Italy Camp Focus – Familiarity for fantasy

In the name of meritocracy and everything it stands for, Cesare Prandelli has embraced the notion with open arms and has called up the men the rest of Italy have long awaited to see feature for la Nazionale. At long last, we see Federico Balzaretti, who is perhaps the most consistent Italian is left-back in Serie A. We welcome back Alberto Aquilani, the once-upon-a-time youth player brimming with potential who is now reborn at Turin. Andrea Ranocchia has finally been promoted to the senior team to perhaps take his place alongside Leonardo Bonucci due to the absence of Giorgio Chiellini. There is a new Oriundo in the house in the form of Cristian Ledesma – a decision supported by the FIGC. Whilst the player who scored that magical goal against Juventus last week, Alessandro Diamanti, has been recognised for his terrific performances thus far in the season and earned a call-up.
The most exciting aspect of watching this new team play is that many of them are already familiar with each other and can put their club experience to good use. Ranocchia and Leonardo Bonucci made headlines with their centre-back partnership at Bari that kept the best attackers at bay last year. They understand each other, their different set of skills complement one another and both are young enough to grow with the team. In the full-back positions, we see Balzaretti reunite with his Palermo teammate, Mattia Cassani. Working together for both club and country will surely bring its rewards. Together they will share the workload, push up the flanks at different times and run back at cover when is required – all the while secure in the knowledge that they know what the other is thinking. Meanwhile, in midfield, we could finally see a Roma reunion by teaming Aquilani with Daniele De Rossi, who have an innate understanding of one another and whose talents combine in an excellent manner to simultaneously secure the defence and provide creativity to the attack.
Yet despite the excellent call-ups that have been made – call-ups that prove Italy has a bright future ahead of it with all this young talent – the hot topic of the day is the exclusion of Antonio Cassano. Prandelli has confirmed that unless his current situation at Sampdoria is rectified, he will not and cannot play for the Azzurri. Somewhere out there, Marcello Lippi is smiling smugly as his decision to exclude FanAntonio for all these years has finally been justified in the wake of recent events. No-one will really ever know exactly what happened in that dressing room between the player and the Sampdoria President, Riccardo Garrone, but his recent actions once again beg the question as to whether or not he warrants a permanent place in la Nazionale.
Prandelli has quickly moved to reassure the player that he will not be abandoned and it is clear why the Coach is such a big fan. Judging by his recent performances for the Azzurri Cassano’s talent is not up for debate and what he offers the squad is undeniable, especially as he has carried the team on his back in recent qualifiers. However, like any true genius artist, his mental state is questionable and despite taking great strides in improving himself in order to become a true professional, the man who once admitted to gorging himself on women and pastries during his time in Madrid is still a long way away from achieving mental harmony and tranquillity. Italy have become somewhat dependant on his skills and are likely to suffer without him, but his susceptibility to an occasional outpour of emotions means the Coach has to live with the fact that he cannot count on him to always be present and professional. This is unhealthy for a team that relies upon group effort and cohesiveness to win, especially given the fact that this is a somewhat newly formed team with young and inexperienced recruits. They need to follow an example, they need to set a rhythm and they need to grow accustomed to one another. As such, is allowing Cassano to drift in an out of the squad depending on his mental state a good idea?
Nonetheless, Wednesday will not be about Cassano but about the friendly game against Romania. Italy will have to do without il Talentino but are grateful for the return of their other artistic ‘delinquent’ – Mario Balotelli. It will be interesting to see what decision Prandelli will make with regards to the formation he will deploy. Without any proper wingers included in the squad, it would perhaps be best if the Coach decided against a 4-3-3 formation and opt instead for a diamond formation to make good use of the plentiful talent available in midfield. Whatever the formation, it has been made clear that this match will be solely focused around experimentation – as it should be.

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