When Italy begin their Euro 2016 campaign against Belgium in the group of death encounter on 13th June, there are many who will consider the Red Devils to be favourites. However, as experienced followers of international football are well aware, it pays to ever underestimate Italy, given their penchant for going far in tournaments.
Gli Azzurri are not favourites by any means, but the presence of Antonio Conte at the helm, coupled with a formidable defence make Italy dark horses in these Euros. The Italian side is also a versatile and experienced one, able to switch formations and systems with aplomb.
Here is the 23 man squad named by Antonio Conte:
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)
Formation : 3-5-2
Of all the decisions that Antonio Conte makes regarding this Italian lineup, naming Gianluigi Buffon as his first-choice goalkeeper should be the easiest. The Juventus legend has been ever present in the Italian national squad ever since the 1998 FIFA World Cup, only missing the 2000 Euros due to injury. Yet, Buffon has not let age be a factor, in fact, there is an argument to be made that he’s getting better with age.
Marchetti and Sirigu provide some quality insurance were Buffon to be injured, although Sirigu’s indifferent season with PSG might not fill Conte with the greatest of glee. Nonetheless, Italy do have a leader of the highest stature in goal and fans of gli Azzuri will not have any palpitations at the prospect of a penalty shootout, with the thought of Buffon’s reflexes serving as a comfort.