Italy coach Antonio Conte handed first call-ups to Brazil-born Napoli midfielder Jorginho and Fiorentina forward Federico Bernardeschi, but left Mario Balotelli on the sidelines Saturday for upcoming friendlies with Spain and Germany.
As part of the build-up to this summer’s Euro 2016, Italy will host defending champions Spain this Thursday in Udine in a repeat of the Euro 2012 final the Azzurri lost 4-0.
Four days later, a new-look Italy side — which has undergone an overhaul in the wake of their second successive first-round World Cup exit at Brazil in 2014 — test themselves against world champions Germany in Munich.
Conte, who has already announced he will quit his post after this summer’s tournament amid ongoing reports he could take over at Chelsea for next season, has kept faith with the bulk of the players who saw Italy over the Euro 2016 qualification finish line with ease.
That meant there is still no place for AC Milan’s on-loan Liverpool striker Balotelli, whose chances of competing in France this summer now look inexistent.
Jorginho, who has been naturalized Italian, has been rewarded for a series of strong displays with title-chasing Napoli, while Bernardeschi is enjoying a breakout season with Fiorentina, one of several teams chasing Champions League qualification.
Also back to the fray is Paris Saint Germain midfielder Thiago Motta, who was absent from the squad under the helm of former coach Cesare Prandelli at Brazil in 2014.
Italy host Spain on Thursday at Udinese’s Friuli Stadium, where they have won five and drawn one on their six previous visits, and meet Germany at Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena on March 29.
Conte said last week his desire to return to club football prompted his decision to quit the Italy post.
Italian federation president Carlo Tavecchio told Italian media: “Antonio Conte has told me that at the end of the European championship, his job will end. He feels the need for the pitch, the everyday training, and this is something you can understand.”
Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Mattia Perin (Genoa), Salvatore Sirigu (Paris Saint Germain/FRA)
Defenders: Francesco Acerbi (Sassuolo), Luca Antonelli (AC Milan), Davide Astori (Fiorentina), Andrea Barzagli (Juventus), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Matteo Darmian (Manchester United/ENG), Lorenzo De Silvestri (Sampdoria), Andrea Ranocchia (Inter)
Midfielders: Alessandro Florenzi (Roma), Emanuele Giaccherini (Bologna), Jorginho (Napoli), Riccardo Montolivo (AC Milan), Thiago Motta (Paris Saint Germain), Marco Parolo (Lazio), Roberto Soriano (Sampdoria), Marco Verratti (Paris Saint Germain)
Strikers: Federico Bernardeschi (Fiorentina), Giacomo Bonaventura (AC Milan), Antonio Candreva (Lazio), Eder (Inter Milan), Stephan El Shaarawy (Roma), Ciro Immobile (Torino), Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli), Graziano Pelle (Southampton), Simone Zaza (Juventus)
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