Predicting Cesare Prandelli's Italy World Cup Squad

Matteo Bonetti@@TheCalcioGuyContributor INovember 12, 2013

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 10:  Mario Balotelli and Stephan El Shaarawy (L) during an Italy training session at Estadio Joao Havelange on June 10, 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)

With the 2014 Brazil World Cup only seven months away, it's time to look ahead at the squad Cesare Prandelli will pick to spearhead the Italian national team forward in a competition where they're ranked as one of the favorites.

Cesare Prandelli has plenty of options to choose from
Cesare Prandelli has plenty of options to choose from

The Azzurri are already qualified for the competition and will be in the second pot, meaning that there's a good chance they could be part of a metaphorical group of death.

Without further ado, let's take a look at the players who should be playing a major part for Italy next Summer:

Goalkeepers:

Is there even a debate here? It's a no-brainer that Gianluigi Buffon will be the starter, as Prandelli has said that as long as he's in charge the Juventus No. 1 will be his man between the pipes.

Expect Federico Marchetti and Salvatore Sirigu to take the two back-up spots. Marchetti has had a slight dip in form this season while PSG's Sirigu should take the reigns of that primary backup spot behind the eternal Gianluigi Buffon.

Defense:

Here's where it becomes purely hypothetical, as the tactical setup will differ drastically depending on the formation Prandelli decides to go with.

Barzagli (left) trains with Christian Maggio
Barzagli (left) trains with Christian Maggio

A 3-5-2 means the Juventus back-line of Andrea Barzagli, Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci will get the nod, while a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1 would change the entire system. In a four-man defense, Prandelli has gone with Milan's full-back pairing of Ignazio Abate and the youngster Mattia De Sciglio, although the Milan full-back won't start if their domestic form continues to be poor. 

Fiorentina's Manuel Pasqual has been good for his club, even though he never really broke out for country. Pasqual is the finest left-footed crosser of the ball Italy has in their repertoire and could be a dark-horse candidate.

Assuming the 3-5-2 remains his preferred tactical lineup, don't be surprised if Christian Maggio becomes his right wing-back, with Emanuele Giaccherini operating on the opposite flank.

Midfield:

There's no doubting Andrea Pirlo will continue to be the anchor of the midfield, as he's still in top form with Juventus and has actually improved his set-piece taking this year. 

The Azzurri enjoying a photo session on the beach
The Azzurri enjoying a photo session on the beach

Alongside the deep-lying playmaker, expect Daniele De Rossi and Claudio Marchisio to do the dirty work on the defensive end, giving Pirlo plenty of space to operate. All three of these players are capable going forward and can score.

It remains to be seen whether Prandelli wants to keep using Montolivo, as the Milan midfielder has been average at best domestically, and could give way to the likes of Alberto Aquilani or Alessandro Diamanti.

Attack:

For the first time this calendar year, I'm not too sure whether or not Mario Balotelli deserves a starting place. Yes, he is Italy's striker with the most unbridled skill and technique, but this penchant for committing idiotic fouls and getting suspended hasn't subsided just yet. While he should be the starter in Brazil 2014, his progress has to be monitored as he's not enjoying a positive moment right now with Milan and could even be sold to a different club before the competition gets under way.

There's no better striker in Italy right now than Giuseppe Rossi
There's no better striker in Italy right now than Giuseppe Rossi

Moving on, Giuseppe Rossi is the most in-form striker that Prandelli has at his disposal, and he is a shoe-in starter on the right side of a 4-3-3, where he can cut in with that fantastic left foot. Alessio Cerci will most-likely be Pepito's backup.

On the left side of the attacking trident, Napoli's Lorenzo Insigne should get the nod. The diminutive youngster is fast, tricky, agile, creative and also has a lethal finishing touch. With Balotelli, Rossi and Insigne, Italy would have one of the most technical attacking setups in the world. 

As a backup for Balotelli, expect Prandelli to go with one of his favorites, Genoa striker Alberto Gilardino. Gila gives Italy a much different look up front, as he's very good at holding up the ball and one of the finest headers in the peninsula.

The biggest mystery for Italy will be Stephan El Shaarawy. Once thought of as the future of Italian football, Il Faraone has had a terrible 2013 campaign, and has yet to feature domestically after suffering from a series of ongoing injuries which have halted his career.

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