France in the next round.
Having gone into the tournament as defending champions, Italy were poor and despite having a squad full of talent, failed to make their mark in Mexico. Cho Kwang-rae scored more goals for the Azzurri than Galderisi did, and for that, he joins Amauri up front.