Well the Azzurri just earned their ticket to Euro 2008 and Roberto Donadoni’s June call-up list is still a long way to come, but Gazzetta dello Sport takes a predictive guess on those who’ll be part of the Euro expedition. That is, those who are normally “guaranteed” a spot (except in the event of a nasty injury, fingers crossed), those who should be working their ass over the next few months, and those who shouldn’t be waiting for a phone call with too much hope.
“IF Montolivo could only find consistency in his performances, IF Cassano could tear the world apart, IF the “IFs” became reality“… so begins the Gazzetta article for their guess at Azzurri 2008. For the pink Italian newspaper, 17 players are “sure” of a spot to Austria/Switzerland, but “who knows” they say, “maybe we’ll have the surprise of seeing another youngster like Panucci pop up“.
Let’s have a look at their choices.
Gigi Buffon is untouchable, no debate there. Elected back-up keeper is Marco Amelia, while the choice of the 3rd keeper is a little less obvious.
So far Donadoni has relied on Gianluca Curci, but if Christian Abbiati would be back to a starter role in his club (he’s closed down by Leo Franco at Atletico Madrid) he could grab a spot in the Azzurri.
“Christian Panucci“, says Gazzetta, “has just grabbed a starter spot for the third Euro championship of his career“. That’s probably alluding to the vital qualification goal the Roma right-back scored on Saturday, but if I were Panucci I wouldn’t be so optimistic. Granted, he’s been playing really well at Roma this season, and when called into action by Donadoni has never disappointed. However, if Oddo picks up his game with AC Milan from here on until June, I believe the starting spot will be his (especially given Donadoni’s preference for the Milan wing-back up until now).
Fabio Cannavaro, Marco Materazzi, Andrea Barzagli are givens as center-backs, and so are Gianluca Zambrotta and Massimo Oddo on the wings.
Two spots remain, which should go to Giorgio Chiellini (winger, but also center-back and defensive midfielder if needed, like on Saturday) and Fabio Grosso, in the lead over Daniele Bonera and Alessandro Gamberini. Under observation: Andrea Dossena (excellent debut in the friendly vs. South Africa) and Marco Cassetti. Not too much hope for Cristian Zaccardo and Max Tonetto.
Guaranteed spot for Gennaro Gattuso, Andrea Pirlo, Massimo Ambrosini, Daniele De Rossi, and Simone Perrotta. The 6th spot shouldn’t escape Alberto Aquilani if he’s fully fit. Donadoni also has a soft spot for Stefano Mauri (another one with frequent injury problems) and Riccardo Montolivo.
Outsider roles could go to Antonio Nocerino, Angelo Palombo (centers) or Alessandro Rosina, Franco Semioli, Pasquale Foggia, and Aimo Diana (wingers).
Along with the irreplaceable Luca Toni and the tactically unique Mauro Camoranesi, there should be plenty of space for Antonio Di Natale and Vincenzo Iaquinta. Between two & three spots are up for grabs and many players to claim them.
Fabio Quagliarella’s one of them (Donadoni likes him, and we all remember his goals vs. Lithuania, but right now he’s playing average), then there’s Alberto Gilardino and Filippo Inzaghi. Remains also the question of WHO on Earth could be a valid substitute for Toni? So far the choice has been ex-Livorno Ukrainian expat Cristiano Lucarelli, but someone in Italy even suggested a sensational return by Christian Vieri (in truth, he’d be the IDEAL vice-Toni player if only he were in tip-top shape).
Other eligible candidates for a striker spot: Alessandro Del Piero, Antonio Cassano, and perhaps even Raffaele Palladino.
Today (assuming everyone’s fully fit) the Azzurri would look something like this:
Rosters will have to communicated to UEFA on May 28, plenty of time to up your game lads!