After months of petitioning from Azzurri supporters, manager Gian Piero Ventura has finally given Jorginho and Simone Zaza their deserved call-ups for Italy’s upcoming play-offs with Sweden.
It was announced yesterday that Italy boss Gian Piero Ventura would reveal his call-ups this weekend for the rapidly approaching 2018 FIFA World Cup play-offs with Sweden, news of which prompted supporters to expect the same old names to be included, and omitted, from the roster. Shockingly, Ventura delivered his many critics a pleasant surprise by finally shaking things up and selecting those who have longed deserved a phone call to play a role in ‘La Nazionale’s’ quest for a World Cup birth in Russia.
Here are the 27 players Ventura summoned for the pivotal two-legged tie with the Swedes on 10 November (at “Friends Arena” in Solna, Sweden) and 13 November (inside the Giuseppe Meazza in Milan, Italy):
Goalkeepers: Buffon, Donnarumma, Perin.
Defenders: Astori, Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini, D’Ambrosio, Darmian, Rugani, Spinazzola, Zappacosta.
Midfielders: Bernardeschi, De Rossi, Candreva, El Shaarawy, Florenzi, Gagliardini, Insigne, Jorginho, Parolo, Verratti.
Attackers: Belotti, Immobile, Eder, Gabbiadini, Zaza.
Starting with the ‘portieri‘, Gianluigi Buffon stands firmly as the captain in net, followed by Milan’s Gianluigi Donnarumma and Genoa’s Mattia Perin who has returned between the sticks for the Rossoblu after making his way back from last January’s ACL tear.
Transitioning into the defense, Buffon’s guardsmen, we have the usual set; veterans Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini lead the back line, with Ventura also choosing four wing-backs/full-backs. In-form Nerazzurri defender Danilo D’Ambrosio, Matteo Darmian, Leonardo Spinazzola and Chelsea’s Davide Zappacosta. Daniele Rugani (Juventus), though not regularly featuring as much in Serie A play as Juventini would like, also makes the trip to Coverciano.
In the ‘centrocampo‘, Ventura has arguably chosen as good a group as he possibly could. Marco Verratti returns to the fold after missing his country’s previous two matches. Federico Bernardeschi, Antonio Candreva and Stephan El Shaarawy have all hit form for their respective clubs, so their inclusions were justified and expected. Alessandro Florenzi’s versatility and energy to play in various setups and do a bit of everything is a wonderful asset for Ventura to have in two ties that could require some tactical adjustments. Finally, after it seemed as though he would be representing Brasil under Seleção coach Tite, amidst constant pleading from the Azzurri faithful, Napoli star Jorginho has finally been called up – a sigh of relief for the Blues supporters who have longed to see the string-pulling, midfielder controller of the surging first place Partenopei be given his rightful spot on the squad.
Lastly, the attacking unit remains relatively the unchained, except this time, Simone Zaza is rewarded for his white-hot scoring form in Spain for Valencia. The 26-year old, who had been the butt of many jokes after his penalty take last year at Euro 2016 vs Germany, fell off dramatically after leaving the Bianconeri for West Ham. However, slowly but surely, the former Sassuolo striker has emerged as a clinical hitman in Spain, scoring 9 goals to date in La Liga competition – trailing only Lionel Messi with 13.
Although Ventura elected to pass on revitalized OGC Nice forward Mario Balotelli despite a noticeable growth in maturity and impressive run of form, there will be very few – if any – arguments over his choices.
Six days separate Italy’s first of two matches with Sweden; two hurdles of which must be cleared if the Azzurri are to punch their ticket to Russia. Tomorrow, the players will report to Coverciano, train there until Thursday, then make their way to Stockholm.
27 players called. All hands on deck for Italy.