After the shocking and embarassing performance given by Coach Marcello Lippi and his squad at the Fifa World Cup in South Africa, the only thing Italian football fans can do is look to the near future. On July 1st, Cesare Prandelli will be announced as the new coach of the Azzurri. With his arrival, azzurri fans will undoubtedly be looking for change.
The biggest question about Prandelli will not be his formation, his ideas on the field, or how he invisions preparing his team for major tournaments. All the focus of the fans will be on Prandelli's squad selections, as it was this aspect of coaching that put the nail in Marcello Lippi's casket.
Although we do not know yet how Prandelli will chose his team, one can only hope there will be no biased opinions or politics involved. The team that should be chosen, and eventually used in big tournaments is as follows...
The goal keeping in Italy should still be without question the same as it was for the 2010 World Cup with only a few minor tweaks. The Azzurri starting keeper, for at least the duration of Euro 2012 qualifying and the tournament itself has to be none other then Gianluigi Buffon.
Perhaps one of the weakest links at south Africa was the Italian goal keeping. After Buffon went down to injury, Federico Marchetti, a relatively young and inexperienced keeper took over, and a nothing short of dismal performance. Allowing 4 weak goals in 2 games is something that simply cannot happen in the Italian National football team. Buffon allowed just 2 goals throughtout the 2006 world cup triumph, with one coming via penalty, and the other an own goal from Cristian Zaccardo.
Backups will continue to feature Marchetti, however De Sanctis should be dropped for promising youngster Salvatore Sirigu.
For as long as Italy has had a mens football team, its biggest strength has been its defense. Widely regarded as the world`s strongest defensive unit, the azzurri embarassingly let their renowned defensive form slip in 2010. Perhaps the wrong preparations were taken, perhaps Italian heroes Fabio Cannavaro and Gianluca Zambrotta were too far past their primes, whatever the reason, 2010 was a disaster defensively and it is something that must change.
The Azzurri defense should be refreshed with a wave of young talent. Unquestionable starters will include Italy's best center back, Girogio Chiellini, as well as up and coming youngster Leonardo Bonucci.
Others who should find their names on Cesare Prandelli's azzurri are Christian Maggio, Alessandro Gamberini, Domenico Criscito, Davide Santon, and Lorenzo De Silvestri.
With a back 4 featuring talents like these, the Azzurri could easily regain its legendary defensive form for Euro 2012.
Probable starters: MOTTA – BONUCCI - CHIELLINI - CRISCITO
The 2010 Azzurri mid feild was another area hindered by old age and poor selections. Marcello Lippi made it obvious since day one that long time friend Rino Gattusso would make the trip to South Africa, despite his incredible lack of playing time at AC Milan and his more then obvious decline in ability. Gattusso was just one of many disappointments in an embarassing Italian midfeild at WC 2010.
Although Andrea Pirlo's injury was a major set back for the azzurri, games with Paraguay, New Zealand and SLovakia should have given the mid field a chance to shine with or without its leader. However, this was not the case.
Despite his poor form in South Africa, Claudio Marchisio will more then likely continue his young azzurri career on route to euro 2012. Accompanying him from the 2010 Azzurri will be sure starter Daniele De Rossi, the Azzurri's most under rated player, and the back bone of the azzurri mid field. De Rossi is a crucial part to the future of the azzurri, and may find himself wearing the Italian captain's armband in the years to come. Andrea Pirlo will probably be finishing up his career at Euro 2012, most likely as a substitute. Ricardo Montolivo will also return to the Azzurri.
New comers should include youngsters Antonio Candreva, Alberto Aquilani, and Turin's Sebastian Giovinco. When given a chance to play, albeit not often, Giovinco has proven his ability to be the next great fantasista. With comparissons to Italian legend Alessandro Del Piero being made so early in his career, Giovinco should find his debut under Cesare Prandelli's watchful eye.
Depending on Prandelli's prefered formation, as few as 2 of these men could see the feild at a time. If Prandelli sticks to his favored 4-2-3-1, the likely starters will be De Rossi and Montolivo.
Possibly the most exciting part of Prandelli's arrival to the Azzurri is the wave of talent he is expected to introduce at striker. Easily Italy's biggest weakness under Marcello Lippi's second term, the attack in Italy has been nothing short of laughable ever since 2006. With Italian legends Del Piero and Totti past their Azzurri days, Lippi made the horrendous mistake of choosing players who may give their all, but simply do not possess the skill of their Italian superiors. Lippi saw past several incredible talents, and in turn, cost Italy the 2010 world cup.
Although Prandelli is expected to bring a bit of Lippi's friendship biased towards his own friend, Alberto Gilardino, he is also expected to introduce an overhaul in the Italian attack.
The first name on Prandelli's list has to be none other then Antonio Cassano, the creative genius from Sampdoria who, throughout his career has been snubbed time after time. His is a talent that Italy cannot afford to squander, and Cassano should find his way to an unquestioned starting position in the Italian line up for a long time.
The next name has to be perhaps the most intriguing player in Italy. Inter Milan's Mario Balotelli. At 20 years of age, Balotelli has proved his worth at both Inter and in the under 21 azzurri squad. With the ability to strike from 35 yards with ease, Balotelli posses the potential to be the worlds greatest striker in the years to come. No one in Italy has the potential that Mario does, and despite his questionable behaviour, Balotelli CANNOT be overlooked any longer. With the right guidance from Prandelli and Azzurri veterans such as Daniele De Rossi, Balotelli could be the next big thing in the world of football.
Others who should join Prandelli's list of Azzurri strikers are American born Giuseppe Rossi, and perhaps Italy's best striker in 2010, Fabio Quagliarella. Quagliarella showed his abilities in Italy's final match against Slovakia, striking twice in 5 minutes (although one was controversially called offside).
With a spot almost garunteed to go to Prandelli's Fiorentina top choice Alberto Gilardino, the final spot will most likely come down to Fabrizio Miccoli and Giampaolo Pazzini. With Miccoli already past 30, the nod should probably go to Pazzini, despite Miccoli's incredible talent, he has unfortunatly been snubbed for too long, as his time has past.
In a 4-2-3-1 formation, the starters could be a 3 way line up of Quagliarella, Cassano, and Rossi, with Mario Balotelli the lone striker up front.
How's that for intimidating attack?
With an overview simlar to the one I have listed, there is no question that the Azzurri should regain their world renowned form and be a constant competitor for the big trophies for years to come. The 23 man squad I named is full of youth, experience, and potential. This Azzurri is one that will not often be out run, and with hungry youngsters at the helm, it is one that will likely fight for 90 minutes every game.
With a unique mixture of defensive talent and offensive potential, this azzurri is one that would strike instant fear in the eyes of any opposition, whether it be New Zealand, or Brazil.