As I mentioned before, I am not entirely convinced at the Azzurri’s chances of success at Euro 2012. The squad has not enthused me during their qualifying campaign and although they retrieved Antonio Cassano from injury, the absence of Giuseppe Rossi coupled with the unpredictability of Mario Balotelli and still relative inexperience of Sebastian Giovinco makes me doubt the goalscoring efficiency of Italy’s strikeforce. Other forward alternatives, as taken from Prandelli’s preliminary list of 32, don’t necessarily set my mind to ease either.
That said, in the case you’re still willing to place a football bet on Italy’s gold medal, perhaps you’ll be buoyed by words from the man himsef, as the National Team coach defends the choices (as preliminary as they might be) of his player call-ups for this Summer’s tournament.
★ ★ ★ ★
In defending his player choices, and in response to criticism Italy still lack a true center-forward, Prandelli said:
When you are not called up you feel like you have suffered an injustice, but I made my decisions on merit. I’d like to see who could have been called up instead of Antonio Di Natale and Sebastian Giovinco (…) Six attackers are what I need for the way we will play. (…)
We evaluated which players could give us 100% in terms of the team overall. Those left out were so for tactical reasons. Today there is no longer a static player in attack. Mario Balotelli can be used in that role, but also on the flanks. It’s the same for Di Natale and Giovinco who have scored a lot without being a reference point for defenders.
When asked about Cassano & Balotelli, Prandelli responded:
CASSANO did all that he could to be here and he’s made it. He’s shown that he loves this shirt. I prefer to have enthusiastic players in the squad. BALOTELLI hasn’t played that much recently, but he’s won a title with Manchester City and is one of the emerging talents that we have to help explode.
Prandelli also explained some of his more “surprising” call-ups:
There are a lot of reasons why we thought about VERRATTI. The first are his qualities, which have also been seen in the Under-21s. I want to continue that work, also as a back-up to Andrea Pirlo. We also wanted to make it clear that we are following players in Serie B. I also wanted to call him up to demonstrate that there is a clear technical project in place here.
GIACCHERINI is a player who can be used in three positions and I hope he can be useful. Pepe is an important player for teams who get to the byline and cross, but we play a different type of game.
DESTRO is not a classical central striker, he’s a modern attacker. I want to see him play for a place. I want him to work hard on a daily basis to prove that he deserves to be here.
DIAMANTI demonstrated to have tactical versatility and to be a consistent performer. He can play as an added striker, trequartista, or inside midfielder. He can bring quality: the call-up wasn’t a gift, he deserved it.
When asked about tactics, the former Fiorentina coach responded Italy will likely use a 4-3-1-2 formation with a trequartista-type of player behind the two strikers:
We don’t have a lot of time. We’ll try a few things out, but the base will be the formation that we used in qualifying. There is a nucleus in midfield that is there to create. I want to pick a team that plays fluid football. Pirlo will be a reference point but we will also develop alternative keys to the game. The important thing now is to find some balance within the side, the pitch will give us an answer. We might also try a three-man defense, but mostly overall I like to play with an extra midfielder.
I don’t have a minimum objective. Every coach thinks about getting right to the end. From next Monday we’ll start work on the pitch with the intention of winning.
Prandelli also commented on having a heavily Juventus-based team, as per Azzurri tradition, and reiterated his desire to remain on the bench until his contract expires in two years’ time.
When I first arrived I was criticized for picking so many Juventus players, but their Scudetto victory proved me right. Juventus are the only Italian club who focus strongly on young Italians.
I’ve always said that I want to respect my contract until after the 2014 World Cup, however it will depend on what happens at the European Championship.