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Marcello Lippi Picks Initial Azzurri Squad for South Africa 2010

Italy coach Marcello Lippi has picked 29 players for training this week but did not include any players from Roma or Inter who will be contesting the Coppa Italia final. Serie A leaders Inter will probably not have any member in the Azzurri squad headed to South Africa 2010 considering Davide Santon is injured while Mario Balotelli has not impressed Lippi with his unprofessionalism and troubling attitude.

As for Roma they will provide Italy with midfield general Daniele De Rossi yet the question remains whether Francesco Totti and Luca Toni will be called up as well. Toni who is on loan from Bayern Munich is unlikely to be included in the final squad given the form of Giampaolo Pazzini and Marco Borriello with both chosen in the initial setup.

In attack it appears Lippi’s choices have been expected since he did not call up Antonio Cassano, Palermo’s Fabrizio Miccoli or the aforementioned Balotelli. Juventus captain and World Cup winner Alessandro Del Piero was not included and it is doubtful he will be unless there is a dramatic injury crisis prior to the decision on the final list.

In goal, the legendary Gianluigi Buffon is a certain starter and Lippi actually sprung a surprise by calling three other goalkeepers and not two which implies he is keeping his options wide open. Federico Marchetti of Cagliari, Morgan De Sanctis of Napoli and Palermo’s Salvatore Sirigu were all named. It is likely Buffon will be accompanied by Marchetti as his understudy and De Sanctis as third choice. The Defensive line included many of the usual names such as Fabio Cannavaro, Gianluca Zambrotta and Fabio Grosso despite their lack of form and their limited playing time in some cases. Others included in the list of defenders: Nicola Legrottaglie, Domenico Criscito, Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci as well as Salvatore Bocchetti, Christian Maggio and Mattia Cassani. In view of those called up, the core of Cannavaro, Zambrotta, Chiellini and Grosso will start with Criscito, Bonucci, Maggio and Legrottaglie providing backup unless Bocchetti is picked ahead of Juve’s reserve centre-back Legrottaglie.

In midfield, Milan schemer Andrea Pirlo, Roma’s anchorman De Rossi and Juve’s Claudio Marchisio are all certain starters despite De Rossi’s exclusion from this initial list due to his commitments with the Giallorossi. This area of the team appears to be the weakest with the Italy boss likely to rely on two veterans in the shape of Juve winger Mauro Camoranesi and Rossoneri defensive midfielder Gennaro Gattuso both of whom have missed large chunks of the season due to injury or lack of playing time. Lippi has also called up Sampdoria’s Angelo Palombo, Fiorentina’s Riccardo Montolivo and Udinese’s Simone Pepe as well as Andrea Cossu and Antonio Candreva. The last two will unlikely be included leaving Palombo and Montolivo to compete for one spot with Pepe probably completing the list of midfielders. Candreva’s recent lack of playing time with the Bianconeri will affect his chances negatively while Cossu does not have enough experience at the international level. As such, Pirlo, De Rossi and Marchisio will be accompanied by Gattuso, Camoranesi, Pepe and one of Montolivo or Palombo.

The attacking list has become much clearer considering those excluded such as Cassano, Balotelli, Miccoli and Amauri. Many of the Azzurri fans will be relieved after hearing about Amauri’s absence from the list due to his lack of form this season. Those headed to South Africa 2010 will be Antonio Di Natale, Vincenzo Iaquinta and Alberto Gilardino while those still competing for the remaining two spots include Totti, Marco Borriello, Giuseppe Rossi and Giampaolo Pazzini. Totti will get the nod if he is healthy and if Lippi can maintain unity within the squad by choosing the Roma skipper. On form Pazzini deserves the call up which means Rossi and Borriello will miss out but Rossi’s chances will depend on Totti’s situation.

The most interesting aspect is the fact the Bianconeri have nine players called up despite having a dismal season in Europe and Serie A with the club set to miss on the Champions League next season. This has raised doubts in the minds of many as to whether the Azzurri can compete and retain their World Cup title.

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