Viewed as a dress rehearsal for the main event that is the FIFA World Cup, the Confederations Cup allows teams to realize their progress and preparations. Italy, always regarded as contenders for the biggest prize in the game, with their glorious history warranting such recognition, remains right up there alongside Brazil and Spain as favorites to lift the Confederations Cup this year.
Cesare Prandelli since his appointment has breathed new life into this Azzurri squad. After the disaster that was the 2010 World Cup where the nation, as defending Champions, were knocked out of the group stage, Prandelli has managed to get Italy smiling again. With easy on the eye football that firmly put to bed the stereotypical assumption of defensive football and the introduction of youngsters into the frame, the former Fiorentina tactician has done an admirable job.
Leading the side to the finals of Euro 2012 remains his finest achievement. While many had written off Italy’s chances even before the tournament began, Prandelli and his team managed to silence the detractors and in the end, were only beaten by an all conquering Spanish outfit.
What Prandelli has brought to the table is a strict code of conduct. Any player seen misbehaving was omitted by the boss with Roma’s Pablo Osvaldo the latest to find himself excluded after not adhering to Prandelli’s code.
Prandelli has dabbled around with a few formations but is yet to find a concrete solution. His starting eleven in the majority consists of Serie A Champions Juventus’ players while also shifting in a few of the league’s brightest performers this past campaign.
Il Mister goes into the tournament with precious little to lose and will probably view it as a chance to experiment. Having hopped on different formations such as the 3-5-2, 4-3-3 and 4-3-1-2, latest reports emanating from Italy suggest he will field a 4-3-2-1 formation as the tinkering to bring out the best of his players continues.
In defense, the debate whether hard-man Giorgio Chiellini will be fielded at the centre or at left-back is a decision Prandelli faces. He may opt to blood the trio of Milan youngsters, De Sciglio, El Shaarawy and Balotelli, all of whom have raised eyebrows in the peninsula with their impressive showings.
While Alessio Cerci and Antonio Candreva have excelled at club level, they too are in the reckoning for a starting spot. Prandelli will rotate his side during the tournament so as to bring about a bit more clarity into what really is his strongest formation.
Goalkeepers: Buffon (Juventus), Marchetti (Lazio), Sirigu (Paris St. Germain)
Defenders: Abate (Milan), Astori (Cagliari), Barzagli (Juventus), Bonucci (Juventus), Chiellini (Juventus), De Sciglio (Milan), Maggio (Napoli)
Midfielders: Aquilani (Fiorentina), Candreva (Lazio), Cerci (Torino), De Rossi (Roma), Diamanti (Bologna), Giaccherini (Juventus), Marchisio (Juventus), Montolivo (Milan), Pirlo (Juventus)
Forwards: Balotelli (Milan), El Shaarawy (Milan), Gilardino (Bologna), Giovinco (Juventus)
Players To Watch Out For
Captain Fantastic for the Azzurri for what seems like ages, Buffon is the leader of the pack. Arguably the greatest goal-keeper of his generation and right up there with best of all time, ‘Superman’ has come off another excellent season with Juventus. Blessed with cat like reflexes and impeccable shot-stopping ability, Buffon remains a veteran of well over 100 caps.
The maestro, the dictator from midfield, everything stems through the glorious boots of Andrea Pirlo. Few players in World Football can thread a pass like Pirlo can and even fewer possess a free-kick ability to rival that of his. Pirlo pulls the strings from midfield and sets the tempo. In short, if Pirlo has a good game, Italy are bound to have one too.
He’s perhaps the most talented young Italian striker around yet at times you would rather wish he didn’t play. That is the temperamental Mario Balotelli. Capable of single-handedly deciding the outcome of a game, Balotelli is capable of the extraordinary but he is also capable of the extraordinarily stupid. Prandelli will bank on him to make the difference in Brazil and if the Milan man is in the mood, he will be a nightmare for defenders.
With Brazil, Mexico and Japan in their group, Italy do find themselves in the group of death. Nevertheless, they are favorites to emerge from the group and in all probability, they will. However, should they qualify, they do potentially face tricky ties in the form of Spain or Uruguay, which they might find a bit harder to negotiate.