Is Osvaldo the right man for the Azzurri?

After Mario Balotelli and Giampaolo Pazzini pulled out of Cesare Prandelli’s Azzurri squad to face Serbia earlier this week, the former Fiorentina Coach was faced with a difficult decision as to who to call up to replace the two injured forwards. While a number of names were mentioned, Prandelli eventually called up Pablo Daniel Osvaldo, the Roma forward.
Reaction has been distinctly negative with sections of the press railing against Osvaldo’s call up to the international set up. The general consensus seems to be that Prandelli has made an error in overlooking other options in favour of the Argentinean-born Osvaldo.
Cesare Maldini has been one of Prandelli’s harshest critics over the past few days, claiming: “Prandelli should certainly be asked for the reason that pushed him to call up Osvaldo and not Matri.” The former Italy Coach continued: “I ask myself how a forward like Osvaldo, after such a brief spell in Italy, can so easily earn the Azzurri jersey.”
Maldini’s concern, it seems, is that Osvaldo is not an experienced enough Serie A player to represent that national team. His argument is almost certainly undermined, however, by the mere presence of Giuseppe Rossi in the Nazionale squad. The American-born striker has only played 19 times in Serie A during his brief stint with Parma in 2007. Osvaldo, on the other hand, boasts 80 Serie A appearances.
Discounting Maldini’s questionable argument, the main issue seems to be the availability of a striker who is very much flavour of the month in Serie A at the moment, Alessandro Matri. The Juventus man has got off to an excellent start in Turin, scoring nine times in the second half of last season and generally playing well. Matri is very much a direct rival to Osvaldo for a place in the Azzurri squad as both are athletic, prove a handful for defenders and are capable of leading the line alone or playing with a partner.
What appears to have counted against Matri is a slightly slow start to the new season during which he has started only three of a possible five games and has just a solitary goal. Osvaldo, on the other hand, seems to be one of the first names on Roma Coach Luis Enrique’s team sheet currently, and has repaid his manager’s faith with three goals in five starts. At Roma, Osvaldo is also playing in a front three that could be seen as similar to that which Prandelli is likely to play, while Matri is under staunch 4-4-2 man Antonio Conte.
For better or worse, Prandelli has made his call and selected the Roma forward ahead of Matri. The wisdom of the decision will be seen over the next few days when Italy face a tough test away to Serbia. Should Osvaldo impress, the doubters will be silenced, but should he perform poorly, the criticism will intensify for both the Roma forward and Prandelli. In reality, however, it seems that there was very little to choose between Matri and Osvaldo and, on current form, Prandelli simply made a logical call.

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