Italy manager Marcello Lippi has announced who is to be left at home as his squad prepare to travel to South Africa to begin the defence of their world title. With two players already deducted from the squad prior to June 1st, Lippi’s job was made a tad easier, with only five players facing the dreaded phone call.
The five unlucky players who will miss out on the journey to Cape Town are: Salvatore Sirigu, Mattia Cassani, Andrea Cossu, Marco Borriello and Giuseppe Rossi, in addition to Fabio Grosso and Luca Toni. Surprisingly, Villareal and former Manchester United hitman Rossi was omitted from the squad, despite being the only player initially included not to ply their trade in Italy. However Rossi faced a struggle for appearences, becoming an understudy to Gilardino, Iaquinta and Di Natale.
The Italians maintain a high-quality squad, rich with experience, ability and strength. Their ultra-strong back line boasts some of the worlds’ most renowned defenders, including Gianluca Zambrotta and veteran centre back/captain Fabio Cannavaro. Cannavaro is without doubt the figurehead of the defence; he is Italy’s most capped player of all time and despite his age, the 36 year old still seems as determined and strong as ever. His countless experience of playing at the world cup can only have a positive effect on younger members of the squad. Cannavaro has formed a strong bond with central defensive partner Giorgio Chiellini from their time at Juventus and together along with world-class goalkeeper Buffon, they should be able to keep the opposition at bay, especially in the early stages against teams not renowned for their attacking prowess. Right-back Gianluca Zambrotta remains the Azzurri’s secret weapon, often acting as a fifth midfielder. He also has the added ability of being able to play on either side of defence.
For many Italians, hope of retaining their title hangs in the balance, with the scare that playmaker Andrea Pirlo may face a summer on the sidelines after picking up a serious calf injury in their opening friendly against Mexico. Also the influential Camoranesi faces a race for fitness. Mixed reports have been emerging from the Italy camp as to whether Pirlo or Camoranesi will be fit to take part in the tournament, meaning that a patched up midfield may include the likes of Fiorentina’s Riccardo Montolivo, a defensive midfielder who can also operate as an attacking outlet, as well as the creative winger Simone Pepe, who was drafted in by Lippi as cover for Camoranesi, but may find himself in the starting line up for Italy’s opener against Paraguay and possibly the following group game against minnows New Zealand. A key player that Italy will be looking to hang on to is the tough-tackling Gennaro Gattuso. His mental attributes are invaluable for the Azzurri in the centre of the field and motivated even more by the fact that this world cup is likely to be his last, he will be looking to go out with a bang.
In attack Italy boast the prolific target man Alberto Gilardino. Gilardino scored the goal that confirmed Italy’s qualification to this summer’s World Cup when he netted against Ireland in October. He currently has 16 goals from his 39 caps. His partner up front is the strong Vincenzo Iaquinta. Although his goalscoring record is not the best, his ability to bring others into play with flick-ons and deft touches, making him a key man; and at 6ft 3″ he also poses a distinct aerial threat. Antonio Di Natale (also making the final 23) may be classed as a striker but will be mainly used on the left hand side of the attack.
The final squad is as follows:
|Morgan De Sanctis||Napoli|
|Gennaro Gattuso||AC Milan|
|Andrea Pirlo||AC Milan|
|Daniele De Rossi||Roma|
|Antonio Di Natale||Udinese|
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