Prandelli’s pool of talent – full-backs

Defenders

Defence summary

A long-awaited resurgence of the Italian central defender allows Prandelli at least four promising options for the central duo, but the formatting of the full-backs is still very uncertain. While numerous interesting players have emerged for the role, few combine technical excellence with apposite equilibrium in the offensive and defensive parts of the game. The grounds for a rebirth of the legendary, rocky Italian central defence are there, but such a defence will be incomplete if proper full-backs are not found and forged to guard the flanks.

The full-backs

Ignazio Abate (Milan)
Age: 25
Position: Right-back
Description: Abate has been growing steadily for the past few years, quietly annexing the position of starter for Milan. Offensively competent, disciplined and experienced, albeit not as glamorous as some other players, he is a viable and interesting option for the right-back slot. The reason why Prandelli has given him little attention (yet) is unclear.
Call-up: Uncertain
Luca Antonelli (Genoa)
Age: 24
Position: Left-back
Description: His performances at Parma last season were worthy of recognition, and he continued that form at the start of 2010/11. He earned a move to Genoa in January, but has not appeared due to injury. The move itself presents a problem for Italy as he is in competition with Criscito for both club and country. Needs to start playing again to be under consideration.
Call-up: Uncertain
Luca Antonini (Milan)
Age: 28
Position: Left-back
Description: Milan has enjoyed the development of two skilled and humble full-backs this season. Antonini is more of a multi-tasking force than Abate, but he is older and not a long-term option, and for this alone, certainly less likely to be called up than his colleague.
Call-up: Unlikely.
Federico Balzaretti (Palermo)
Age: 29
Position: Left-back
Description: Despite playing in a position where the Azzurri seem a bit in need, and despite a reputation for reliability, Balzaretti has been given little consideration by Prandelli. Still, he is one of the most balanced full-backs in Italy and he deserves more than he is getting. For some, the best Italian option for left-back at the moment (along with Chiellini). Not to be discounted.
Call-up: Uncertain
Mattia Cassani (Palermo)
Age: 27
Position: Right-back
Description: Like his partner Balzaretti, Cassani provides a solid combination of skills and experience, with demonstrable competence in both defensive and offensive tasks. Unlike his teammate, though, he has been getting some nods by Prandelli.
Call-up: Likely
Domenico Criscito (Genoa)
Age: 24
Position: Left-back
Description: A veteran of 2010, Criscito is one of the most offensive options for the full-back position, regardless of his comparatively unimposing physique. Though he may not start, he provides enough flair and threats to the adversary to book a spot in the 2012 team. Beyond that, time shall tell.
Call-up: Certain
Paolo De Ceglie (Juventus)
Age: 24
Position: Left-back
Description: A rocky, tortuous career still has not given us a reliable verdict on De Ceglie. Skilled but inconsistent, offensive but sometimes careless, a Juventus player but not very confident. Until his Coaches figure out the best way to use him at club level, Prandelli will not be trying him at international level.
Call-up: Unlikely
Lorenzo De Silvestri (Fiorentina)
Age: 22
Position: Right-back
Description: Ex-Lazio starlet De Silvestri had a lot going for him, but he has disappointed expectations. Joining a team that is currently in terrible waters like Fiorentina cannot help, either. He will have to rise mightily back up to enter into Azzurri territory again.
Call-up: Uncertain
Andrea Dossena (Napoli)
Age: 30
Position: Left-back
Description: Like Paolo Cannavaro, Dossena is a strong, game-savvy element of a remarkable Napoli team, and also like Paolo Cannavaro, his age is probably his biggest handicap. Strong performances this year may not be enough to cut it with Prandelli.
Call-up: Unlikely
Christian Maggio (Napoli)
Age: 29
Position: Right-back
Description: No less offensive than Criscito, but playing on the other side. Maggio is older and more reliable when covering, but he also seems less confident on the big stage. Though not much considered by Prandelli, he should be a real option for the role.
Call-up: Likely
Marco Motta (Juventus)
Age: 24
Position: Right-back
Description: Once among the most promising right-backs in Serie A and the captain of the Italian U-21 side, it has been dismaying to watch Motta’s downward spiral in big teams like Roma and Juventus. His offensive qualities are considerable but his shortcomings in coverage are far too significant to overlook, and they have been getting worse with time. He is too young to be discounted for 2014, but he needs an authentic rebirth.
Call-up: Unlikely
Davide Santon (Cesena/Inter)
Age: 20
Position: Right-back/left-back
Description: A few years ago, when he was containing Cristiano Ronaldo in the Champions League, Santon seemed one of the best Italian youngsters around. Fast, technically brilliant and capable of playing everywhere, he was already compared to Paolo Maldini. Today his career appears to have lost momentum and he has been loaned to Cesena, but there is no reason why this extremely gifted full-back could not return to success. The call-up is deferred – until when?
Call-up: Likely
Aleandro Rosi (Roma)
Age: 23
Position: Right-back
Description: Yet another young full-back who did not live up to his promises. Rosi is among the most technical of Italy’s players for the role, and certainly offensive in his slant. He seemed to be improving during his spell at Chievo in 2007/08, but his recent performances with Roma suggest he still needs to grow considerably. A remote option for 2014, at best.
Call-up: Unlikely
Cristian Zaccardo (Parma)
Age: 29
Position: Right-back
Description: Seemingly settled into a state as a dependable starter of lower-tier teams. Zaccardo never developed into the solid full-back previous Italy Coach Marcello Lippi thought he might have become. Experienced, but somewhat mediocre.
Call-up: Unlikely

Prandelli’s pool of talent

Goalkeepers
Central defenders
Full-backs
Registi
All-round midfielders and mediani
Wingers
Forwards (part 1)
Forwards (part 2)

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