Cesare Prandelli took his first real duty as Italy coach today, naming the squad for his debut match, the friendly with Cote d’Ivoire at West Ham’s Upton Park on August 10.
While changes were inevitable – and essential – following the hugely disappointing displays in South Africa, the new man has certainly swept away any lingering feeling of entitlement the old guard may have clung to under Marcelo Lippi.
Roma’s Daniele De Rossi is the only member of the victorious 2006 squad, although that will change upon Gigi Buffon’s return from injury. Here is the list in full;
GK: Marchetti (Cagliari), Sirigu (Palermo), Viviano (Bologna);
Defenders: Antonini (Milan), Astori (Cagliari), Bonucci (Juventus), Cassani (Palermo), Chiellini (Juventus), Lucchini (Sampdoria), Molinaro (Stuttgart), Motta (Juventus)
Midfield: De Rossi (Roma), Lazzari (Cagliari), Marchisio (Juventus), Montolivo (Fiorentina), Palombo (Sampdoria), Pepe (Juventus)
Strikers: Amauri (Juventus), Balotelli (Inter), Borriello (Milan), Cassano (Sampdoria), Quagliarella (Napoli), Rossi (Villarreal).
Three names immediately stand-out from the new call-ups: Amauri, Balotelli and Cassano. All three answer the main questions which lingered over previous squads, and including all in his first squad means Prandelli has nullified those issues.
Amauri only received his Italian passport in January and the Brazilian born striker’s inclusion is a clear sign this “new Italy” will make the most of every available player, in the same way Germany and others have already benefited.
Mario Balotelli, along with Luca Antonini and Davide Astori, shows that the many good quality young players Italy has produced in recent years will also be given a chance to prove they are good enough to wear the Azzurri shirt.
Antonio Cassano is the one major talent Lippi refused to call upon, even when his team was in desperate need of the fantasy the Bari native provides. While his skill is undoubted, his temperament has always been questioned, yet since arriving in Genoa that has been much improved. Now he will need to show Prandelli his true value.
Cristian Molinaro, VfB Stuttgart’s former Juventus defender, also receives his first international call-up at any level, despite being ridiculed in Turin for his error-prone displays. His inclusion will surprise many but will send the message that those plying their trade outside the peninsula that they are not forgotten – a point Mario Balotelli will be glad of as he heads to Manchester City.
So Oriundi, youth, and FantAntonio, the three things most observers cited as lacking from the 2010 World Cup Squad. There are many talking points raised by this 23 man list, but at least different ones than those faced by Marcello Lippi.