World Cup Special: Revealed – Italy’s 23 Players For The 2010 World Cup

Carlo Garganese reveals the 23 Italy players that will travel to South Africa next summer...
With the World Cup qualification programme completed following last night’s dramatic 3-2 comeback win over Cyprus in Parma, all the talk in Italy now is over who will make the Azzurri squad for South Africa.

Much of the debate has, of course, centred around the likely exclusion of Antonio Cassano, as well as coach Marcello Lippi’s other questionable decisions since returning to his post after Euro 2008.

With just seven months to go until world sport’s greatest competition kicks off, time is running out for Calcio’s stars to earn a place on the plane to The Rainbow Nation.

There are not too many spots up for grab, though. Some players already have their tickets, barring injury. Others are fighting it out for a squad place, while a select few such as Cassano are outsiders but cannot be completely ruled out if things go their way.

Below is a full run-down of how Italy’s 23 places will be taken…

Goalkeepers (3)

On The Plane: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus)

In The Airport Lounge:
Federico Marchetti (Cagliari), Morgan De Sanctis (Napoli), Marco Amelia (Genoa)

Outsiders: Luca Castellazzi (Sampdoria)

Buffon is untouchable

Buffon is untouchable as the No.1 and is the first name on the teamsheet in this current Italy setup. Marchetti and De Sanctis are the favourites to be Buffon’s deputies, but Amelia has a chance of working his way back into the squad if he continues his promising start to the season with Genoa. Castellazzi is the outside bet.

Defenders (8)

On The Plane:
Gianluca Zambrotta (Milan), Fabio Cannavaro (Juventus), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Fabio Grosso (Juventus)

In The Airport Lounge:
Davide Santon (Inter), Nicola Legrottaglie (Juventus), Salvatore Bocchetti (Genoa), Domenico Criscito (Genoa), Marco Materazzi (Inter)

Outsiders: Marco Motta (Roma), Alessandro Gamberini (Fiorentina), Andrea Ranocchia (Bari), Alessandro Nesta (Milan), Andrea Barzagli (Wolfsburg), Andrea Dossena (Liverpool)

The Matrix Reloaded?

The current first-choice back four of Zambrotta, Cannavaro, Chiellini and Grosso are certainties. Lippi will then take four more defenders, at least two of which must be centre backs and at least two of which must be able to play at full back, covering both sides. Providing he plays regularly at Inter, boy wonder Santon will travel. One of Bocchetti or Criscito will be chosen, most likely the former as he is stronger in the centre and in the air. Lippi will not take three young defenders, meaning that one of Santon, Bocchetti and Criscito will miss out, probably the latter.

This leaves two remaining places. Legrottaglie is in a strong position due to the Juventus influence. Meanwhile, expect Materazzi to earn a recall providing he rediscovers his fitness. Should the Matrix continue to struggle with injuries this term, this could leave the door open to one of the outsiders. Nesta would be the popular choice, but he is unlikely to overturn his international retirement.

Midfielders (6-7)

On The Plane:
Andrea Pirlo (Milan), Rino Gattuso (Milan), Daniele De Rossi (Roma), Claudio Marchisio (Juventus), Mauro Camoranesi (Juventus)

In The Airport Lounge:
Angelo Palombo (Sampdoria), Gaetano D’Agostino (Udinese), Simone Pepe (Udinese), Alberto Aquilani (Liverpool)

Outsiders: Pasquale Foggia (Lazio), Marco Marchionni (Fiorentina), Riccardo Montolivo (Fiorentina), Cristiano Zanetti (Fiorentina), Thiago Motta (Inter), Daniele Mannini (Sampdoria), Giandomenico Mesto (Genoa), Matteo Brighi (Roma), Christian Maggio (Napoli), Simone Perrotta (Roma), Daniele Galloppa (Parma), Luca Cigarini (Napoli)

Gattuso will be there for the 'group'

Not too much to debate in the centre of the park. Lippi will take six or seven midfielders, and five of them are already guarantees; Pirlo, De Rossi, Marchisio, Camoranesi and Gattuso, the latter who will be chosen not for his ability on the pitch but because he is regarded as a positive influence in the changing room.

This leaves one or two spots open. At least one of Palombo, D’Agostino and Pepe will be selected, possibly two. Lippi will also give injury-prone new Liverpool signing Aquilani every chance to prove his fitness. Should he do this, and excel at Anfield both domestically and in Europe, then there is every chance of the ex-Roma man returning in time for the World Cup. There are a whole host of outsiders, but few are likely to be taken into consideration regardless of how well they play.

Attackers (5-6)

On The Plane: Vincenzo Iaquinta (Juventus), Amauri (Juventus), Alberto Gilardino (Fiorentina), Francesco Totti (Roma)

In The Airport Lounge: Antonio Di Natale (Udinese), Fabio Quagliarella (Napoli), Giuseppe Rossi (Villarreal), Alessandro Del Piero (Juventus), Giampaolo Pazzini (Sampdoria)

Outsiders: Luca Toni (Bayern Munich), Antonio Cassano (Sampdoria), Mario Balotelli (Inter), Sergio Floccari (Genoa), Fabrizio Miccoli (Palermo), Sebastian Giovinco (Juventus)

Totti will return, but don't rule out Del Boy

In attack, Lippi will take five or six forwards along with him. Four are already on the plane. These are Iaquinta – who Lippi has fallen in love with for his workrate and versatility, and Gilardino – who booked his spot by scoring four goals in the last two qualifiers. Amauri will be taken when he receives his passport, while Totti will return to the setup providing he doesn’t sustain any major injury problems.

This leaves one or two spots up for grab. Another second striker is a guarantee, which would suggest at least one of Di Natale, Quagliarella or Rossi. Di Natale is the favourite, Quagliarella is the most likely to drop out, while Rossi really needs to up his game and may also be penalised if Lippi superstitiously opts to choose 23 domestic-based players like he did in 2006.

Pazzini is a longer shot as it is unlikely Lippi will take him along with three other first strikers. One player who is definitely still in with a shout is Del Piero. The Golden Boy has not played during Lippi’s second reign, but the fact he is from Juve, will have no trouble fitting into the group, and can act as a super-sub, means he has every chance should he regain his fitness and form.

While he remains Italy’s best outfield player, there is little to no chance of Cassano going to the World Cup. Especially, as Totti is returning. Miccoli needs a miracle too, due to his past scandal with Juventus. Toni is unlikely to return due to Amauri. Balotelli and Giovinco will probably have to wait another two to four years for their turn, while Floccari is a very long shot despite his undoubted class.

So there is Italy’s 2010 World Cup squad revealed. What are your views on this topic? Who do you think will go to the World Cup? Who do you think should go to the World Cup? Leave your squad choices below.

Carlo Garganese,