Conte fine-tunes Italy’s Euro 2016 squad

Milan (AFP) – Italy coach Antonio Conte cut several Euro 2016 hopefuls from a preliminary squad on Monday as he unveiled a 30-man group for the Azzurri’s second pre-competition training camp.

Italy will head to the June 10-July 10 tournament in France looking to reach a second successive final, but are facing a formidable challenge after failing to get past the first round at the past two editions of the World Cup.

New York City FC midfielder Andrea Pirlo and AC Milan’s on-loan Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli were among the big names missing when Conte named his preliminary squad last week for a first training camp following the conclusion of Serie A and many other leagues around Europe.

It now looks certain that neither player will feature at Euro 2016, where Italy will also be without key midfielders Marco Verratti (Paris Saint-Germain) and Claudio Marchisio (Juventus) through injury.

Conte’s squad last week also did not include players from Juventus, AC Milan and other teams who were involved in cup finals last weekend and they have all returned to the fray.

Juventus players — goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, defenders Andrea Barzagli, Giorgio Chiellini and Daniele Rugani — notably return, alongside AC Milan midfielders Giacomo Bonaventura and Riccardo Montolivo.

It meant defenders Armando Izzo (Genoa) and Lorenzo Tonelli (Empoli) were cut, the second piece of bad new for Izzo on Monday after he was questioned by police in relation to his alleged role in a match-fixing affair dating from his spell at Serie B side Avellino in 2014.

Manchester United defender Matteo Darmian, following FA Cup victory over Crystal Palace at the weekend, returns to the fray alongside PSG midfielder Thiago Motta.

A statement from the Italian football federation (FIGC) said  Montolivo and Motta would be “put through fitness tests” to see if they could remain at the camp.

The FIGC said Conte, who will take over at Premier League giants Chelsea after the summer, will name his final 23-man squad for Euro 2016 on May 31.

Italy host Scotland in a pre-tournament friendly in Malta on Sunday, then host Finland on June 6 in Verona.

Italy squad for second Euro 2016 training camp: 

Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Federico Marchetti (Lazio), Salvatore Sirigu (Paris Saint-Germain/FRA)

Defenders: Davide Astori (Fiorentina), Andrea Barzagli (Juventus), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Angelo Ogbonna (West Ham United/ENG), Daniele Rugani (Juventus), Matteo Darmian (Manchester United/ENG), Davide Zappacosta (Torino), Mattia De Sciglio (AC Milan)

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