World Cup 2014: 3 Reasons Cesare Prandelli Was Justified in Axing Giuseppe Rossi
The 27-year-old missed four months after suffering a cruciate ligament injury in January—his second injury to the same area and fourth overall in the last six years.
Yet he made the 30-man provisional squad and played 71 minutes against the Republic of Ireland before being cut.
He may not have impressed against Ireland, but should his pre-injury form—he netted 14 goals in just 17 Serie A matches—have merited inclusion for the tournament?
It was always unlikely Prandelli would take six forwards, so conjecture over whether Rossi should have been included when Riccardo Montolivo dropped out due to injury is simply that: conjecture.
Nevertheless, when midfielders unlikely to feature—such as Alberto Aquilani and Marco Parolo—have been taken, the question must be asked: Can Prandelli be justified in not finding a space for Rossi?
Here, we take a look at three possible reasons for Prandelli's decision not to take Rossi to the World Cup.
3. The Strength in Depth of the Forwards He Did Take
Despite his obvious goalscoring talent, Rossi's rivals in attack can provide Prandelli with much-needed depth should the tactician decide to switch formations mid-tournament, such as in Euro 2012.
Mario Balotelli and Ciro Immobile are different players to Rossi, who often likes to drop deep and create. The latter is the form striker going into the tournament—having scored 23 goals for Torino last season in addition to netting a hat-trick in the Azzurri's final warm-up match against Fluminense.
The inclusion of Alessio Cerci and Lorenzo Insigne suggests Prandelli could indeed opt for a triumvirate of forwards—likely those two flanking Immobile—meaning both provide options Rossi wouldn't.
That leaves Antonio Cassano. The Parma man was in good form for his club throughout the domestic campaign, and while Rossi is both younger and perhaps more of a goalscoring threat, Cassano already has tournament experience, including a successful Euro 2012 partnering Balotelli, in his favour.
2. No Big Tournament Experience
Except for a little over two matches during Italy's ill-fated 2009 Confederations Cup campaign, Rossi has no senior international tournament experience.
The same criticism could be levelled at Cerci, Insigne and Immobile. Yet, as the previous slide mentioned, all three bring something different to Prandelli's side in a way that allows greater strength in depth going forward.
Rossi's lack of tournament experience may have been but a minute reason he was left at home, but the method behind Prandelli's decision surely considered the benefit to the whole squad in having a variety of options and a blend of experience available.
1. Medical Concerns
The obvious one.
Despite its predictability, concern over Rossi's susceptibility to injury is still the No. 1 justification for dropping him from the World Cup squad.
It ties in with his lack of tournament experience—he has missed the last three largely due to his long injury lay-offs.
Faced with such a situation, Prandelli cannot win.
Either he takes Rossi and runs the risk of a proven injury liability once again living up to his reputation, for which he would doubtless receive heavy criticism.
Or, as he eventually opted for, he does not take him and runs the risk of being held responsible for a lack of goals should his other main strikers have average tournaments.
The only time to know if Prandelli was truly justified leaving Rossi out will be at the end of Italy's tournament and the success, or failure, that brings with it.