Marcello Lippi made two cuts from his provisional Italian squad of 30 players. One was Antonio Candreva, who is a young talented player, but is probably not ready to compete on the world’s biggest stage. The other cut was far more shocking because it was 2006 World Cup hero Fabio Grosso.
Grosso has had a dreadful 2009-10 season with Juventus, so it is not a total surprise that he is being excluded from the team. It is strange, however, because of what Grosso has done for the Azzurri over the years.
He was a vital player for them during the 2006 WC, his goal against Germany advanced Italy into the finals, and in the final, with all of the pressure in the world on him in the penalty shootout, he stepped up and delivered Italy it’s fourth World Cup.
In Euro 2008, Grosso also played very well as the first choice at leftback, and when Lippi returned to the national team, Grosso kept his spot. At the Confederations Cup, Lippi benched him in the last game of the group stage for Andrea Dossena, which failed, as Dossena did not play well and scored an own goal.
After that experiment, Grosso regained his starting position for the rest of qualifiers.
Due to Lippi’s love for his old players, and his particular love for his old players from Juventus, it seemed inevitable that Fabio Grosso would play in South Africa, even though he had a poor season on the club level.
Throughout his career, he always seemed to play better for Italy than he did for his club teams.
So many assumed that Lippi would overlook his poor form throughout the season and take him to the Cup.
His exclusion paves the way for Domenico Criscito to take over at left-back, and it sends a signal that in his final round of cuts that even the heroes of 2006 are not safe.
While this is great news that many of the fans of Italy have been waiting for, it would seem to come too late to really have a major impact on the tournament, because many of the players that could have gained valuable experience during qualifying did not get a chance, and will have to adjust to the pressures of the Azzurri very quickly if Italy is going to have a chance to win.
Now that Grosso and Candreva have been cut, 28 players are still in the running for 23 spots to South Africa.
With the message that Lippi sent by removing Grosso, here is a look at how the rest of the roster will shake out:
Buffon is a lock to make the team. Out of the other three, De Sanctis has been solid all season and has earned his spot, and due to Marchetti’s inconsistency this season, and the immense potential of Salvatore Sirigu, I believe Sirigu should go.
All eight of the defenders left of the roster should make the team.
Cassani has played very well this season and should get the chance to start, Chiellini and Cannavaro will start in the middle, and Criscito will man the leftback position.
The others should provide depth.
This is a strange squad for Italy, because only Cannavaro and Zambrotta have more than 30 caps, so the defense is much more inexperienced than in the past.
This is the area where many of cuts could occur.
Gennaro Gattuso has lost his legs and is not the bulldog that he once was, and he should not make it on his past achievements. Angelo Palombo has had a much better season.
Mauro Camoranesi is over the hill and is another Juventus player that has struggled this season.
Simone Pepe is a younger favorite of Lippi that lacks the talent to make the final roster.
Since four have already been cut, that leaves one forward to be removed to finalize the 23.
That player should be Vincenzo Iaquinta, who has been injured for most of the season, and has only five goals for Italy in thiry five games.
Goalkeepers: Buffon, De Sanctis, Sirigu
Defenders: Bocchetti, Bonucci, Cannavaro, Cassani, Chiellini, Criscito, Maggio, Zambrotta
Midfielders: Cossu, De Rossi, Marchisio, Montolivo, Palombo, Pirlo
Strikers: Borriello, Di Natale, Gilardino, Pazzini, Quagliarella, Giuseppe Rossi