Despite the importance of club football, Euro 2012 dominates the majority of the continent’s players’ thoughts going into the second half of the season. Italian football has had it’s share of ups and downs over the last decade, with the elation of winning the World Cup in 2006 counteracted by scandal in the domestic game; Italy need a strong performance in the tournament.
Cesare Prandelli has a wealth of talent at his disposal, and with Serie A more competitive than ever, Euro 2012 betting odds state that Italy stand a real chance of success in Ukraine and Poland. Despite the Azzurri’s qualities, a tough Group C awaits, with Croatia, Republic of Ireland and current world champions Spain standing between them and the knockout stages. Vicente del Bosque’s men will provide the toughest test, and it is important that Prandelli gets team selection correct; but who will be in the squad for the competition?
Although Prandelli has some tough choices to make throughout his squad, the decision of which goalkeeper to play is an easy one. Gianluigi Buffon is still one of the best keepers in European football, and his form for Juventus this season has been a key reason for the Turin club’s unbeaten start to the campaign. Morgan de Sanctis, Salvatore Sirigu and new Palermo signing Emiliano Viviano will battle it out for the backup position.
Italian football is famed for its dependable and disciplined rearguard, and former greats such as Nesta, Cannavaro and Baresi have typified the type of solid players that have been nurtured in the country. Giorgio Chiellini has matured as a player over the last number of years and will be one of the first names on the Italian teamsheet if fit. Mattia Cassani, Andrea Barzagli and Andrea Ranocchia will be in contention to partner Chiellini; don’t write off Napoli captain Paolo Cannavaro to make the grade if his current form continues either.
At left back Federico Balzaretti will be in direct competition with Domenico Criscito, with the Palermo man likely to get the nod. On the other flank AC Milan youngster Ignazio Abate has forced his way into the national set-up, but Prandelli also has the option of playing Christian Maggio at the back.
Italy have a blend of young, promising talents and experienced stalwarts to choose from in the centre of the park. Old heads Daniele de Rossi and Andrea Pirlo will be key figures in the national set up, with Simone Pepe and Antonio Nocerino also in the international mix. Claudio Marchisio is in great form and has turned into an important player for Juventus and Italy, whilst Alberto Aquilani will go if fit.
Ricardo Montolivo has lost some of the form that made him a target for AC Milan and now is at risk of missing out, whilst Sebastian Giovinco is on the borderline of inclusion or expulsion.
Italy have a multitude of attacking players that could make the difference in a close game, but inevitably a number of players will miss out. Manchester City’s temperamental forward Mario Balotelli has emerged as first choice striker, and could either be the saviour or villain of the piece. Alessandro Matri has shown excellent form for Juventus over the last 12 months, but competition for places in Turin could threaten his starting place.
Giampaolo Pazzini is starting to step up to he plate at Inter, and with Antonio Cassano and Giuseppe Rossi both likely to miss the tournament through health concerns and injury, should make the squad. Marco Borriello, Alberto Gilardino and Pablo Osvaldo are also in the mix, but at least one or two of these will miss out. An outside choice is veteran Antonio di Natale, who continues to hit the net for Udinese.
Likely line-up: Buffon, Balzeretti, Chiellini, Barzagli, Abate, Pirlo, De Rossi, Aquilani, Marchisio, Balotelli, Matri
Subs: De Sanctis, Maggio, Ranocchia, Pepe, Montolivo, Nocerino, Pazzini
Italy stand a real chance of making the latter stages of the European Championships, but Prandelli must get the mix of his side right amid a plethora of top drawer players. Spain will provide tough opposition in the pool stage, but with an exciting squad at his disposal Prandelli may follow in the footsteps of Marcello Lippi, and lead the nation to international glory.