Who will make the trip to Brazil next summer for the World Cup?
With qualification more or less concluded for the remaining hopefuls looking to secure their place in the World Cup, attention will now begin to switch to the players that will be in attendance in Brazil next summer.
Having missed out on a top seeding, Italy will undoubtedly face tough opposition in the group stages, and with speculation that this may be Cesare Prandelli’s last tournament before he steps down, he will want to get his selections right.
Following the draw with Nigeria on Monday night, the former Fiorentina boss insisted that “this Italy was born to attack” as he has progressively transformed the mentality of the squad, while also benefiting from talented attacking players.
Nevertheless, it will be key for Prandelli to possess some flexibility in his squad, and provided he makes the right choices he will have that in abundance as he looks for players that will make the difference in the big occasions.
While there will be debate over various positions, the goalkeeping spot is not up for discussion. Gianluigi Buffon has been a mainstay between the posts for over a decade and fitness permitting, he will continue in Brazil.
With question marks over Federico Marchetti at international level, it is likely that Morgan De Sanctis will come back into contention following his impressive start to life with Roma, with PSG’s Salvatore Sirigu making up the trio of possibilities.
In defence, AC Milan full-back pairing Ignazio Abate and Mattia De Sciglio were first choice during the Confederations Cup on the right and left flank respectively, but depending on the tactical system Prandelli opts for, they could make way for a back-three.
A Juventus duo of Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini will likely be favoured in the middle, with the likes of Angelo Ogbonna and Andrea Barzagli acting as cover as well as Domenico Criscito.
Moving into midfield, and arguably the Azzurri’s biggest strength, Andrea Pirlo and Daniele De Rossi will be expected to play influential roles throughout the tournament provided that they can stay fit and deal with fatigue, particularly with the Juve man.
They will likely be joined by Riccardo Montolivo, Claudio Marchisio, Andrea Candreva, Emanuele Giaccherini, Thiago Motta and possibly Marco Verratti.
Given his similarity to Pirlo, Verratti has been left out of La Gazzetta dello Sport’s predicted squad. However, this may well be the ideal opportunity for the youngster to fully appreciate what is expected of him once Pirlo retires from the international stage.
Alessio Cerci, Lorenzo Insigne and Pablo Osvaldo would act as back-up options to the first-choice pairing of Mario Balotelli and Giuseppe Rossi in attack, with Prandelli playing up the importance of having those two at his disposal.
Nevertheless, it is still early in the season and much can change before the summer in terms of injuries and form. The likes of Stephen El Shaarawy, Alessandro Florenzi, Alessandro Diamanti and Christian Maggio will all hope to force their way in, and not forgetting that Francesco Totti could yet make a spectacular comeback to international football.
Possible Italy squad for the World Cup:
GK: Gianluigi Buffon, Morgan De Sanctis, Salvatore Sirigu.
DF: Ignazio Abate, Mattia De Sciglio, Domenico Criscito, Giorgio Chiellini, Angelo Ogbonna, Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci.
MF: Andrea Pirlo, Daniele De Rossi, Riccardo Montolivo, Claudio Marchisio, Thiago Motta, Marco Verratti, Emanuele Giaccherini, Andrea Candreva.
ST: Mario Balotelli, Giuseppe Rossi, Pablo Osvaldo, Lorenzo Insigne, Alessio Cerci.