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Azzurri: Cesare Prandelli Picks Antonio Cassano and Mario Balotelli

Italy boss Cesare Prandelli announced his 23 man squad for the friendly against the Ivory Coast which will take place on Tuesday in England. Many of the names chosen by Marcello Lippi were dropped.

Prandelli made some expected changes following the World Cup disappointment with Fabio Quagliarella the only striker remaining from the team selected by Lippi for South Africa 2010. Prandelli selected five strikers who were not part of the disappointing experience in the World Cup: Mario Balotelli, Antonio Cassano, Marco Borriello, Amauri and Giuseppe Rossi.

Lippi was urged and asked on more than one occasion why he would not pick Balotelli and Cassano yet the veteran coach never budged from his decision to exclude the talented duo. Critics felt their omission from the Italian squad led to the disastrous campaign which yielded two draws, including an embarrassing one against New Zealand, and a defeat against Slovakia.

While he was expected to select both Balotelli and Cassano, the former Fiorentina tactician sprung two major surprises by picking striker Amauri who had a dismal season with Juventus and former teammate Cristian Molinaro who is not exactly popular in Turin. Molinaro plays as a left-back and the tifosi were glad to see him move to the Bundesliga to join VfB Stuttgart. While no one can doubt Molinaro’s work ethic and speed, his defensive abilities leave a lot to be desired and his crossing is mediocre at best. Molinaro’s comical defending almost became part of football folklore due to some mind-boggling mistakes and miscalculated moves such as using a back-heel to give away the ball on the flank and frequently being tricked by wingers and attackers on their way to assisting on a goal or scoring themselves.

Aside from the debatable choices of Amauri and Molinaro, the Italian coach seems to have named the best set of players available for selection. The Azzurri fans must be delighted to see the return of certain players such as Rossi and the selection of new faces such as full-back Marco Motta who played for Italy at all levels, including the U-21 side which he represented on 39 occasions. Motta has never played for the senior team despite being called up in 2009 but he was an unused substitute.

The main concern will probably be on the defensive end as Gianluigi Buffon will be out for a few more months after surgery and those named include Federico Marchetti, Salvatore Sirigu and Emiliano Viviano. Marchetti did not impress during the World Cup when he had to replace the injured Buffon while the latter two lack the necessary experience to become regular starters. It might be worth giving Sirigu the start against the Ivory Coast to see how he can handle the spotlight as Italy’s goalkeeper while the legendary Buffon remains sidelined.

The defenders chosen lack the experience associated with the legendary Azzurri back-lines of the 1990s and even the 2000s with Giorgio Chiellini the most experienced having played 32 times for the national team. In the absence of the recovering Buffon and the unfit Andrea Pirlo, Roma’s Daniele De Rossi will most likely captain the side having represented the Azzurri on 57 occasions.

Below is the full squad selected by Prandelli:

Goalkeepers: Federico Marchetti (Cagliari), Salvatore Sirigu (Palermo), Emiliano Viviano (Bologna)

Defenders: Cristian Molinaro (VfB Stuttgart), Marco Motta (Juventus), Luca Antonini (AC Milan), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Stefano Lucchini (Sampdoria),
Davide Astori (Cagliari), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Mattia Cassani (Palermo)

Midfielders: Daniele De Rossi (AS Roma), Claudio Marchisio (Juventus), Ricardo Montolivo (Fiorentina), Angelo Palombo (Sampdoria), Simone Pepe (Juventus)
Andrea Lazzari (Cagliari)

Forwards: Fabio Quagliarella (Napoli), Giuseppe Rossi (Villarreal), Mario Balotelli (Inter Milan), Marco Borriello (AC Milan), Antonio Cassano (Sampdoria), Amauri (Juventus).

Feel free to comment below or contact me on Twitter @RamiSoufi for further discussions.

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Click to comment


  1. a.b

    August 10, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    you all know that the italians are the most racist nation on this planet,how dare he’s gonna put a darkskin player in the national team.the godfather of racism(germany)has been broken the colour barrier long time ago on thier national team,so screw AZZURRI

  2. Robert

    August 9, 2010 at 8:45 am

    I love this squad and I think it is the one that can take Italy far for Euro 2012, with a few tweaks over the next two years. Here’s my question – what if Balotelli and Cassano play poorly in this friendly and subsequent ones? Will there be an all-out panic?

    • Rami S.

      August 9, 2010 at 7:34 pm

      Hello Robert,

      I think you ask a very valid question. Both Cassano and Balotelli will have nights when they won’t perform well but the key is to move forward with them. Ballotelli has yet to turn 20 while Cassano is still under 30.

      My 2 doubts on Italy squad are Molinaro because he is not up to par and has often made mistakes with the Bianconeri while I haven’t followed him in the Bundesliga but I doubt he’s improved so much in 6 months.

      As for my second doubt: It’s Amauri and for a number of reasons. At 30, he’s not exactly young and that is basically taking away from the opportunities of younger and more mobile players such as Pazzini who didn’t get a fair chance at the World Cup. I wrote a piece on the Amauri & Molinaro situations:

      Thanks for your comments. I am available on Twitter @RamiSoufi as well.

  3. Padilla

    August 7, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    Prior to the World Cup, I was shocked to read that Lippi had not chosen Giuseppi Rossi. I thought he had played well in the Confederations Cup, and his youth, pace, and overall energy were very much needed in the squad. Therefore, I am happy to see that Prandelli has chosen wisely in this regard.

    However, I totally disagree with his choice of Mario Balotelli. He is as selfish as a selfish player can be; he is a cancer, a me-first player. He is everything you don’t want on an national squad, let alone one looking to rebuild from a disastrous World Cup. Until he grows up and matures, there should be no place for Balotelli on the Italy squad.

    • Rami S.

      August 8, 2010 at 1:36 am

      Hello Padilla,

      I was disappointed when Lippi dropped G. Rossi because I felt he could have added another dimension to the predictable and sluggish Azzurri attack for the World Cup. As you said, Rossi was a positive influence at the Confederations Cup and I believe he was the only bright spot in an otherwise negative tournament. Unfortunately, Lippi did not take note and what happened during the Confederations Cup was witnessed again in the World Cup.

      As for Balotelli, you are not the only one who believes he needs time to mature but I think he deserves an opportunity to prove himself. A move away from Inter might be beneficial to him and leaving Italy for Manchester City could lead to a major change in his attitude. It’s hard to judge how he will react on the field but Prandelli is renowned for nurturing young talent and this could be an ideal situation. I think giving Balotelli the chance to play against the Ivory Coast will not hurt the Azzurri since it’s a friendly and Prandelli can get an idea of how the young player will handle wearing the Italy shirt.

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