The Azzurri coach has done as good a job as possible of preparing his country for success in Poland and Ukraine, with his final 23 boasting great range and versatility
By Kris Voakes | Italian Football Editor
On Monday there came the drama, the doubt, the accusations and the consternation. But Tuesday brings new hope, with Cesare Prandelli ensuring he has ticked as many boxes as possible in naming his final 23 for Italy’s assault on Euro 2012.
With the obvious exceptions of Domenico Criscito and Giuseppe Rossi, the Azzurri will be arriving in Poland next week with one of the most well-prepared squads among the 16 finalists thanks to a considered selection by the commissario tecnico.
Criscito’s exclusion leaves the panel one short on the full-back front, but it is in this spot where the great depth of adaptability begins. Beyond Federico Balzaretti, there are also Giorgio Chiellini and Angelo Ogbonna available to switch from centre-back in an emergency, while many of the seven chosen defenders have played in a three-man back line at various stages this season.
As well as having given himself extra flexibility in defence, Prandelli has allowed leeway for a number of different approaches in midfield. It has been his preference to play with a three-man centre behind a trequartista until now, but he will not be restricted only to that setup thanks to the octet he will take with him.
|PRANDELLI'S SQUAD FOR EURO 2012
||Juventus||Morgan De Sanctis
||AC Milan||Federico Balzaretti||Palermo|
|Giorgio Chiellini||Juventus||Christian Maggio
|Daniele De Rossi
|Antonio Nocerino||AC Milan||Andrea Pirlo||Juventus|
||Manchester City||Fabio Borini
||AC Milan||Antonio Di Natale
With Andrea Pirlo to dictate from the pivot as he has for Juventus since September, Daniele De Rossi also remains a likely starter. But there are a number of different shapes either could actually play a part in. Claudio Marchisio and Antonio Nocerino have had their most notable seasons to date, while Emanuele Giaccherini has shown superb adaptability as well as adding the kind of direct running at pace that few in the blue shirt can offer.
There is also depth, with Thiago Motta able to play in a number of roles, while Riccardo Montolivo should be a reasonable central alternative if nothing more. Alessandro Diamanti may be limited in some respects, but has the kind of flair and X-factor that the rest of the squad is unable to boast, making him great substitute material in tight games.
In attack, again the options are endless. While the regular starting pair of Antonio Cassano and Rossi have been split up due to the Villarreal striker’s double knee injury, Mario Balotelli offers an aerial threat as well as a wildcard option thanks to his skill in abundance. Beyond them, Sebastian Giovinco can be an excellent alternative on the left of attack, with Fabio Borini available on the right if Italy need to go with a forward trio at any point. Antonio Di Natale adds goals in great numbers, and in any shape necessary.
Mattia Destro was unfortunate not to make the final cut, but Prandelli has made the right choices, with Andrea Ranocchia’s exclusion much more understandable. While 4-3-1-2 is his obvious favourite, the ability to adapt formation to 3-5-2, 4-4-2, 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 makes for a hugely versatile squad. This 23 actually has the resources of 25 or 26 men, and the coach deserves a great amount of praise for that. It is a far cry from Marcello Lippi’s panel in South Africa two years ago, which was narrow and lifeless. No, this is a squad well prepared for the challenge ahead.
The Azzurri are as ready as ever, and if failure is to follow then it will be based on what happens between now and July 1. The preparations have not been perfect, but Prandelli has ensured that he will go to the finals with as good a chance as any coach of leading his team to success.