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Azzurri: Cesare Prandelli Picks Antonio Cassano and Mario Balotelli

Prandelli Azzurri: Cesare Prandelli Picks Antonio Cassano and Mario BalotelliItaly boss Cesare Prandelli announced his 23 man squad for the friendly against the Ivory Coast which will take place on Tuesday in England. Many of the names chosen by Marcello Lippi were dropped.

Prandelli made some expected changes following the World Cup disappointment with Fabio Quagliarella the only striker remaining from the team selected by Lippi for South Africa 2010. Prandelli selected five strikers who were not part of the disappointing experience in the World Cup: Mario Balotelli, Antonio Cassano, Marco Borriello, Amauri and Giuseppe Rossi.

Lippi was urged and asked on more than one occasion why he would not pick Balotelli and Cassano yet the veteran coach never budged from his decision to exclude the talented duo. Critics felt their omission from the Italian squad led to the disastrous campaign which yielded two draws, including an embarrassing one against New Zealand, and a defeat against Slovakia.

While he was expected to select both Balotelli and Cassano, the former Fiorentina tactician sprung two major surprises by picking striker Amauri who had a dismal season with Juventus and former teammate Cristian Molinaro who is not exactly popular in Turin. Molinaro plays as a left-back and the tifosi were glad to see him move to the Bundesliga to join VfB Stuttgart. While no one can doubt Molinaro’s work ethic and speed, his defensive abilities leave a lot to be desired and his crossing is mediocre at best. Molinaro’s comical defending almost became part of football folklore due to some mind-boggling mistakes and miscalculated moves such as using a back-heel to give away the ball on the flank and frequently being tricked by wingers and attackers on their way to assisting on a goal or scoring themselves.

Aside from the debatable choices of Amauri and Molinaro, the Italian coach seems to have named the best set of players available for selection. The Azzurri fans must be delighted to see the return of certain players such as Rossi and the selection of new faces such as full-back Marco Motta who played for Italy at all levels, including the U-21 side which he represented on 39 occasions. Motta has never played for the senior team despite being called up in 2009 but he was an unused substitute.

The main concern will probably be on the defensive end as Gianluigi Buffon will be out for a few more months after surgery and those named include Federico Marchetti, Salvatore Sirigu and Emiliano Viviano. Marchetti did not impress during the World Cup when he had to replace the injured Buffon while the latter two lack the necessary experience to become regular starters. It might be worth giving Sirigu the start against the Ivory Coast to see how he can handle the spotlight as Italy’s goalkeeper while the legendary Buffon remains sidelined.

The defenders chosen lack the experience associated with the legendary Azzurri back-lines of the 1990s and even the 2000s with Giorgio Chiellini the most experienced having played 32 times for the national team. In the absence of the recovering Buffon and the unfit Andrea Pirlo, Roma’s Daniele De Rossi will most likely captain the side having represented the Azzurri on 57 occasions.

Below is the full squad selected by Prandelli:

Goalkeepers: Federico Marchetti (Cagliari), Salvatore Sirigu (Palermo), Emiliano Viviano (Bologna)

Defenders: Cristian Molinaro (VfB Stuttgart), Marco Motta (Juventus), Luca Antonini (AC Milan), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Stefano Lucchini (Sampdoria),
Davide Astori (Cagliari), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Mattia Cassani (Palermo)

Midfielders: Daniele De Rossi (AS Roma), Claudio Marchisio (Juventus), Ricardo Montolivo (Fiorentina), Angelo Palombo (Sampdoria), Simone Pepe (Juventus)
Andrea Lazzari (Cagliari)

Forwards: Fabio Quagliarella (Napoli), Giuseppe Rossi (Villarreal), Mario Balotelli (Inter Milan), Marco Borriello (AC Milan), Antonio Cassano (Sampdoria), Amauri (Juventus).

Feel free to comment below or contact me on Twitter @RamiSoufi for further discussions.

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