With Marcello Lippi naming his 30 man provisional squad for the World Cup on Tuesday, two strikers that could provide key roles in South Africa, will be two players most likely battling it out for potentially one spot: Giampaolo Pazzini and Giuseppe Rossi.
For both this will be their first World Cup and only Rossi has had experience in an international tournament – the 2009 Confederations Cup, where he was one of the bright spots in an otherwise disastrous campaign for la Nazionale. However what they lack in experience they make up for in energy, enthusiasm and youth in an ageing squad.
The 25 year old Pazzini has only scored one goal for Italy in six appearances (although he did bag the first ever goal and hat-trick in the inaugural game at the new Wembley Stadium in an Under-21 match). However his career has been rejuvenated with the move to Sampdoria last season which has helped his inclusion in Lippi’s plans. He has an impressive 33 goals in 53 games with the club from Genoa. He also has a knack of scoring important goals in big games, such as his brace against Roma a few weeks ago that practically ended the Giallorossi’s title hopes. The Pescia born player is the typical out-and-out striker, however he does tend to struggle as a lone striker, which counts against him, as Lippi normally plays with one striker flanked by wingers. Pazzini prefers a strike partner, like he has in Antonio Cassano at club level.
Despite his credentials he is most likely towards the back of the pecking order, striker wise. He will have to no doubt contend with Antonio Di Natale, Alberto Gilardino and possibly even Vincenzo Iaquinta for a starting shirt. However he is capable of producing match winning performances and if given the chance, could well be the next Paolo Rossi or Salvatore Schillaci. Ironically Pazzini may have to jostle with the other player that is the focus of this article for a place in South Africa, the Villarreal forward Giuseppe Rossi.
Rossi, born in New Jersey, USA to Italian parents has had a slightly better start to his international career than Pazzini. He has three goals in 14 appearances for the Azzuri, including a stellar outing at the Confederations Cup last year, where he came off the bench to score two goals in a 3-1 win over USA. However where he differs with Pazzini is in his club career. The man from New Jersey is a constant in La Liga with Villarreal, but his scoring record isn’t that great. He has hit double figures in all of his three seasons in Spain, but this season’s tally of 16 is his highest season tally (which he has this season), despite playing almost 40 games a season.
Rossi isn’t a natural front man like Pazzini; he isn’t terribly prolific in the scoring department, so he may well be pushed out onto the wing in a 4-2-3-1 formation that Lippi prefers. This may be his undoing, as he could get lost in the shuffle with Mauro Camoranesi, Simone Pepe and Fabio Quagliarella favoured on the wing. This is all a far cry from the 23 year old who breathed new life into Italy’s attack last year. Since then, his star has been on the downhill after an average 2010. Despite the youth and enthusiasm he brings, there has been talk that he could be one of the seven men cut from the provisional squad.
Each attacker brings something different to the table. Pazzini brings goals, while Rossi brings energy and the ability to adapt to different formations. Ultimately Lippi will have to decide between one or the other as he has seemingly settled on Di Natale, Gilardino, Iaquinta and Marco Borriello being four of the five attackers boarding the plane to South Africa. If he decides on the Sampdoria man, then Italy could have a real contender to be the top scorer for the World Champions. If Lippi selects the Villarreal man, then la Nazionale could have a versatile player, capable of moments of creativity, which they are sorely lacking with the exclusions of Cassano and Francesco Totti. Rossi was preferred to Pazzini in the Confederations Cup last year, so that could give him the edge again. It will be a tough decision and either way a talented, difference making player will almost certainly miss out.