The Italians have enjoyed recent success in international football, having won the 2006 World Cup and finishing runners-up to a rampant Spain in the 2012 edition of the Euro. Building on that finals appearance would be the main task for Italy, and anything less than a semifinals would be viewed as a failure.
The manager Cesare Prandelli has named his 30 man provisional squad, with perhaps the inclusion of Antonio Cassano and Giuseppe Rossi being the headline makers.
Goalkeepers: Gigi Buffon (Juventus), Salvatore Sirigu (Paris St-Germain), Mattia Perin (Genoa)
Defenders: Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorigo Chiellini (all Juventus), Gabriel Paletta (Parma), Andrea Ranocchia (Inter), Ignazio Abate, Mattia De Sciglio (both Milan), Christian Maggio (Napoli), Matteo Darmian (Torino), Manuel Pasqual (Fiorentina)
Midfielders: Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio (both Juventus), Thiago Motta, Marco Verratti (both Paris St-Germain), Riccardo Montolivo (Milan), Daniele De Rossi (Roma), Antonio Candreva (Lazio), Marco Parolo (Parma), Alberto Aquilani (Fiorentina), Romulo (Hellas Verona)
Forwards: Mario Balotelli (Milan), Antonio Cassano (Parma), Alessio Cerci, Ciro Immobile (both Torino), Giuseppe Rossi (Fiorentina), Mattia Destro (Roma), Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli)
When Cesare Prandelli took over the Italian team for the Euro 2012 campaign, not much was expected from him. But he surprised everybody by leading the team to the finals, where only a Spain that was unstoppable was able to beat them. He hasn’t had much success as a club manager, and this being his only international assignment; it is hard to say how far he can guide the team in the tournament. But if the Euro campaign was anything to go by, Italy fans can be secure that their team is in safe hands.
- Mario Balotelli
Ever since he made his debut in football, Mario Balotelli has been in the news for one reason or the other, and not just for his football talent. But Mario is without a doubt a forward you want to have in your team. He is fast and strong in physique, which means he can outrun and outmuscle opposition defenders.
- Andrea Pirlo
Pirlo needs no introduction. His genius is already known to the entire world of football. He will certainly hold the main card in this Italian hand, and he will be the one the team and the manager will be looking for inspiration and defence splitting passes. Balotelli would especially benefit from Pirlo’s incisive through balls.
- Giorigo Chiellini
Chiellini was a surprise inclusion in the 30 man squad considering his violent challenge on Miralem Pjanic that got him a ban. However, the fact remains that he is the hard man of the team, and will be vital in breaking up counter attacks, especially when playing against fast and expansive teams likes Spain and Germany.
The number of options that Italy have in midfield has seen Cesare Prandelli use a 3-5-2 formation to make best use of his resources. But with the results not being as good, he had to revert to a more conventional 4-3-3 or a 4-4-2. It will be interesting to see which formation he goes with during the tournament.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Traditionally, the Italians strength always has been in defence. But perhaps, this time round, their strength lies more in midfield. With Pirlo’s magic being the main focus, other stars such as Motta and Veratta will also play a vital role. Their biggest weakness is perhaps the forward line, with only Balotelli being the viable option. Though Cassano has had a good season, he hasn’t played for Italy for a long time and might take time to get used to the team’s style of playing. Rossi is also just coming back from an injury.
Italy may not be the favourites in this tournament, but they can expected to at least reach the semifinals. Anything less would be seen as a failure and a step back from the progress made at the Euros.