Marcello Lippi has picked his 29-man preliminary squad for the World Cup. The selection is controversial—to say the least—as the current squad does not include many players who have been in excellent form this season.
Lippi may have a strong case not to call Juventus' Brazilian-born striker Amauri who has gained Italian citizenship. The Juventus striker has scored a disappointing five goals in 27 games this season.
Lippi may also have a valid justification as to why he chooses not to include troublesome Inter Milan forward Mario Balotelli.
Balotelli’s progress as a star has been hampered by his attitude problems. His inclusion may disrupt the spirit of the squad.
But, excluded star pair Antonio Cassano and Fabrizio Miccoli are arguably in the form of their lives. They have both featured regularly for Sampdoria and Palermo respectively.
Cassano’s Sampdoria currently sit fourth in the Serie A table with 63 points while Miccoli-inspired Palermo lay fifth with 61 points.
It has been suggested that past issues between Lippi and each of the pair (Miccoli and Cassano) have influenced his decision to leave them out.
But doesn't their exclusion damage the Italian squad's World Cup chances?
And Lippi’s selection woes are not restricted to those who should have been picked.
There are several faces who are listed in the squad without justification:
Gennaro Gattuso has been injured for most of the current campaign and has featured sporadically for Milan. With two more games to play in the current season, the 32-year-old has only 17 appearances under his belt.
Gattuso only played 12 games last season and has gone down the pecking order in Milan. Massimo Ambrosini has been more consistent and has managed more appearances, and yet it is Gattuso who gets the call-up.
Another stunning inclusion is Mauro Camoranesi. The 33-year-old, who has shown clear signs of aging during the current campaign, is still Lippi’s first-choice winger.
His understudy, Cagliari’s Andrea Cossu, has one international appearance and might be dropped when it is time to announce the final 23-man squad for South Africa.
Perhaps the squad’s biggest worry is in defense. The Italians have been known for their solid defenders. However, with an aging backline whose bulk is formed from the underachieving Juventus defenders, Italy can no longer rely on their defensive strength.
Fabio Grosso and Fabio Cannavaro have had a dreadful season in which Juve have conceded 50 goals in the league—with two matches yet to be played.
While Giorgio Chiellini is currently Italy’s best defender, the inclusion of Gianluca Zambrotta has also raised question marks over Lippi’s choices.
Zambrotta has not been a first-team regular at Milan with manager Leonardo opting to play Luca Antonini and Gianluca Abate.
Another surprise inclusion is Vincenzo Iaquinta. Although he is a good player, Iaquinta has featured only 13 times for Juventus, scoring five goals in the process.
Going into the 2006 World Cup in Germany, the Italian team looked like a force to reckon with. Italy proved to be among of the favorites in Germany and eventually landed their fourth World Cup in style.
Marcello Lippi has stated he hopes to win two consecutive World Cups with Italy—a feat which was only achieved once when Italy were led to two triumphs by Vittorio Pozzo in 1934 and 1938.
However, with the current set-up it would be crazy to bet that Italy will lift the World Cup in South Africa on July 11.