Italy Camp Focus – Lippi packs no punches with predictable preliminary World Cup 2010 squad

Anyone who has followed Italy under Marcello Lippi cannot be too surprised by the preliminary 30-man squad the Commissario Tecnico announced today.

Nicola Leggrotaglie, Juventus’ 33-year-old centre-back was the only shock omission, with youngsters Salvatore Bocchetti and Leonardo Bonucci chosen ahead of him after impressive seasons in Serie A for Genoa and Bari respectively. Indeed, beyond the first-choice back five of Gianluigi Buffon, Gianluca Zambrotta, Fabio Cannavaro, Giogio Chiellini and Fabio Grosso, Lippi has selected five defenders with only 14 caps between them, leaving the side a few injuries away from being a very light, albeit a little more exciting team to watch.

Boccehetti, Bonucci and Domenico Criscito are three names to watch out for in years to come and are tipped along with a host of other youngsters breaking through in Italy. Combined with the gamble of taking all three and the relatively untested right-backs Mattia Cassani and Christian Maggio, should injury strike when the final 23 is selected, Lippi runs a real risk of pinning the nation’s hopes on a kid’s shoulders.

The midfield selection held few surprises, with Simone Pepe set to do battle with Antonio Candreva and Andrea Cossu for a seat on the plane, with potentially all three missing out in favour of a fifth striker. The midfield remains Italy’s strongest weapon at the finals, the first-choice three of Andrea Pirlo, Daniele De Rossi and Gennaro Gattuso now work extremely well together, offering ranged passing, aggression, attack-minded vision and tactical discipline their back-ups are – worryingly for la Nazionale – lacking.

Up-front is where the real concerns lie however. In Alberto Gilardino, Vincenzo Iaquinta, Antonio Di Natale, Marco Borriello and Giampaolo Pazzini, Italy have five forwards of similar nature. Aside from Iaquinta, they are in form and fit, yet all possess the same skillset and weak points. Giuseppe Rossi was rumoured to have been omitted from the final 30 only to finally be included, and despite the seemingly decided nature of his place in the squad as back-up, he at least represents a touch of the unknown. Fabio Quagliarella completes the forward selection and offers pace, the odd tendency to score fantastic goals, and an ability to play up-front or on the wings but very little else, and along with Iaquinta, represents Lippi’s over-reliance on flexible players to compensate for his in-game tinkering with the formation.

There is no place for the experience of Daniele Bonera or Luca Toni, whilst Francesco Totti is also left out despite making himself available for a return. Without a recognised fantasista in the side, Totti was seen as the answer to many fans’ hopes of seeing a more fluid Italian attack. However, he remains at home and focus now switches to the 30 who have been selected, and their chances of going to South Africa.

Ultimately, Cossu, Candreva, Cassani, Pepe, Borriello, Rossi and goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu are the seven most likely to face the chop when Lippi names his final 23 to defend the trophy. La Nazionale go into the tournament once again hoping luck and a favourable run of opponents through the knock-out stages will be on their side. Otherwise, it could be an early return for the Azzurri.

Provisional 30-man Italy squad

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

Defenders
Fabio Cannavaro (Juventus)
Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus)
Fabio Grosso (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)
Antonio Candreva (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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