Where do awful Italy go from here?
If you thought Italy were awful at this World Cup it could get even worse in future tournaments.
The slow, unimaginative holders were embarrassed 3-2 by Slovakia on Thursday to crash out in the group stage and retiring captain Fabio Cannavaro reckons the country is just not producing top players anymore.
I asked in a blog before the tournament whether Marcello Lippi’s Italy were the worst ever world champions and now I’m predicting what the team might look like under new coach Cesare Prandelli for Euro 2012, if struggling Italy qualify of course.
A lot of the current team are over 30 and may have had their day so younger players will come in (although young in Italian soccer means 27…). You might not have heard of many of them, and that is exactly the point Cannavaro was making, but Prandelli may want to make radical changes.
Here’s my Italy XI for 2012.
Goalkeeper: Federico Marchetti – Gianluigi Buffon is very injury-prone and there are doubts how much his body can take even if he is having back surgery soon. Marchetti did not do anything wrong in South Africa but doesn’t inspire huge confidence with his constant punching
Right back: Christian Maggio – Was reserve to 33-year-old Gianluca Zambrotta at this tournament and has a bit of pace, a real rarity among Italian players
Centre back Giorgio Chiellini – A hard-nut who will probably end up as captain
Centre back: Andrea Ranocchia – A highly-rated 22-year-old who plays for Bari and is currently out with a serious knee problem
Left back: Domenico Criscito – Not brilliant at the World Cup but there are very few other options. Inter Milan teenager Davide Santon is right-footed and had a difficult second season
Right wing: Daniele Mannini – Sometimes great for Sampdoria, sometimes awful
Central midfield: Daniele De Rossi – Struggles to take AS Roma form with him when playing for Italy but still only 26 and offers experience
Centre midfield: Alberto Aquilani – Remember him? If he finally gets a run at Liverpool he may begin to show his quality
Left wing: Raffaele Palladino – Very hit and miss for Genoa but a true winger
Forward: Mario Balotelli – The enfant terrible of Italian football but can sparkle for Inter when not in a mood. One of the only top class young players to come through in recent years. His inclusion would also do great things for race relations in Italy
Forward: Giampaolo Pazzini – Only played one half in South Africa and excellent in the air
Andrea Pirlo and Antonio Cassano may get a look in depending on circumstances. The way the youth systems work in Italy it is doubtful any new faces will appear in the next two years capable of playing a World Cup.