Ahead of the international break, my attention switches this week to the squad selection for the world champions. The Azzurri squad arriving for training at Coverciano this week will contain two fresh faces ahead of the upcoming friendlies against Holland and Sweden. Antonio Candreva and Davide Biondini join up with la Nazionale for the first time, fulfilling boyhood dreams in the process. There are also re-calls for some younger faces, including the likes of Giampaolo Pazzini, Mattia Cassani and Daniele Galloppa amongst others. After facing fierce criticism from the media over recent months for not injecting youth into his squad, Marcello Lippi has now answered those calls ahead of these experimental match-ups and it is now up to these youngsters to make the most of their opportunities.
Both Candreva and Biondini have been in impressive form this season thus far, helping Livorno and Cagliari respectively. Whilst Pazzini has been in fine goal-scoring form, Galloppa has been instrumental in Parma’s rise in the league standings. The return of Domenico Criscito, Marco Marchionni and Christian Maggio are all testaments to their recent form, and it comes as no surprise that this group of promising talent has been given the chance to shine. However it still appears that Marcello Lippi is unwilling to ‘forgive and forget’ with regards to Antonio Cassano.
The Azzurri tactician has maintained the strong back-bone of the side that the fans are accustomed to, including the likes of Fabio Cannavaro and Andrea Pirlo. However, following the injury picked up in tonight’s fixture against Inter, it is likely that Daniele de Rossi will be forced to withdraw. It is important that these individuals pass on their vast experience, and produce a positive contribution to help the transition of the debutants run smoothly.
It is a positive step for the future of the Italian game in that these players will gain invaluable international experience. Regardless of whether they get any playing time, the recognition of their talent should spur them on to strive for an all important place in the World Cup squad. After months of disheartened Italians airing their displeasure over the ageing squad which has been efficient yet uninspiring in the qualification campaign, this should be seen as an important statement for the potential class of 2010. Lippi has given the fans, the pundits and the younger generation of players what everyone has been waiting for...a chance to see what they can do. Whether this experiment will justify his judgment in having faith in experience, or prove that these youngsters can handle the pressure of the international stage, remains to be seen.