With the latest Serie A season coming to a close, Italy manager Antonio Conte released his latest Azzurri squad on Monday. Since qualifying for the UEFA Euro 2016, the former Bianconeri boss has been under intense fire for some of his selections, and yesterday, it was apparent that again Conte would be scrutinized despite this squad being called for a three-day trial in Coverciano.
Once again, it must be said that this is not the final squad for next month’s Euro, however there are many names on this list that will surely be in the mix for a trip to France. Here is a breakdown of each position.
Goalkeepers: Federico Marchetti, Antonio Mirante, Marco Sportiello
Let’s be clear. Gianluigi Buffon will be the starting goalkeeper come kick-off on June 13th when Italy battles Belgium. Salvatore Sirigu, despite falling out of favor at Paris Saint-Germain this season under Laurent Blanc, will likely back up the legendary Juventus keeper on the squad. However, the third keeper slot could be up for grabs with several men eyeing it. While Marchetti and Mirante do provide some added experience, most would assume that it will – and should be – Atalanta’s young keeper Marco Sportiello to corral the third spot. The 24-year old has impressed throughout the entire 2015/16 campaign despite playing for the bottom-half club of Bergamo. His 43 conceded goals in thirty-six matches don’t fully paint the picture of his performance in goal this season. Atalanta finished in 13th, but could have very well fallen deeper if it wasn’t for his impressive eleven clean-sheets. Simply put, Sportiello deserves to make the trip to France and develop under the tutelage of Buffon.
Defenders: Francesco Acerbi, Davide Astori, Leonardo Bonucci, Armando Izzo, Angelo Ogbonna, Lorenzo Tonelli
Whether Conte elects to field a 4-3-3, 3-4-3 or use a 3-5-2, it’s clear as day as to which defenders he will summon for the final Euro squad, with most of them coming from the winners of five straight Serie A titles, Juventus. Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini have been the main pillars in the back for Italy for as long as anyone can remember, and with Conte’s fondness for the three since his time with the Old Lady, it’s unlikely we see a change. However, this is a perfect time for some of the names listed above to force Conte’s hand into granting them a place on the Euro squad, particularly Francesco Acerbi and Angelo Ogbonna.
Acerbi was a vital component to Eusebio Di Francesco’s Sassuolo side overthrowing A.C. Milan for 6th place, good for Europa League play next season. The ex-rossoneri defender had overcome testicular cancer and helped solidify a stellar season for the neroverdi. As for Angelo Ogbonna, the former Juventus and Torino centre-half made 28 appearances in the Premiership this season, helping West Ham finish in seventh and performing well enough to force fans of the azzurri to consider him. If anything, Conte will take one of the above (excluding Bonucci who is a lock).
Midfielders: Marco Benassi, Federico Bernardeschi, Antonio Candreva, Danilo Cataldi, Daniele De Rossi, Lorenzo De Silvestri, Stephan El Shaarawy, Alessandro Florenzi, Emanuele Giaccherini, Jorginho, Marco Parolo, Roberto Soriano, Davide Zappacosta
The unfortunate injuries to Claudio Marchisio and Marco Verratti have created a major void in the center of the park for the Azzurri as both were starters written in ink. With Andrea Pirlo not being called this time around, these are dire times for Italy as they are left scrambling to find that right formula in the midfield. As mentioned before, the formation is still up in the air and Conte has a few setups that could bode well for the personnel he has, but by no means are supporters as confident as they were in this region of the squad a couple of months ago. From the list above, it’s pretty clear as to which men will make the cut; Candreva, Florenzi, El Shaarawy, Parolo and De Rossi. Doubt remains in the minds of the Italian faithful that Conte will snub a few standouts like Jorginho and Bernardeschi in favor of a personal favorite Emanuele Giaccherini. Keep in mind that both Riccardo Montolivo and Giacomo Bonaventura were not called up as they continue to prepare for their Coppa Italia final bout with Juventus. Regardless, with the exception of a few, it’s anybody’s guess as to which of these players will feature in the latest Euro tournament.
Attackers: Fabio Borini, Citadin Martins Eder, Ciro Immobile, Lorenzo Insigne, Leonardo Pavoletti, Graziano Pellè
Perhaps the area with the most obscurity; the attack. Eder, despite disappointing after his switch from Sampdoria to Inter in January, was an expected call-up as he’s been a mainstay in the squad along with Southampton’s true nine, Graziano Pellè. Even though this pair has much to prove ahead of their first major tournament with the Nazionale, it’s obvious they will lead the line come June baring any shakeups in formation. Lorenzo Insigne, like Stephan El Shaarawy, provides Italy with massive upside on the wing. The pacy Napoli man enjoyed a stellar 15-16 campaign in Italy, tallying 12 goals to partner ten assists. The 24 year old is a dangerous shot from set pieces and is a player who strikers love to play off (see Gonzalo Higuain). Shifting gears to Ciro Immobile and Leonardo Pavoletti who are wildcards to make the cut.
Immobile made the switch over from Sevilla after a rather abysmal stint in Spain to Torino this past January. Once he returned, the ex-Pescara hitman enjoyed a successful spell back in Turin where he not too long ago earned capocannoniere honors. For Pavoletti, it was an all-around consistent season in the Italian top-flight with Genoa. The 27 year old has bounced around Italy his entire career, but seemed to find his calling with the rossoblu this season, scoring fourteen goals and helping the club climb out of the relegation zone to finish safely in 11th. Where this list derails and take a detour to who knows where is the call-up of Fabio Borini. The 25 year old Sunderland striker has become virtually a non-factor for the Azzurri, or so it seemed. Borini has only scored 6 goals in the past two seasons in England and his lone cap for Italy came more than four years ago. With the youth of Domenico Berardi and Andrea Belotti, Toronto FC’s dominant forward Sebastian Giovinco and many others, certainly there is no logical explanation for Borini to be selected. None.