Italy Camp Focus – Lippi drops Grosso and Candreva from World Cup squad, Borriello to follow?

There just had to be one surprise. Nicola Legrottaglie failing to make the provisional 30-man World Cup squad may have raised a few eyebrows, but considering his lack of playing time (and poor form when he did play) the more common reaction was a nod of approval at Italy Coach Marcello Lippi’s decision. But Fabio Grosso getting picked, and then axed, from the 30-man squad is a genuine surprise – primarily because he is one of ‘Lippi’s boys’, part of the group that the Coach was seen to view as all-important to winning a World Cup.

It is perhaps why Lippi himself spoke of the “regret” at making the call to Grosso to inform him of the decision. Yet, although the Coach’s move is unexpected, it is the correct one, and he knows it. The reasoning behind the cull is both very simple and a slightly more complex case of squad dynamics. First, the simple reason – Grosso has been utterly woeful for Juventus this season. It is a measure of how bad he has been that it has helped cost him his place in the Italy squad, a place that looked incredibly secure for so long. His performances at international level this campaign have been a little better – certainly not as poor as those for Juventus – but even they have dropped to a level where his place in the starting line-up is under threat from the excellent Domenico Criscito, who has built on a promising first season with Genoa with more faultless displays. This then begs the question – why not just keep Grosso in the squad, but drop him from the starting XI and allow Criscito to take his place?

This quite legitimate query brings forward the factor which probably pushed Grosso out of the door – that of the composition of the squad. The player’s poor form on its own would probably have not been enough to see Lippi jettison him from the squad. If it were, chances are he would have left him out of the provisional 30-man list to begin with. The Coach has thought long and hard, and Grosso’s eventual undoing is likely to have been the versatility of the rest of the defenders (compounded by his own awful form). Not only can Criscito play at left-back, but so can his Genoa teammate Salvatore Bocchetti and Milan’s Gianluca Zambrotta. It means Lippi is not short of options for this position, and as a result it allows him to cut a full-back, leaving only seven defenders for the 23-man squad (when one from Mattia Cassani and Christian Maggio has been cut). The sacrifice in this area of the pitch now gives Lippi the choice of taking an extra midfielder in his final squad, or an extra forward.

Antonio Candreva’s exclusion was expected – he probably needs another season before he can think about becoming a regular for the Azzurri. That leaves one more player to be left out to give Lippi the 27 players needed for submission to FIFA (the 23-man squad, plus four reserves). His only decision then would be to choose which four players would act as back-up. The final player to be left at home will be a forward (there are currently seven, and he will not take any more than six) – Marco Borriello, Fabio Quagliarella and Giuseppe Rossi are the trio in the firing line. Lippi has stated he wants another 10 days to think about it, but logic suggests it will be Borriello (despite a good season), as three prime punte (Alberto Gilardino, Giampaolo Pazzini, Borriello) would be something of an excess, especially with Vincenzo Iaquinta also able to play this role. Iaquinta’s presence almost negates the need to take a prima punta as one of the four reserve players. By contrast, there would be a distinct lack of genuine seconde punte should one of Rossi or Quagliarella be sent home. The forward-line would lack balance – of the six forwards left in the list of 27 players, only two would be considered seconde punte. Once again, it all comes down to squad dynamics, and they could well be the bane of Marco Borriello’s summer.

Provisional 28-man Italy squad

Goalkeepers

Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus)
Morgan De Sanctis (Napoli)
Federico Marchetti (Cagliari)
Salvatore Sirigu (Palermo)

Defenders

Fabio Cannavaro (Juventus)
Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus)
Gianluca Zambrotta (Milan)
Domenico Criscito (Genoa)
Mattia Cassani (Palermo)
Leonardo Bonucci (Bari)
Christian Maggio (Napoli)
Salvatore Bocchetti (Genoa)

Midfielders

Andrea Pirlo (Milan)
Gennaro Gattuso (Milan)
Daniele De Rossi (Roma)
Riccardo Montolivo (Fiorentina)
Angelo Palombo (Sampdoria)
Simone Pepe (Udinese)
Claudio Marchisio (Juventus)
Mauro Camoranesi (Juventus)
Andrea Cossu (Cagliari)

Forwards

Antonio Di Natale (Udinese)
Fabio Quagliarella (Napoli)
Giampaolo Pazzini (Sampdoria)
Marco Borriello (Milan)
Vincenzo Iaquinta (Juventus)
Alberto Gilardino (Fiorentina)
Giuseppe Rossi (Villarreal)

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