Marcello Lippi today announced his squad for the first international fixture of the season, and it seems much has changed. This comes after the awful showing in the Confederations Cup and ahead of a vital season for any team serious about winning next years World Cup.
With the World Cup now only nine months away, Lippi must have had an uncomfortable summer break, his brow even more furrowed than usual at the task ahead of him. On top of the poor form of a number of his players, he also has to contend with losing his number two, Ciro Ferrara. The role played by Ferrara in 2006 is not to be under estimated, with a number of players speaking out at the way he lifted and galvanised a squad stuck in the centre of the Calciopoli scandal.
Now there is no Calciopoli and no Ferrara for Lippi, and he alone must decide the shape and destiny of the azzurri come World Cup time. It seems like he is determined to learn from his mistakes and make the changes many have been crying out for since Lippi returned to the national bench.
No, of course there is no Cassano in his latest squad announcement, and I doubt there will be while there is still a beating heart in the coaches chest. More than most managers in world football, Lippi knows how to hold a grudge. If you think I'm forgetting Sir Alex, I'm not. Lippi's treatment of Cassano, and Baggio previously, trumps any of Fergusons spats with Keane, Beckham, Stam or Van Nistlerooy.
Anyway, back to the changes actually made. In defence, Gamberini is unlucky to not be retained, while Lippi has also dropped the embarrassing Dossena. Juve's Legrottalie also missed out, and with Cannavaro joining Chiellini at Juve he must need to play well and often to force his way into both teams. Replacing these are the young Genoa pair of Bocchetti and Cristcito. They, alongside Davide Santon, bring some hope that a number of young players might force their way into Lippi's plans should the established players continue to disappoint.
Midfield sees the most drastic overhaul, with no room for previous Lippi regulars Gattuso, and De Rossi. While the Roma and Milan men will definitely return once proven fully fit. Ricardo Montolivo pays the price for his continued mediocrity at the highest level.
The impressive thing is Lippi has steered away from experienced names to replace them. Where you might expect a recall for new Milan Captain Massimo Ambrosini, we find the impressive D'Agostino given another chance, alongside Juve's rising starlet Claudio Marchisio. Both must be hopeful of a chance to sign, both much snatch it with both hands as these are the type of player Italy needs to be successful again.
Up front it is no surprise to see Guiseppe Rossi continue, along with Quagliarella and Gilardino. Simone Pepe is given another chance, as is the goal-shy Iaquinta. These two players maybe in the last chance saloon, and the omission of Luca Toni will serve to ram that point home. Hugely ineffective in the Confederations Cup, and now an outcast at Bayern Munich, Toni must find a club where he'll play most games, as well as his scoring touch, or his international career is firmly finished.
I hope his exclusion is a wake up call to the rest of the squad. World Cup Season has begun. Italy's players might just have been given the jolt they needed to remind them that Lippi intends to be in South Africa next summer, and he also wants to bring back the trophy he has held so proudly since Berlin. There is no more room for passengers, nobody will be carried.
The time to shine has arrived, the favours have ended, now its time to go to work.
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