Di Natale, the 'new Pirlo' & the Italians fighting for a Euro 2012 place as Prandelli names provisional squad

With the Azzurri boss having announced the 32 players he is considering taking with him to Poland and Ukraine, Goal.com takes a closer look at the more interesting inclusions
By Mark Doyle

Promises, promises. Italy coach Cesare Prandelli claimed there would be no surprises in his squad for Euro 2012 – and yet on Sunday evening he named an eyebrow-raising provisional panel.

Of the 32 players included on the preliminary list, four have never been called by their country before, while two are featuring for the first time since Prandelli succeeded Marcello Lippi at the helm of the national team following the 2010 World Cup.

Antonio Di Natale, of course, has not played for the Azzurri since South Africa and his return has generated most headlines for that very reason. Oh, and there’s also the fact that he’s 34 and said to be considering his future in the game.
Gianluigi Buffon Juventus Morgan De Sanctis Napoli
Salvatore Sirigu PSG Emiliano Viviano Palermo
Ignazio Abate Milan Davide Astori Cagliari
Federico Balzaretti Palermo Andrea Barzagli Juventus
Salvatore Bocchetti Rubin Kazan Leonardo Bonucci Juventus
Giorgio Chiellini Juventus Domenico Criscito Zenit
Christian Maggio Napoli Angelo Ogbonna Torino
Andrea Ranocchia Inter    
Luca Cigarini Atalanta Daniele De Rossi Roma
Alessandro Diamanti Bologna Emanuele Giaccherini Juventus
Claudio Marchisio Juventus Riccardo Montolivo Fiorentina
Thiago Motta PSG Antonio Nocerino Milan
Andrea Pirlo Juventus Ezequiel Schelotto Atalanta
Marco Verratti Pescara    
Mario Balotelli Man City Fabio Borini Roma
Antonio Cassano Milan Mattia Destro Siena
Antonio Di Natale
Sebastian Giovinco Parma

However, the Udinese captain’s recall is not in the least bit surprising. In fact, what is shocking is that it has taken this long for Prandelli to accept that the most prolific Italian striker in the game today might be of some use to him.

From an attacking perspective, the inclusion of Mattia Destro is far more intriguing. It has not come out of nowhere, as rumours began to intensify in recent weeks that the 21-year-old would at the very least be included in the provisional panel, but his call-up is noteworthy all the same.

Prandelli had previously mentioned Roma starlet Fabio Borini by name when talking about the young players he was considering for the Euros, but he had kept quiet on Destro. However, the Genoa-owned forward, who has enjoyed a breakout season on loan at Siena, has been selected ahead of the likes of Alessandro Matri, Pablo Osvaldo and Giampaolo Pazzini.

Matri was the top scorer in a title-winning side but then, that is not saying much as he only managed 10 goals in Serie A, and falling behind Marco Borriello in the pecking order is never a good sign for a striker. Osvaldo actually looks like a less reliable character than Mario Balotelli, while Pazzini, a squad regular up until this point, has ultimately paid the price for a dismal season with Inter that yielded just five top-flight goals.

With Antonio Cassano, Di Natale, Balotelli and Sebastian Giovinco all almost certain to travel, it now seems that Destro and Borini will be left competing for the one spot. Borini has stolen a march on his rival by hogging the headlines with a dynamic cameo on his international debut in February against the United States.

However, Destro now has the opportunity to prove just why he is being linked with the likes of Juventus and Inter. He certainly has nothing to lose – and that makes him dangerous. Even the erratic Balotelli has cause for concern. Prandelli has axed the Manchester City striker before; he will not be afraid to do so again.

In midfield, meanwhile, one name stands out above all other: Marco Verratti. Just like the aforementioned Destro, the 19-year-old has been linked with both Juve and Inter in recent months, and is heavily expected to join the former this summer. Verratti has made quite the name for himself this season – ‘The new Andrea Pirlo’ to be specific – and that is pretty impressive, because he has yet to feature in Serie A.

The midfielder currently plies his trade in Italy’s second tier with Pescara, but his performances for Zdenek Zeman’s promotion-chasing side have made the whole of Italy sit up and take notice. The feeling is, though, that Verratti has been selected with the future in mind and that he will not make the final cut.

Luca Cigarini is also likely to miss out, but the 25-year-old’s team-mate at Atalanta this season, Ezequiel Scheletto, still has a shot at selection, with the the Buenos Aires-born winger seemingly competing with Juve’s Emanuele Giaccherini and Bologna’s Alessandro Diamanti for a seat on the plane.

And while Schelotto and Diamanti can both lay claim to having played key roles in their sides’ surprisingly good seasons, Giaccherini has been nothing more than a bit-part player in the Old Lady’s title triumph. Indeed, 13 of his 22 appearances for the Bianconeri came as a substitute. Yet, Prandelli has deemed Giaccherini a better option than club-mate Simone Pepe and the talk now is that the former Cesena man is bound for Poland and Ukraine.

Surprise! | Giaccherini made just nine Serie A starts this term but could be at the Euros

At the back, there are doubts over the availability of Giorgio Chiellini, whose recent thigh problem requires further assessment, but it would be a massive surprise if the versatile defender is not included – even if there are lingering doubts over his fitness. The Juventus man is almost certain to be joined in the squad by team-mates Andrea Barzagli and Leonardo Bonucci, with all three deserving of great credit for the Bianconeri’s terrific defensive record this season.

While Barzagli and Bonucci advanced their respective causes this year, Inter’s Andrea Ranocchia regressed horribly and can consider himself fortunate to have even made it this far. Elsewhere, Rubin Kazan’s Salvatore Bocchetti has it all to do after being called up by Prandelli for the first time, but Torino’s Angelo Ogbonna has grounds for optimism after his impressive showing against the US in what was only his second appearance for the Azzurri.

As for the goalkeepers, it will of course be captain Gianluigi Buffon and two others. With Morgan De Sanctis, Emiliano Viviano and Salvatore Sirigu to choose from, Prandelli cannot really go wrong in that regard. The more interesting selections lie elsewhere.

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