We continue are look at the rosters of some of the biggest teams entering the World Cup, with Italy. The Italians have been one of the most difficult teams to figure out in world soccer. They have won four World Cup titles (most recently in 2006), been in six finals overall and yet they’ve also failed to make it out of the group stages six times as well.
That was the Azzurri’s fate in 2010, as the defending champions were bounced in the group stage. Italy went home without a win to its name, drawing twice (1-1 draws with Paraguay and New Zealand) and losing to 3-2 to Slovakia in the decisive final group game.
It’s safe to say the pressure is on the 2014 squad to make it out of it’s group at the very least. However, the Italians face a tough challenge, as they are in one of the two toughest groups in the 2014 World Cup—facing England, Costa Rica and Uruguay.
On Sunday head coach Cesare Prandelli cut down his provisional roster ahead of the Monday FIFA deadline for official 23-man rosters to be announced. So, let’s look in to the squad heading to Brazil, shall we?
Biggest Surprise Exclusion: Mattia Destro and Giuseppe Rossi
These two names stand out as surprise exclusions for very different reasons. Let’s start with the name many American fans know best, New Jersey-born Giuseppe Rossi. After starting off the 2013-14 campaign with Fiorentina red-hot, the injury bug kept Rossi out of the second-half of the season. Until that point, Rossi had 16 goals and three assists in 21 appearances for his club side. He had a chance to prove himself against Ireland on Saturday, but it was an uneventful 71-minute performance from him and it likely sealed his fate. Let’s just say Rossi didn’t take that news too kindly.
As for Destro, his exclusion is more surprising because of the fact that he put 13 goals in the back of the net in 20 appearances for club side Roma this season. He’s perhaps one of the most lethal strikers the Azzurri have in its setup, yet it appears an on-field dust-up with Davide Astori may have cost him a spot. With Prandelli preferring team discipline over individual brilliance, Destro likely became expendable for the 2014 World Cup roster.
Biggest Surprise Inclusion: Gabriel Paletta
Paletta is one of a few Oriundo—or player of Italian descent born outside of Italy—on this year’s squad, but that’s not why his inclusion in the side is a surprise. The biggest reason is that the defender appears to not be 100 percent, and given that was the reason for exclusion of Rossi this time around it is a bit curious that the defender was put on the squad. He still has to pass a fitness test, and may end up off the squad depending the results in Brazil.
Name That Will Interest American Fans Most: Mario Balotelli
Simply put, he is must-see TV. Balotelli earned a bad-boy reputation early on in his career and it surfaced most notably while playing for Manchester City in the Premier League. His antics are well documented, and the fact that he couldn’t get on with his Italian coach led to a transfer to AC Milan. Back in Serie A, Balotelli has racked up 26 goals in 43 appearances. However, there are rumors he may be back in the EPL this coming season, thanks to AC Milan being hard up for cash. It’s safe to say that his crazy behavior and immense talent make him a must-watch at this World Cup.