Since Italy lost their opening game of the European Championships so convincingly to Holland, their chances of winning the competition have been written off around the world. The Azzurri looked flat and dull, lacking any imagination or youthful exuberance.
The first 11 included nine players over the age of 30. Among them was the very mediocre Antonio Di Natale, a late developer in the game but, it seems, failing to impress at the highest level with the national side.
Juventus winger Mauro Camoranesi was another of "Babbo Esercito" (or "Dads Army", whichever you prefer) who disappointed in the game against the Dutch and who, in my opinion, has been overrated throughout his career, lacking any real consistency in his game.
Even one of the younger players in relation to his teammates, Andrea Barzagli, was docile and lacked defensive awareness, receiving massive criticism from the Italian media.
But despite the doom and gloom of the Italian public, the Azzurri may have a few aces up their sleeve.
Coach Roberto Donadoni has several players to turn to. 24 year-old Daniele De Rossi had another excellent season for AS Roma in Serie A, and many were surprised to see him left out of the starting line-up for the Holland game.
Massimo Ambrosini was preferred, but proved ineffectual. In reality, Ambrosini is too similar a player to Gennaro Gattuso. Another 'yard-dog' is not what is needed at the heart of the Italian midfield.
Drafting in De Rossi will add a more composed feel to the Italians when they are in possession of the ball—but he can also stick his foot into a challenge when required.
Former Manchester United target Fabio Quagliarella made his first start in a vital match for the national side against Lithuania, in which he scored two good goals. He was another who was surplus to requirements for Monday’s game.
A strike force of Di Natale and Luca Toni, while possessing much guile and experience, is short of a measure of adventure and innovation. Quagliarella could provide this creativity. Whether Donadoni allows him to do so is a very different matter, with Antonio Cassano seeming his preference.
So do not write Italy off yet. "Babbo Esercito" they may be but, with a little assistance from the younger contingent, they can still emulate the France side of the late nineties and early noughties by following their World Cup dominance with European success, starting with tonight’s game against the stubborn Romanians.
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