Marcello Lippi Gives Marco Borriello His Chance To Shine For Italy

Giancarlo RinaldiCorrespondent IMarch 1, 2010

FLORENCE, ITALY - FEBRUARY 24:  Marco Borriello of AC Milan in action during the Serie A match between ACF Fiorentina and AC Milan at Stadio Artemio Franchi on February 24, 2010 in Florence, Italy.  (Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images)
Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

If you believe Marcello Lippi, there are only a handful of spaces left in his World Cup squad.


He has already said about 17 spots are booked for South Africa.


Even my elementary arithmetic knows that means only six berths remain.


A few of the last hopefuls to join the party will get their chance to stake a late claim with a friendly against Cameroon this week.


Prime among the candidates is Milan frontman Marco Borriello.


He looked like a certainty to be an Azzurri regular back in his Genoa days when he became one of Serie A’s most prolific hitmen.


Then the curse of the San Siro struck.


He got injured and when he was able to play he looked half the player he had been for the Rossoblu.


He was not the first striker to find the move to Milan a difficult one, nor the last. Alberto Gilardino before him and Klass Jan Huntelaar nowadays can tell you how unforgiving the Rossoneri faithful can be.


You can’t blame them, mind you, when they witnessed one of the best in the business, Marco Van Basten, ply his trade.


But the Borriello story may yet have a happy ending.


He scored a goal which was a bit reminiscent of his Dutch predecessor earlier this season.


Now he has a chance to go to the World Cup.


A strong run of league performances between now and June and injury to his rivals could play out in his favour.


If, for example, Vincenzo Iaquinta remains on the sidelines for Juve, it would clear another spot in the Italy attack.


The big frontman must stand the best chance of making the final squad out of Marcello Lippi’s interesting inclusions against Cameroon.


Palermo goalie Salvatore Sirigu is unlikely to travel to South Africa while Bari’s Leonardo Bonucci and Palermo’s Mattia Cassani are outside bets in defence.


And it’s hard to reckon Cagliari’s Andrea Cossu will be part of the expedition.


Borriello is in the strongest position, especially if he gets regular football at Milan between now and the end of the season.


That is likely to be what counts against one of his cross-town rivals.


Mario Balotelli turned in a tour de force display against Udinese at the weekend and also produced eye-grabbing skills against Chelsea in the Champions League.


He represents a really exciting option for the Azzurri.


His dead ball technique, ability to beat a man, thunderous shot and wicked crossed balls make him a potential matchwinner—and Italy don’t have that many of them.


However, he is likely to be ignored.


Super Mario is still used sparingly by Jose Mourinho and his individual approach does not sit well with Marcello Lippi’s obsessive pursuit of team spirit.


Which is a bit of a shame, really.


Still, it is best to focus on the players who are involved, rather than indulging in the Italian media pastime of creating tension about whoever has been omitted (usually Antonio Cassano).


Borriello gets the chance this week to show he can be a key contributor for his country this summer.


In the spirit of Paolo Rossi and Toto Schillaci he would not be the first striker to come from almost nowhere and make an impact for Italy at the World Cup.


Followers of the Azzurri will be watching the Milan man’s performance with interest.


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