Cassano, Balotelli, Di Natale, Giovinco & Borini - Who should Italy play in attack at Euro 2012?

Cesare Prandelli has a quintet to choose from, but with only Friday's clash with Russia in Zurich to play, he is running out of time to choose his favoured forward line
By Kris Voakes | Italian Football Editor

There were tremors around Calcio on Monday, with police cars at Coverciano dealing a setback to Italy’s Euro 2012 build-up, but the real-life earthquake in the north of the peninsula on Tuesday hit coach Cesare Prandelli too.

The result was that Tuesday’s friendly against Luxembourg was cancelled, leaving the commissario tecnico with just one match in which to iron out his final plans ahead of Tuesday afternoon’s flight to Krakow in anticipation of their Euro opener against Spain.

While he likely has a fair idea of how his defence and midfield will line up, his options up front are endless. Mario Balotelli, Fabio Borini, Antonio Cassano, Antonio Di Natale and Sebastian Giovinco will all head into the finals believing they have a fair chance of a starting berth, depending on how the former Fiorentina coach decides to lay out his team.

There are a number of different possibilities in that department, as lists below.

4-3-1-2: OPTION ONE


Thiago Motta

Mario Balotelli - Antonio Cassano

Tried and tested combinations are not easy to come by given that Giuseppe Rossi misses out on the finals due to a knee injury, but both Balotelli and Cassano have featured heavily when available of late. Cassano was the Azzurri’s hero in qualifying, while the Manchester City man has led the line when called up in friendlies since then. They are the two most high-profile and arguably most reliable forwards available.

4-3-1-2: OPTION TWO



Antonio Cassano

Mario Balotelli - Antonio Di Natale

One thing that Cassano does have is versatility, which gives Prandelli the opportunity to switch him behind the front line if he wishes. The temptation to do so would be two-fold, as not only would it give him the chance to bring in an extra striker, but it would also cover for the lack of natural trequartisti in the country at the moment. Riccardo Montolivo and Thiago Motta are both more at home in midfield, while Alessandro Diamanti is unlikely to be able to do the job for 90 minutes every four days.



Thiago Motta

Antonio Di Natale - Antonio Cassano

Balotelli is by no means a certainty in the starting XI, having spent much of the qualifying campaign on the bench and also experiencing some disciplinary issues which his national coach deemed to be in breach of his ethical code. These factors combined mean there may be a decision made to bring Balotelli on late as an impact sub, a role he played in his club’s Premier League decider, which would allow Di Natale and Cassano to start together.


Fabio Borini - Mario Balotelli - Sebastian Giovinco

One thing Italy do have a lot of is forwards who like to play in the left channel, meaning the use of a three-man forward line is a great possibility. The 4-3-3 used by Marcello Lippi was a largely static affair, but with Borini on the right and Balotelli in the middle, movement and diversity would come in abundance. Add either one of Giovinco and Cassano (or even Di Natale) on the left, and there would be further skill and unpredictability from the that side as well.


Fabio Borini - Antonio Di Natale - Sebastian Giovinco

One asset which Balotelli boasts that the other four options do not is height, but he is not a typical prima punta all the same. His is not a game based on aerial battles, and it could be argued that Di Natale’s skill set is just as suited to the Azzurri’s style, with his ability to play off the last defender meaning more intelligent ‘out balls’ will release him in behind the back line. With support from wide, the lack of a figurehead of 1.80 metres or more may not necessarily be a bad thing.

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