Deprived of almost all its major stars, the Italian team to face Bafana Bafana in Siena on Wednesday night will look more like the national B-team line-up than current world champions.
Even the inclusion of Paolo Cannavaro in the squad is misleading to the unsuspecting.
It’s not Fabio, the world’s 2006 Player of the Year and star of last year’s triumphant Soccer World Cup campaign, but his brother, who earns his first call-up to the weakened national squad.
But even without the likes of renowned Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, the Real Cannavaro, so to speak, Christian Panucci, Massimo Ambrosini, Gennaro Gattuso, Andrea Pirlo, Fabio Grosso, Luca Toni, the injured trio of Gianluca Zambrotta, Marco Materazzi and Mauro Camoranesi, as well as out-of-favour stars Alessandro del Piero and Filippe Inzaghi in opposition, the warning that Bafana should well heed is ”Beware the Azzurri.”
One reason is that Italian soccer is blessed with a depth of cultured and professional players in Serie A, but quite as important, perhaps, is that the members of coach Roberto Donadoni’s chosen squad could be better-motivated for a friendly than players who have scaled the international heights; are embroiled in a tough European 2008 qualifying campaign; and might not be enthralled over the prospect of facing Bafana.
In addition, the Italians will all be competing for permanent positions in the national squad generally, but more particularly for the vital qualifying clash against Scotland in Glasgow next month.
And captain on the day against Bafana, AS Roma’s Daniele de Rossi, emphasised the point when he proclaimed: ”We all want to be in the squad to play Scotland — and will be doing whatever we can against South Africa to enhance our claims.”
For the record, however, only five of Italy’s triumphant 2006 World Cup squad, De Rossi, recalled striker Alberto Gilardino, Vincenzo Iaquinta, Cristian Zaccardo and Marco Amelia are in line to be pitted against Bafana — and they do not exactly constitute a cross-section of the pivotal heroes in Germany last year.
Italy’s selection, nevertheless, may reflect Bafana’s current unflattering 73rd-plce world ranking and some might claim it demonstrates a measure of disrespect — rightly or wrongly. — Sapa
Goalkeepers: Marco Amelia (Livorno), Gianluca Curci (Roma).
Defenders: Daniele Bonera (AC Milan), Paolo Cannavaro (Napoli), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Andrea Dossena (Udinese), Alessandro Gamberini (Fiorentina), Giandomenico Mesto (Udinese),Cristan Zaccardo (Palermo).
Midfielders: Danielle De Rossi (Roma), Stefano Mauri (Lazio), Riccardo Montolivo (Fiorentina), Antonio Nocererino (Juventus), Angelo Palombo (Sampdoria), Franco Semioli (Fiorentina).
Strikers: Pasquale Fogia (Cagliari), Alberto Gilardino (AC Milan), Vincenzo Iaquinta (Juventus), Cristiano Lucarelli (FC Shakhtar), Alessandro Rosina (Torino).