Euro 2016: Italy Squad - Analysis and upcoming fixtures
The four-time World Champions are the only team apart from Brazil to successfully defend the biggest football competition on the planet.
In Europe, however, they have only won one Euro title - the tournament’s 3rd edition in 1968 - which they hosted. They have come distant second on two occasions - none more so than their 4-0 mauling by Spain 4 years ago in the final.
They are not in their best shape now, but neither did they look it when they won their 4th world title on German soil 10 years ago. However, they were tough as teak back then, with Fabio Cannavaro the leader of a superb defense.
Gianluigi Buffon was there that famous night against France - he’s the captain now. Can he lead them to something very special in homage of that brilliant night a decade ago?
Incoming Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has already shown his ruthless by dropping two high-profile names from his Euro squad. Amongst the 7 players from his provisional squad that he dropped were Napoli’s Jorginho and the injured Riccardo Montolivo. Marco Veratti would’ve played but injury means De Rossi (who was oft injured) will go to France as a first choice at the heart of the Italian midfield.
The mercurial but aging Andrea Pirlo didn’t even make the first cut, with Conte saying, “When you... go to play in certain leagues, you...could pay the consequences from a footballing viewpoint" (in reference to his transfer to MLS side New York City”. Mario Balotelli has only earned one cap under him. This is the squad -
Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Federico Marchetti (Lazio), Salvatore Sirigu (Paris St-Germain).
Defenders: Andrea Barzagli (Juventus), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Angelo Ogbonna (West Ham), Federico Bernardeschi (Fiorentina), Matteo Darmian (Manchester United)
Midfielders: Antonio Candreva (Lazio), Daniele de Rossi (Roma), Mattia de Sciglio (Milan), Alessandro Florenzi (Roma), Emanuele Giaccherini (Bologna), Thiago Motta (Paris St-Germain), Marco Parolo (Lazio), Stefano Sturaro (Juventus).
Forwards: Eder (Sampdoria), Ciro Immobile (Torino), Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli), Graziano Pelle (Southampton), Simone Zaza (Juventus), Stephan El Shaarawy (Roma)
The former Juventus captain and manager will step down from the Italy hot seat after the Euro 2016 to join fallen English champions, Chelsea. The Juventus veteran won 5 Serie A titles,1 UEFA Cup and 1 Copa Italia; reaching 4 UEFA Champions League finals (1 victory), as a midfielder. With Italy, he finished as a runner-up in the 1994 World Cup & 2000 Euro.
After his retirement in 2004, he went on to manage 5 teams before returning to Juventus and guiding them to a hat-trick of Serie A titles. This was despite his match-fixing trial seeing him banned for 4 months - he was proved innocent just prior to this tournament.
Known for his passion and tenacity, Conte will be pushing his team to their very limits to take them to ultimate glory. Having tasted the lows of final defeats and the heights of league victories, Antonio Conte is a proven winner on the pitch & on the touchline.
UEFA Euro 2016 Team Preview: Formations & Tactics
Antonio Conte has used the 3-5-2 as ‘Plan A’ for much of his Italy tenure, shifting and changing it as matches demanded. He has now hinted at a slightly more offensive 3-4-3.
In either version, his back 3 is settled - the Juventus backline and their goalkeeper. They are mobile but slow and generally push their defensive line just behind the midfield - they’re experts at the offside trap.
His midfield is expected to swarm all over any offensive moves in any direction, and they quickly recover the ball and carry it forward towards the front men. The wing-backs are the crucial part of this system, moving rapidly up and down the flank, overlapping and distributing the ball across the pitch.