Archive for September 3rd, 2007

Azzurri call-ups for the match against France

Monday, September 3rd, 2007

Pasquale Foggia, age 24Italy coach Roberto Donadoni has revealed the list of the 25 players which will battle it out against France and Ukraine in the Euro 2008 qualifiers next week. The biggest novelty in the Azzurri squad includes the first International call-up for Cagliari midfielder Pasquale Foggia, a player under the watch of Donadoni for quite some time. If you have doubts on his potential, read my article on the Juve game this week-end.

Christian Panucci, age 34Other notable returns include Roma fullback Christian Panucci, absent from the Azzurri circle for several years now, as well as World Cup champions Simone Perrotta and Mauro Camoranesi (both had missed the matches against Far Oer and Lithuania, but are now back from injury). In addition, Chiellini (Juve), Lucarelli (Shakhtar) and Gamberini (Fiorentina) have also been called back by Donadoni. And while there may have been fear that Luca Toni could be doubtful for Italy, he is now back to full health after his pulled muscle in the Bayern match against Hannover.

Still absent from the squad are Milan striker Alberto Gilardino and recent Juve acquisition Vincenzo Iaquinta, neither in the best of form recently.

Here’s the full list:

Goalkeepers: Abbiati (Atletico Madrid), Amelia (Livorno), Buffon (Juventus)
Defenders: Barzagli (Palermo), F.Cannavaro (Real Madrid), Chiellini (Juventus), Gamberini (Fiorentina), Grosso (Lyon), Oddo (Milan), Panucci (Roma), Zambrotta (Barcelona)
Midfielders: Ambrosini (Milan), Aquilani (Roma), Camoranesi (Juventus), De Rossi (Roma), Foggia (Cagliari), Gattuso (Milan), Perrotta (Roma), Pirlo (Milan)
Forwards: Del Piero (Juventus), Di Natale (Udinese), Inzaghi (Milan), Lucarelli (Shakhtar Donetsk), Quagliarella (Udinese), Toni (Bayern Munich)

My comments

In terms of squad selection, it’s tough to disagree with Donadoni’s choices: all the players above adequately represent those who are currently most in form. We could have perhaps added Alessandro Rosina from Torino (who’s been playing top-notch football this last month), but I guess the coach judged his time hasn’t come yet. Besides, he’s got plenty of players covering that role already (e.g. Pirlo, Camoranesi).

Now, in terms of which players will walk on the field against France Saturday, that’s a whole other issue, one which is definitely less obvious. Assuming an initial 4-4-2 formation (I don’t think Donadoni will try to expose himself too much, especially with Marco Materazzi out injured), the toughest problem will be in the defense. The likely center-back pair will be formed by Cannavaro and Barzagli, but the question is: can the Palermo player be a reliable replacement for ‘Matrix’? And more importantly, will Cannavaro snap out of his current bad form streak? On the wings, the inclusion of Zambrotta on the left is almost a given, while the right might be a bit more open. I’d say it’s 50-50 between Oddo and Panucci, with a slight advantage for the AC Milan player.

In midfield, I predict Ambrosini, Camoranesi, Gattuso and Pirlo in some configuration, although Aquilani might have a slight chance to be in the starting 11 given his recent excellent performances. If Camoranesi plays, there’s a strong chance he will have to cover the rather unusual role of central playmaker, because otherwise I don’t see how Ambrosini and Gattuso will be placed. The other option for Donadoni is to keep Camoranesi out, and put De Rossi in the ‘Totti’-playmaker role, which is also a possibility.

Finally in attack, the obvious choice would fall on Toni and Inzaghi, in great form these days. If Donadoni decides to utilize 3 strikers instead of 2, we can expect Del Piero to step onto the field as well (unless speed is needed, in which case we could either see Di Natale or Quagliarella).

Here’s my predicted line-up:

Predicted starting line-up against France

The Azzurri’s match program includes first the big clash against France (in Milan) on Saturday September 8, followed by the away game against Ukraine on Wednesday 12th (in Kiev).

The team will all gather on Monday before 7pm in Coverciano (the players involved in Milan-Fiorentina will join the group after the match), and begin preparations for the Saturday game with practice sessions twice a day. The transfer to Milanello is scheduled for Friday afternoon.

Serie A day 2 – Or the awakening of Palermo and Napoli

Monday, September 3rd, 2007

It sure was a good day for clubs from Southern Italy on the 2nd day of Serie A: Reggina and Catania managed to avoid the loss (Reggina obtaining the equalizer at the 90′), while Palermo and Napoli went on to display some very entertaining soccer, and produce the wins with the biggest number of goals today!

