Italy 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.
Other 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.
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)|
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:
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.