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Who Are the Starting 11 for the Azzurri?

Jun. 02, 2010 - Sestriere, Italy - epa02183880 Italian national football team coach Marcello Lippi answers media questions during a press conference 2nd June 2010 in Sestriere where he announced his final 23 man party for the World Cup in South Africa.

An ESPN interview with some of the Italian national team players shows that not even the squad seems to know who will be on the pitch on Sunday when they kick off versus Paraguay.  Marcello Lippi has been tight-lipped about who will start and what formation the Azzurri will play, even noting that the formation could be fluid throughout the World Cup.  A look at the starters in recent friendlies is a useless guide, as the last two have seen vastly different lineups.

However, if Marcello Lippi asked me who my starting 11 would be on June 14 (and I am checking my voicemail just in case), here would be my suggestion:

Formation:4-3-3.  The strength of this squad is their defending, and this formation allows the Azzurri to play with their best four defenders.  Since they are without Pirlo for the first two matches at least, this formation allows for players to move up for more offensive firepower if needed, such as moving Maggio up to the midfield.

Keeper:Gianluigi Buffon.  I don’t think I need to explain why.

Backline: Leonardo Bonucci, Fabio Cannavaro, Giorgio Chiellini, Christian Maggio.  Cannavaro and Chiellini are no-brainers and should be on the pitch from the opening kick.  Maggio is arguably better placed as a winger but starting him on the backline allows him to move around in the 4-3-3 as needed, either into the midfield or remaining back.  Bonucci may be the most controversial inclusion, but the young defender has shown a knack for scoring off set pieces and could be a valuable option in the box on offense if the club needs to score.  Plus, by starting the Bari defender, Lippi can play his more experienced players later in the match if experience is called for.  Lippi can call on Zambrotta for experience but if he needs fresh legs, Bochetti would be available.

Midfield:Daniele De Rossi, Riccardo Montolivo, Gennaro Gattuso.  Midfield is arguably the weakest part of the club right now with injuries to Pirlo and Camoranesi, so a three-player midfield with the option of moving up a defender or dropping a forward is ideal.  DeRossi and Gattuso are veterans who have won a World Cup and can provide experience in managing a World Cup match from the middle.  Pirlo’s injury means the Azzurri lack a playmaker whose passing skills can jump start an attack, so Fiorentina captain Montolivo and his passing skills are needed in the middle.

Forwards: Fabio Quagliarella, Alberto Gilardino, Vincenzo Iaquinta.  My gut has me leaning toward these three being the starters up front, although it may be hard to keep Di Natale and Pazzini on the bench to start.  Di Natale was the leading scorer in Serie A, so if Italy fails to threaten the goal in their first match you may see DiNatale starting the second.  But this lineup allows for an experienced front to begin a match and, if Italy needs a quick strike or more offense, has some firepower coming off the bench. 

We are about 48 hours away from the Azzurri taking the pitch – who’s your starting 11?

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  1. Niccolo Conte

    June 13, 2010 at 10:14 am

    I agree with Frank except on one point, while the 4-4-2 with a diamond midfield is a good idea, I think that Marchisio and Gattuso would be out of position.

    When Marchisio played for Juventus on the lefts side of the diamond, he had to spread the play wide, and that’s not the type of player he is. For Italy it’ll be the same, Zambrotta doesn’t get up the field as much from the full-back position, so Marchisio will have to provide the width on the left side of midfield.

    I hate to say it but I’d rather have a more wide-orientated player like Camoranesi on the left of the diamond instead of Marchisio. Gattuso might not have as much of a problem because Maggio is young and he loves getting up the field, providing width, and swinging in crosses.

    • Rami S.

      June 13, 2010 at 1:45 pm


      Those are my exact thoughts with Maggio if he starts. As I mentioned before he is good going forward so Italy will use a defensive minded midfielder to cover for him when he is attacking. That’s why I think Gattuso might start.

      You mentioned a good point: Marchisio played on the left for Juve but he prefers a more central role. I think it will depend on whether Criscito starts. If he does then Marchisio might start on the left but I believe Lippi is leaning towards playing him in a more central role.

  2. Frank

    June 13, 2010 at 5:15 am

    Italy should play a 4-4-2 system. It suits the players better and they are always harder to beat with this system.

    Maggio defintely has to start as will Canna and Chiellini. Zambrotta will start on the left.

    The midfield should be a diamond shape. De Rossi as deep lying defensive midfielder with Marchisio and Gattuso in front of him. Montolivo to play at the front of the diamond.

    Up front Di Natale has to be included based on his great season. Alongside him should be Pazzini.

  3. Robert

    June 11, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    I think you are right, Zambrotta likely will start which I think is an unwise choice.

  4. Rami S.

    June 11, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    Starting 11 for Azzurri:

    – GK: Buffon (no doubt there)- hope he will be injury-free

    – Defenders: Maggio, Cannavaro, Bonucci, Chiellini
    (Chiellini played left-back before, Maggio is good at attacking & in midfield Gattuso will start to cover on the right when Maggio attacks)
    Bonucci is a promising player and needs experience. Now is the time to put him to the test.

    – Midfield: I’d go for 4 in midfield with Gattuso on right, De Rossi & Montolivo more central, and Marchisio on the left to help Juventus teammate Chiellini.

    – Attach: Start with Gilardino and Di Natale. This means Quagi, Pazzini and Iaquinta can come off the bench when goals are needed.

    No place for Pepe or Camoranesi to start. This is worth a shot ahead of the other 2 group games but I sense Lippi leaning towards Zambrotta. In this case, Zambrotta on left, Maggio on right, then Cannavaro and Chiellini as centre-backs. Everything else stays the same.

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