Who Should Lippi Pick for South Africa 2010?
Azzurri coach Marcello Lippi has come under heavy criticism in recent months despite Italy’s success in qualifying to the World Cup in South Africa. La Nazionale went through an alarming goal drought and was only able to overcome it after two unfortunate own goals from returning Georgia captain Kakha Kaladze.
The Italians were expected to qualify from their group with only the Republic of Ireland posing any genuine threat to Lippi’s squad in terms of automatic qualification to South Africa. While it is true the Italians did not suffer any defeat in the group stage, the attack has been showing ill signs and regularly stuttering until a rejuvenated Alberto Gilardino began firing goals for the Azzurri. The Fiorentina striker scored towards the ends against the Irish before completing a late hat-trick in a 3-2 come-from-behind win over Cyprus. The Italian national team has players capable of finding the net yet appears to be lacking when it comes to imaginative players who are capable of not just scoring but creating chances as well.
There have been calls around the peninsula for the recall of bad-boy Antonio Cassano who plays in Genoa for Sampdoria. Cassano has been impressive and has played a major role in the Blucerchiati’s third ranking in Serie A so far. He is also key to the resurgence of partner Giampaolo Pazzini who actually earned three caps for the Azzurri during 2009. Cassano might not be a regular goal scorer yet his assists are often the reason behind the goals scored by his teammates with Pazzini scoring seven times so far this season.
Another forward who has been considered as a possible choice for South Africa is Roma talisman Francesco Totti who has had a positive start to the season scoring six times in the league before missing out due to injury. The main points of concern with Totti are his frequent niggling injuries and the potential for displeasure amongst certain Azzurri players, in particular in attack, since the star player opted to quit international football following the triumph in Berlin in 2006 and has yet to feature for Italy since that glorious night. On the other hand, Cassano has pledged on more than one occasion his desire to play again for his country despite Lippi’s reluctance to pick him.
Finally, Italy has the option of calling upon Alessandro Del Piero, the Juventus legend and all-time leading Bianconeri scorer. Del Piero is perhaps the least likely to feature at this point due to injuries and the fact that Lippi has also ignored him during his second tenure with la Nazionale. However, the positive factors playing in favour of the Old Lady’s captain include the fact that he is likely to have fresh legs after missing all of Juve’s matches up to this point and his decent participation with the Azzurri during World Cup 2006 when he was used effectively as a substitute. Del Piero’s desire to play in South Africa and his willingness to start on the bench without causing any fuss will also help his cause. Lastly, Lippi is quite familiar with the forward having trained him both with Juventus and with the national team.
It is quite possible that Lippi will ignore all three players for various reasons- some too obvious such as in the case of Antonio Cassano. As fans, who would you like to see featuring for Italy during next summer’s World Cup: Cassano, Del Piero or Totti?