Straight from the dark heart of Italy
Italy have set off on the sort of World Cup build up that on the face of it does not bode well for the finals themselves: the squad booed and jeered on its first official outing.
This was a result of Marcello Lippi and his 28-man squad’s refusal to stop and sign autographs as they boarded their bus for the maiden training session in the alpine resort of Sestriere above Turin.
It was mostly dads with their young sons who had just paid €8 for the pleasure of gathering around a hotel exit to watching their heroes walk out of the foyer and climb on to a bus - so they could have at least expected the players to scribble something on a piece of paper.
Enthusiasm turned to disappointment which is the majority feeling on the Azzurri chances of defending their crown in South Africa.
The PR gaff has since been partially corrected with free access to training on the snowy Alpine peaks for the next few days but as we know Italy only really respond well in adversity.
Four years ago the party travelled to Germany with a valid reason to lift the Cup but this time as World champions they have everything to lose which does not sit squarely on Italian shoulders.
Lippi will need to direct the sense that they have been written off even before they leave these shores by molding a united group of players with the desire to win over the doubters.
The final culling of five players ahead of the June 1 deadline will inform us on whether Italy are travelling to the tournament to make up the numbers or as potential history-makers
Having jettisoned the penalty shoot-out hero of Berlin, Fabio Grosso, and his Juventus team-mate Antonio Candreva from the original 30, the coach has already demonstrated that what was achieved in the past counts for nothing and there will be no favours for anyone.
There are eight players from 2006 and both Mauro Camoranesi and Gianluca Zambrotta would seem to be the ones in jeopardy especially if Lippi decides that three at the back and five in midfield is the preferred system.
Camoranesi would come under pressure from not only Simone Pepe but also Andrea Cossu who just might be the surprise choice as he is at home playing just ahead of two holding midfielders if two wing-backs are to be employed.
Zambrotta could slot into one of those wing-back positions although Christian Maggio is a better crosser of the ball and can pop up with the odd goal now and then.
However, the AC Milan veteran is certainly versatile and has spent a good part of his career on the left so he may just edge out Mattia Cassani.
The name of Salvatore Bocchetti keeps popping up as the other odd-man out in the defence but the Genoa player offers genuine cover in the centre of the backline.
Let’s take it as read that there will not be four goalkeepers in the party, so with Salvatore Sirigu left at home there may be a case for leaving the defence well alone - dropping two in midfield and two forwards.
Camoranesi would be one and Riccardo Montolivo would have to be the other as he does not offer more than adequate cover for Andrea Pirlo, whose position can be taken up by potential utility-man Angelo Palombo, who can also be used as an emergency defender.
Upfront, the names of Fabio Quagliarella and Giuseppe Rossi immediately spring to mind, although if it came down to one to miss out then it would have to be the Napoli striker who seems to have lost that spark for the unexpected.
So as it stands it is Sirigu, Cassani, Camoranesi, Montolivo and Quagliarella who will not have to worry about autograph hunters.
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