Serie A – day 2
Empoli – Inter
0 - 2
Atalanta – Parma
2 - 0
Cagliari – Juve
2 - 3
Catania – Genoa
0 - 0
Livorno – Palermo
2 - 4
Roma – Siena
3 - 0
Sampdoria – Lazio
0 – 0
Torino – Reggina
2 – 2
Udinese – Napoli
0 - 5
Milan – Fiorentina

Livorno – Palermo

I don’t know if it’s as much the revival of Palermo (on which I still have some doubts) or the fact that Livorno has been the team which, in these first two days of Serie A, has had more leaks than a wooden schooner infested with termites (1-5 at Juve and now 2-4 at home… and pardon the nautical reference, I’ve been rewatching Pirates of the Caribbean lately), but in any case the result of this face-off today was a highly enjoyable performance, with plenty of goals and great entertainment to watch. Unless you’re a Livorno fan of course.

Fabrizio Miccoli scores Palermo’s 2nd goal on a 25m free kickIt doesn’t help when your team is down 2 goals within the first 30 minutes of play, but in the case of Livorno coach Fernando Orsi, if you’re starting to substitute your men before the first half is over (poor Tavano), you know you’ve fu**ed up somehow with the starting line-up. Meanwhile, the Palermo frontline had eaten lion meat for dessert because Miccoli, Amauri and Cavani were running anywhere they could find space (and considering Livorno’s efforts today, that’s a lot of real estate). As a Juve fan, I’m still biting my nails at the fact that the Old Lady didn’t keep Miccoli in Turin (God that guy is good… and fast…. and a good free-kick taker… groan)

Anyways, the score was 4-0 at the half, with the 3 points pretty much in the bag for the Sicilian team. Not much the Livorno coach could do except… oh yeah, change his whole roster (or well, the allowable 3 subs at least). Seemed like a good move because Livorno came back with 2 goals in the 2nd half (courtesy Rossini and Grandoni). Too little too late though.

U.S. Città di Palermo
GOALSCORERS: 10’ Rinaudo (P), 24’, 38’ Miccoli (P), 42’ Amauri (P), 54’ F.Rossini (L), 75’ Grandoni (L)
LIVORNO (4-4-2): Lucia – Grandoni, Knezevic, Galante, Pasquale – Alvarez (54’ Vidigal), Pulzetti, Loviso, A.Filippini – Tavano (36’ Bogdani), Tristán (54’ Rossin). (bench: Di Matteo, E.Filippini, Pavan, Balleri). Coach: Orsi.
PALERMO (4-4-2): Fontana – Zaccardo, Rinaudo, Barzagli, Capuano (14’ Pisano) – Diana, Migliaccio, Simplicio, Cavani – Miccoli (73’ Bresciano), Amauri (85’ Jankovic). (bench: Agliardi, Tedesco, Guana, Brienza). Coach: Colantuono.

Udinese – Napoli

Now, as much as being 0-4 down at home was bad for Livorno, try losing 5-0, in your home stadium, to a team that has just been promoted back to Serie A! Needless to say that Udinese’s president Giampaolo Pozzi wasn’t jumping for joy during this match.

Ezequiel Lavezzi celebrates his goalIt’s hard to label this game as either a perfect match for Napoli, or a horrible miscarriage for Udinese. But in the words of Gazzetta journalist Alessandro Ruta, in the doubt one can safely state that this was a man-of-the-match performance for Napoli’s Ezequiel Lavezzi (2 assists and a very nice goal). Other than that, it was a match dominated by the Neapolitans from start to finish: the Udinese forwards, led by Quagliarella, Asamoah, and Floro Flores (with an added Di Natale later on) did very little to change the game’s momentum, in a match which had set off very early on the wrong path (Zalayeta opening the score in the 16′). Napoli kept pushing forward, Lavezzi was virtually unstoppable at times, and the goals just kept coming.

On an added note, funnily enough (much like Miccoli for Palermo) this game also had an ex-member of Juve rise and shine: Marcelo Zalayeta. “El Panterón” scored 2 goals here today, so you have to wonder if all these players judged “surplus” by the Bianconeri simply deserve more than one chance to prove themselves. Juve’s other player on loan (Manuele Blasi) also played.

S.S.C. Napoli
GOALSCORERS: 16’, 70’ Zalayeta (N), 41’ Domizzi (N), 65’ Lavezzi (N), 81’ Sosa (N)
UDINESE (4-3-3): Chimenti – Mesto, Coda, Zapata, Dossena – Eremenko, Boudianski (46’ Sivok), Inler – Quagliarella, Asamoah, Floro Flores (56’ Di Natale). (bench: Handanovic, Zapotocny, Lukovic, Pepe, Paolucci). Coach: Marino
NAPOLI (3-5-2): Iezzo – Cupi (53’ Contini), P.Cannavaro, Domizzi – Grava, Hamsik, Gargano, Blasi (83’ Bogliacino), Savini – Zalayeta (75’ Sosa), Lavezzi. (bench: Gianello, Montervino, De Zerbi, Calaiò). Coach: Reja.

Finally, a word on Scudetto contenders: Inter went to Empoli to pick up their first win of the 2007-08 season, with two convincing goals by Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Meanwhile, Roma ‘turned on the style’ again by beating Siena 3-0 at the Olimpico, in a match which saw Francesco Totti get the “Scarpa d’oro” (Golden Boot) award for best topscorer of the past season.

Waiting for Milan-Fiorentina now, to be played on Monday evening…