Now, with volume one taken care of, we will turn our focus to what can be seen for June 16, 2017. While this topic will be split into several articles, the task at hand will be as easy as it is difﬁcult.The objective is not to band together an All-Star team of this age category, but to mix together the right ingredients. With 23 spots to allocate, there will be four separate departments that need to be united as one.
The ﬁrst department to be decided will be goalkeeping. While there is only three spots for the taking, many questions arise, as it may not be as obvious a choice as many may think.
The ﬁrst name that comes to mind will be Gianluigi Donnarumma, the Milan prodigy.
With very little doubt about his talents and expertise, considering his impressive 50 Serie A appearances collected before turning 18. Upon close inspection, the issue here is the repetition of a long term trend, noticeable in Italy in the past. That is excessive loyalty and consequent unwillingness to accept that there is a far more deserving candidate.
Consider the man that has been at the helm for almost the entire qualiﬁcations period necessary to arrive at Euro U 21, Alessio Cragno – the Cagliari owned goalkeeper – currently playing for Series B’s Benevento. Undoubtedly, he is an able, talented and ready goalkeeper. Thus, with the numerous high-proﬁle squads already eyeing up Donnarumma, will Cragno be overlooked? One thing is certain, these two should be locks as first and second choice goalkeepers, with hopes that talent can prevail over loyalty.
With regards to the last goalkeeping spot, a different approach should be utilised, given that whoever is picked will inevitably undergo a limited employment on the pitch. Alex Meret, the Udinese product, would be an ideal choice. His outstanding performance in last year’s Euro U19 shows that there is, or should be, no discussion. This would also be a great opportunity to assess his talents and capabilities.
Now, let us turn our attentions towards the back-line of the squad. This department could very well be the most impressive crop of the bunch, with no less than three centre backs that have the potential of becoming world-class players. Presenting these players in no particular order: Milan’s Alessio Romagnoli, Juventus’ Daniele Rugani and, currently at Atalanta, Mattia Caldara. All possess fantastic man-marking abilities, with each having special characteristics that complement the others talents. From decision-making to timing and an overall physical presence, many superlatives can be applied to each player.
What will be even more intriguing is observing their versatility, given that they are all familiar with two-man, or three-man, centre back systems. The tailbone of this team is in great hands.
If we allow wing-backs to be considered as components of this department, then five more spots remain to be filled. Firstly, what needs to be addressed is the possibility of injuries and suspensions that may occur in this position, leaving only one centre back position available. What will need to be determined is if the remaining defenders to be chosen will be adapted centre-backs or pure wing-backs.
If the latter approach is taken, then the last centre-back position should be somebody willing to accept such an adaptation, and a responsibility, if needed. Italy is fortunate to have options in this situation, but only one can be picked. That should be Alex Ferrari, the Bologna youngster. This choice will likely be based on familiarity since his appearances at the end of qualiﬁcations were well appreciated.
Thoughts now turn towards the remaining four defenders. Obviously what is needed is four wing-backs. If diversity is the path to be chosen then two picks should be technical selections, adding width and playmaking outlets when needed. Instead, the other two should be more conservative, solid, options, for those times when more steel is needed on the back-line.
Great options are available for this debate as well, but as always there are particular players that stand out, starting with Torino’s Antonio Barreca (left) or Milan’s Davide Calabria (right or left), both technical choices. Both possess pace, crossing abilities and are natural footed players for their respective sides. If added numbers are in need forward, these two would be the best available answers.
On the other hand, if steel is the name of the game and absorbing the oppositions pressure is a concern, some very interesting individuals are waiting in the wings (no pun intended). Certainly, the two that should be called upon are Cagliari’s homegrown talent Nicola Murru (left), and Atalanta’s superb Andrea Conti (right). These two are a tad more physical and have developed in the more traditional method that old-school Italians may recall. Strong positional play and man-marking are their particular talents. An added bonus to both could be their contributions on set pieces, whether it be attacking or defending.
To be continued. . .