Prandelli prepares an Italian speciality: World Cup preview

The Italians are undoubtedly in one the hardest World Cup groups this campaign, with Uruguay’s squad pushing for success with players of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani’s calibre, and England’s Three Lion’s rearing to go with a mixture of youngsters, in-form players and experience, Italy’s task has not been made easy, and hasn’t been since qualifiers.

The Road to Rio

Although undefeated in their group, they had the tough task of facing some of Europe’s underdogs, Denmark, Czech Republic and Bulgaria, all of whom have quality promising youngsters combined with the odd experienced professional from one of Europe’s largest divisions’. Having won 6, drawn 4 and finished unbeaten, Italy’s qualification was almost done and dusted before it even began. Although their biggest win was only a 3-1 victory over Armenia and Denmark respectively; they stayed consistent throughout and have deservedly earned their place in the 2014 World Cup Finals in Brazil.

Squad Overview

In my opinion, Italy’s World Cup squad is a mixed bag. I like to focus on the age of a player, and considering this occasion only comes around once every 4 years, it’s interesting to see who has the experience at this level and who the rookies are. The obvious names scream off the page, the likes of Buffon, Barzagli and Chiellini are all deserved of their place in the squad, especially after an extremely successful season with Juventus. These three alone help to create the core of the Italian defence, having played together all season, it’s evident defensive play is something Italy will be confident with when it comes to playing against big name strikers. Looking further down the list, it’s clear that the midfield is one of the strongest in the competition. The ever-present Andrea Pirlo will once again be leading from experience, followed by Daniele De Rossi, Riccardo Montolivo, and Claudio Marchisio. Add the likes of Antonio Candreva and Thiago Motta to the mix and the potential to create goals certainly isn’t missing. Lastly, the strikers; with the oldest being Antonio Cassano, at 31. Quite young for a striker considered to have the leading credentials for a World Cup squad’s attack force. The next name that comes to mind is the ever-media-controversial Mario Balotelli. Alongside Rossi and Cerci, the Italian’s look a little weak going forward, and with Super Mario, could find themselves in trouble again the larger teams, should they qualify from the groups.

 30-man Preliminary Squad

Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Salvatore Sirigu (Paris Saint-Germain), Mattia Perin (Genoa)

Defenders: Andrea Barzagli (Juventus), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Giorigo Chiellini (Juventus), Gabriel Paletta (Parma), Andrea Ranocchia (Internazionale), Ignazio Abate (Milan), Mattia De Sciglio (Milan), Christian Maggio (Napoli), Matteo Darmian (Torino), Manuel Pasqual (Fiorentina)

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Midfielders: Andrea Pirlo (Juventus), Claudio Marchisio (Juventus), Thiago Motta (Paris Saint-Germain), Marco Verratti (Paris Saint-Germain), Riccardo Montolivo (Milan), Daniele De Rossi (Roma), Antonio Candreva (Lazio), Marco Parolo (Parma), Alberto Aquilani (Fiorentina), Romulo (Verona)

Forwards: Mario Balotelli (Milan), Antonio Cassano (Parma), Alessio Cerci (Torino), Ciro Immobile (Torino), Giuseppe Rossi (Fiorentina), Mattia Destro (Roma), Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli)

Key Players

From looking at the squad, I’ve selected 3 players I think will be key for Italy during the World Cup.

Gianluigi Buffon – The veteran goalkeeper is, and has been, one of the best in the world for some time. When he’s on form, nothing gets past him. Italy lack international experience at the back, and Buffon is the one that will be orchestrating the defenders positions from the back. If this is done properly, Italy will make themselves very difficult to score against.

Adrea Pirlo – Much like Buffon; a veteran and a leader. With the ability to make killer passes at 35 years old, Pirlo is no stranger to the international stage. Having represented the Italians over 100 times, experience is something he does not lack. Known for tearing defences apart with single passes, Pirlo also has the ability to command players respect and authority, something that is going to be needed to calm down situations that may occur in the sizzling heat in Brazil.

Mario Balotelli – Known for being outrageous, Balotelli posses a skill that many other footballers don’t; the ability to find the back of the net. No matter what the occasion, Mario has come up trumps, with Inter Milan, Manchester City, and AC Milan, the 23 year old has shown he deserves a place on the international stage regularly. He incredible technical ability shone through in the 2012 Euro’s, and that is something Italy will need going forward if they intend to progress pass the group stages.

Possible Starting XI

Here is my predicted starting 11 for Italy in their first game of the 2014 World Cup.

I chose this 11 as I feel it has the experience, technical ability, and flair needed to succeed in this tournament. With a solid defence, supported by holding midfielders, Italy become very hard to penetrate. With Pirlo and Montolivo as central/playmaking midfielders, through balls become a worry for defences. Having Balotelli and Cassano up front helps combine the ability of Balotelli with Cassano’s international experience to full effect, supported by the attacking mind of Candreva, who can hit the target from long range if required.

Verdict

Italy have a tough campaign ahead of them, with Uruguay and England being their biggest challenges. However, I feel the 4-time winners can achieve their expectations this year, at least getting to the quarter finals, and perhaps further – providing the influential players aren’t injured and kept out for a long period of time. Italy are definitely ones to watch this World Cup, and are certainly not to be underestimated.

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