The Italy National Team have started preparations for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Coach Cesare Prandelli has called up 31 players (30 plus the 4th goalkeeper Mirante). This list must be reduced to 23 before heading to Mangaratiba, 100 km from Rio de Janeiro, where the Azzurri will have their headquarters during the tournament.
In the first press conference since the start of their preparations, Prandelli gave some direction about the kind of players that he is planning on picking to play in the final squad in Brazil. “It will be more important having fit athletes, rather than experience,” he said. The issue concerning the physical preparation of Italian players has been debated already by Prandelli, who spoke about the lack of fitness of the Azzurri last March, after the 1-0 loss against Spain at the Vicente Calderon.
During the World Cup qualifiers and the other friendly matches, the Azzurri have played both with a 4-3-3 formation (or 4-3-1-2 if a trequartista is used instead of two wingers) or a 3-5-2. Taking into account these two systems let’s see, role by role, what the Italian coach’s final decisions are likely to be.
Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Salvatore Sirigu (PSG), Matteo Perin (Genoa), Antonio Mirante (Parma).
As it stands above. Parma Antonio Mirante is the 31st player in the list and unless any of the first three goalkeepers gets injured he likely won’t travel to Brazil.
Defenders: Ignazio Abate (Milan), Andrea Barzagli (Juventus), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Matteo Darmian (Torino), Mattia De Sciglio (Milan), Christian Maggio (Napoli), Gabriel Paletta (Parma), Manuel Pasqual (Fiorentina), Andrea Ranocchia (Inter).
Juventus’ defenders in this list have likely secured a place to Brazil. If Prandelli will choose a system with three defenders, Barzagli, Bonucci and Chiellini are all likely to play. Gabriel Paletta was impressive in his debut against Spain and is another one most likely on his way to Brazil. That should be all for central defenders, so it is unlikely that Andrea Ranocchia will be included in the final team.
There is a battle between Matteo Darmian and Christian Maggio who can both play as right back or right-winger. Despite Prandelli’s words, Matteo Darmian will probably pay for his lack of experience. Despite his brilliant season with Torino, he still hasn’t made his debut with the National team and is a more defensive option than Maggio.
Manuel Pasqual can cover all of the left wing from defense to midfield, and is one of the best crossers in the team, and should be included in the roster. Between Abate and De Sciglio, one might be left at home if Prandelli picks the midfielder Romulo Souza. De Sciglio is slightly favored as he can play both on the left and right.
Midfielders: Alberto Aquilani (Fiorentina), Antonio Candreva (Lazio), Daniele De Rossi (Roma), Claudio Marchisio (Juventus), Riccardo Montolivo (Milan), Thiago Motta (Paris Saint Germain), Matteo Parolo (Parma), Andrea Pirlo (Juventus), Romulo Souza (Verona), Marco Verratti (Paris Saint Germain);
Here there are two thirds of the Serie A champions’ midfield, as well as two thirds of the Ligue 1 champions’ midfield, plus Daniele De Rossi. All of them are ready to go to Brazil even if Marco Verratti is considered to be Andrea Pirlo’s alter ego and Prandelli may end up choosing a less static player.
Alberto Aquilani is another central midfielder and despite his positive season with Fiorentina, it looks like there is too much competition in the center of the pitch for him. Riccardo Montolivo is the likely choice since the AC Milan midfielder has been tried already as trequartista, behind two main strikers.
Parma’s Matteo Parolo is in a similar situation, with the majority of Italian media who consider him in competition with Marco Verratti.
Finally, Romulo Souza’s call to the team has been a true surprise for everyone. Prandelli needs a winger who can run a lot and Romulo can provide this in case Italy will play 3-5-2. Antonio Candereva, who has been brilliant this year with Lazio scoring 12 goals and 6 assists in 37 matches, is also likely to take part to the tournament.
Strikers: Mario Balotelli (Milan), Antonio Cassano (Parma), Alessio Cerci (Torino), Mattia Destro (Roma), Ciro Immobile (Torino), Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli), Giuseppe Rossi (Fiorentina)
The latest news on the pitch is that Antonio Cassano is back. He has not been on the National team for two years, but his comeback with Parma as a false 9 has convinced Prandelli to call him into the preliminary squad. The biggest question mark here is Giuseppe Rossi’s physical condition. The Fiorentina striker has played the last match of the campaign from the first minute after being back from a five month injury. If he is as fit he seems, he will probably go to Brazil.
It is also difficult to choose two more players to exclude, but I would say Lorenzo Insigne and Mattia Destro. If Prandelli will pick Balotelli and Immobile as main forwards, a third one (Destro) would be too much.
Lorenzo Insigne is on the ballot with midfielder Antonio Candreva, as Cesare Prandelli declared to Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport. That’s why the coach will probably go for a more defensive choice, since he will be still full of attacking options.
Cesare Prandelli also declared that he has already an idea about who will go and who won’t, but hopes to remain uncertain till the 2nd of June, the day Italy will have to present the final 23-men list for Brazil.