Marcelo Lippi named nine 2006 World Cup winners in his provisional 28-man squad. There was, however, no room for Totti or Luca Toni in Lippi’s plans. Toni perhaps didn’t show enough during his spell at AS Roma to get the pick but the omission of the ageing but ever-green Totti does raise a few eyebrows.
On the one hand, this was fair play for all. Totti called it quits on his international career after the 2006 triumph, and no one should get to pick and choose when they are up for it again. Nevertheless, to leave a player with such reassuring quality, experience and aura, who has never let his ego get in the way of the Azzurri (no, not even in 2004), is a gamble.
But of course, Lippi is no strager to making tough decisions. Four years ago he included Totti, who had been injured for the best part of the spring, and Italy went on to win the World Cup. This time, paradoxically, he excluded the in-form Roma talisman who ended the season with 15 goals and 6 assists in 25 games in all competitions.
It is curious that Lippi included six Juventus players, and disregarded the fact that Juve’s form was pretty much horrible throughout the season, and picked only one player from AS Roma (Daniele De Rossi) who were the runners-up in Serie A. Few can perhaps question the inclusion of Gigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini or Fabio Cannavaro (even if the Italy captain had a poor season), but the ever-presence of the veteran Mauro Camoranesi raises a concern. Also, there always seems to be a place for veteran workhorse Gennaro Gattuso (AC Milan) in Lippi’s plans even though ‘Rino’ arguably passed his prime a few years ago.
In 2006 one of the most important reasons for Italy’s success was the fact that Italy had a fresh squad with a mixed identity. To balance the dominant northern contingent (Juve and Milan), the south of Italy and especially Sicily were well represented. There is a hint of the same air to this provisional group of players as well: Leonardo Bonucci (AS Bari), Mattia Cassani and Salvatore Sirigu (Palermo), Christian Maggio and Fabio Quagliarella (Napoli), along with Andrea Cossu and Federico Marchetti (Cagliari) all hail from smaller southern clubs.
All in all, this is an ageing squad and it is likely that Lippi will at least start with a highly experienced team. However, if (and when?) things don’t go according to plan, there are younger players to take their place. Sirigu (born 1987) in goal is the standout heir to Buffon’s throne and will get his chance in future tournaments. In defence, Bonucci (1987), Domenico Criscito (1986) and Salvatore Bocchetti (1986) represent youth. From the trio, especially Bonucci had a terrific season and has been courted by big European clubs such as ManU and Arsenal. In midfield, Claudio Marchisio (1986) may be in for a big role and is definitely a player for the future, and also Riccardo Montolivo (1985) might finally be ready for the big time. In attack, there are Giuseppe Rossi (1987) and Giampaolo Pazzini (1984).
Of course, it is debatable whether someone who turns twenty-six in August can be considered young (we have to keep in mind, however, that the Italian definition of the concept of ‘young’ might be a bit different from your average idea), but in Pazzini’s case we have good cause to make an exception. It has took some time for the Sampdoria striker to capitalise on his huge potential, but now he has arrived (you might also enjoy this piece of skill, Pazzini is the one providing the final assist) and should be the starting centre-forward for Lippi’s Italy.
Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Morgan De Sanctis (Napoli), Federico Marchetti (Cagliari), Salvatore Sirigu (Palermo);
Defenders: Gianluca Zambrotta (Milan), Fabio Cannavaro (Juventus), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Christian Maggio (Napoli), Leonardo Bonucci (Bari), Domenico Criscito (Genoa), Mattia Cassani (Palermo), Salvatore Bocchetti (Genoa);
Midfielders: Andrea Pirlo (Milan), Gennaro Gattuso (Milan), Daniele De Rossi (Roma), Riccardo Montolivo (Fiorentina), Mauro Camoranesi (Juventus), Angelo Palombo (Sampdoria), Andrea Cossu (Cagliari), Claudio Marchisio (Juventus), Simone Pepe (Udinese);
Forwards: Fabio Quagliarella (Napoli), Giuseppe Rossi (Villarreal), Vincenzo Iaquinta (Juventus), Antonio Di Natale (Udinese), Marco Borriello (Milan), Alberto Gilardino (Fiorentina), Giampaolo Pazzini (Sampdoria).
Here are all the provisional World Cup squad lists. The final lists must be submitted by 1 June.