Amidst the chaos generated by Sunday morning’s events, Italy coach Roberto Donadoni has revealed the list of 24 for decisive Euro 2008 qualifying matches against Scotland and Faroe Islands. Many players will be coming back from injury or suspension, which is good news for the Italian coach who will have a varied roster to choose from.
The biggest news in the list is the first call-up to the senior team of Raffaele Palladino. The Juventus midfielder/striker has been playing quite well for the ‘Old Lady’ recently, and will try to bring some speed and agility to the Azzurri senior roster (the youngster already counts 15 caps at the U-21 level). How much playing time Palladino will actually be seeing next week is hard to say, but at any rate the Don probably intends to use him as a winger in his 4-3-2-1 formation, a role familiar for the player back at his club.
Notable returns to the group are Fabio Cannavaro (Real Madrid) back from suspension, Alberto Gilardino (Milan) (back to the senior team, since the friendly against South Africa didn’t really count) as well as Gianluca Zambrotta (Barcelona) and Mauro Camoranesi (Juventus) back from injury. Giorgio Chiellini (Juve) has been confirmed in the defenders list, while Fiorentina’s Alessandro Gamberini and Riccardo Montolivo have been dropped.
In the absentee list, names include once again Alessandro Del Piero (not in the best of forms the past couple of Juve games) and Milan striker Filippo Inzaghi (despite the Champions League double this week). Marco Materazzi and Alberto Aquilani are still out injured, despite the recent return of the Inter defender in a friendly match against Sheffield last week. ‘Matrix’ was probably deemed insufficiently match-fit for the important Azzurri game.
Here’s the full list:
|Goalkeepers: Amelia (Livorno), Buffon (Juventus), Curci (Roma)|
|Defenders: Barzagli (Palermo), Bonera (Milan), F.Cannavaro (Real Madrid), Chiellini (Juventus), Grosso (Lyon), Oddo (Milan), Panucci (Roma), Zambrotta (Barcelona)|
|Midfielders: Ambrosini (Milan), Camoranesi (Juventus), De Rossi (Roma), Gattuso (Milan), Perrotta (Roma), Pirlo (Milan)|
|Forwards: Di Natale (Udinese), Gilardino (Milan), Iaquinta (Juventus), Lucarelli (Shakhtar Donetsk), Palladino (Juventus), Quagliarella (Udinese), Toni (Bayern Munich)|
Considering the level of play Del Piero’s been putting out lately, it’s not a big surprise to see him excluded from the list. The Juve captain is starting to feel the weight of his age on his shoulders, as every bit of his technical ability often carries associated physical limitations (he’ll go for the dribble and surprise his marker, but then lose the ensuing battle, with the defender intercepting the ball by sheer physical superiority). It is hard to say if Del Piero will be wearing the Azzurri shirt again anytime soon, but as a vivid supporter of ‘Pinturicchio’ myself, I can only hope that Donadoni hasn’t permanently excluded him from his plans (especially after DP’s declarations to the press a few months ago).
The exclusion of Inzaghi is perhaps more of tactical choice by Donadoni, since the Italian coach has plenty of (younger & faster) players in the same role. Plus Inzagol hasn’t been playing consistently with Milan lately (much like the entire Rossoneri team really). Also, despite his excellent first match against South Africa, Alessandro Rosina is not part of the list, most likely due to his recent injury this week-end. Nothing serious, but probably enough to make him miss the Azzurri game. I don’t know much about the exclusion of Gamberini and Montolivo.
With the returns of irreplaceables such as Gianluca Zambrotta and captain Cannavaro, predicting the starting 11 for the Azzurri’s next match should be a lot easier. It is an almost certainty we’ll be seeing Donadoni’s usual 4-2-3-1 formation, so let’s build on that assumption.
In defense, Cannavaro and Barzagli are the obvious choice as center-backs, as well as Zambrotta as one of the wing-backs. Less obvious is the choice of Zambrotta’s alter-ego, but clear favorites are Grosso (on the left) and Oddo (on the right). Since Zambrotta can play either side, positioning isn’t really an issue, but in any case my pick goes to Oddo. An outsider for a spot may be Chiellini, due to his excellent recent performances at Juve.
In midfield, the almost-guaranteed center trio should be Pirlo-Gattuso-Ambrosini. No doubt the Don will maintain his ‘club-pairs together’ policy, and pick Ambrosini over De Rossi. The Roma player has a good chance of making an appearance though, as well as his club teammate Perrotta.
Up front, again the selection should be an easy choice. With Toni the obvious and imperative lone striker, recent club performances all point towards the utilization of Di Natale (left) and Iaquinta (right) on the wings, although there is a very strong possibility Donadoni might choose to field Camoranesi right from the start. The Juve winger might still not be at 100% (having just recently returned from injury), but if called into action he will be ready. Slim chance to see Gilardino and Quagliarella during the match, who have both considerably improved on their performance after a very poor start of the season.
Here’s my predicted line-up:
The Azzurri will be meeting in Coverciano on Monday afternoon at 14:00, beginning their first practice session at 15:00. Training will be carried out daily on Tuesday Nov 13th and Thursday Nov 15th, with only one session on Wednesday Nov 14th. Friday the team will be leaving for Glasgow, and begin their international duties: Saturday Nov 17th (17:00 local time, noon ET) against Scotland at Celtic Park, and Wednesday Nov 21st (20:30 Italian time, 14:30 ET) in Modena against Faroe Islands.