How Italy Can Best Utilize Their Attacking Options at the World Cup

Matteo BonettiContributor IJune 11, 2014

Italy's Mario Balotelli, left, talks with his teammate forward Ciro Immobile during a training session, in Mangaratiba, Brazil, Tuesday, June 10, 2014. Italy will play in group D of the Brazil 2014 soccer World Cup. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)
Antonio Calanni/Associated Press

Unlike previous national sides, this version of Italy will go into the World Cup with more attacking options than defensive solidity.

A back line which is usually a watertight unit has been plagued with inconsistency and a notion that their full-backs are inexperienced and could be exposed against some of the best opposition.

With that being said, a world-class midfield and a plethora of attacking options should be enough to make the Azzurri a threat against any side in the World Cup.

Cesare Prandelli has plenty of important lineup decisions to make
Cesare Prandelli has plenty of important lineup decisions to makeAntonio Calanni/Associated Press

With the likes of Andrea Pirlo and Daniele De Rossi in the midfield, the attackers can be sure to receive plenty of quality balls in space that will give them the best chance to score.

Mario Balotelli is expected to lead the front line despite being pushed by Ciro Immobile, who was also the top scorer in Serie A and is coming off a performance in a friendly against Fluminense where he scored a hat-trick and assisted two goals.

Prandelli considers both Balotelli and Immobile as central strikers, so it's unlikely that they'll start together in the presumed 4-3-3 formation that was used a lot during the European World Cup qualifiers.

On the wings is where it gets very interesting. Lorenzo Insigne has been positive in recent friendlies and might have just pushed his way into Prandelli's starting XI. He would presumably play on the left of the attacking trident like he does at Napoli.

Insigne can offer plenty of creativity and guile, as well as quickness to free himself from the defender and put the ball onto his right foot where he likes to have a curling attempt at goal.

On the opposite flank, expect someone like Torino winger Alessio Cerci to get the nod.

Cerci is right in his prime but is largely untested at the highest level. This competition could be a great opportunity for him to put his mark on world football—he certainly has the talent to do it.

Insigne celebrates with Immobile in the Italy vs. Fluminense friendly
Insigne celebrates with Immobile in the Italy vs. Fluminense friendlyAntonio Calanni/Associated Press

His pace with the ball at his feet is perhaps his greatest asset, and his play style reminds of Arjen Robben—a right winger than essentially only uses his left foot. His movements with the ball and quick cuts to the box often leave defenders rooted to their spot.

A possible trident of Balotelli, Insigne and Cerci could be the best way for Cesare Prandelli to maximize the versatility he has in attack.

Neither player comes close to being a traditional No.9, and this would give the opposition no reference point up top as Balotelli also likes to drift out wide in search of the ball.

If Balotelli fails to produce in the opening match, Prandelli has Ciro Immobile on the bench who offers a completely different dimension. Immobile is strong in aerial battles and is more of a traditional striker than Super Mario.

Then there's the Antonio Cassano card. The Parma playmaker is coming off arguably his best season as a professional and has never looked fitter.

With so many possibilities, it's an interesting prospect to see who the Azzurri coach will pick in attack, as there are so many quality variants that could be used effectively.

Only time will tell.