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Your Sudafrica 2010 Azzurri Lineup

tmpphpaocnwb.jpg(Going in and out of Azzurri-mode during the break.)

Looking Ahead

Roberto Donadoni’s reign has been so disenchanting that many people have already taken to looking towards greener pastures and lined up potential replacements. I’m going to take it a step further and start to line up a game preview for the big tournament coming up. No, not Austria, Switzerland, Bavaria & Anybody Else Who Might Be Able To Host A Major Tourny In Central Europe. I'm talkin bout South Africa 2010. Qualification is still a ways away, and not necessarily a sure thing with The Don Doni at the helm, but for shits & giggles, here’s a run down of the potential lineup traveling to the tip of Africa in the summer of ‘10:

(And before you go crazy regarding omissions, this is pretty random and just for fun. Though I think it might be pretty close to accurate.)


Gigi Buffon:
For some reason, it seems he should’ve retired years ago, but he’s only 29 at the moment, and will only be 32 during the tournament, practically in his prime for a keeper - especially the Italian variety. There’s nothing to suggest his skills will let up, nor anything more to say he won’t still be the best keeper in the world when the WC comes rolling back around. And though he may already have his winner’s medal, he may have even more motivation for the tourny: to cement his status as the best keeper in the history of ever. A tournament approaching Germany ‘06 makes the title a formality.

Gianluca Curci:
Supposedly Gigi’s heir has been rather hit or miss of late, but luckily it has been a case of lacking experience and maturity rather than an over-estimation of talent. Either he’ll be loaned or moved by 2010, and with a full year of taking shots under his belt, he’ll start to fulfill that massive ceiling of his.

Emiliano Viviano:
Another relative youngster, but has all the talents a world-class keeper requires, and will be on the list as soon as he hops on board the train to the big 4. Kid is legit.

No Amelia, you say? Well, combine his start for Livorno along with the fact that absolutely no one wanted to touch him with a ten foot pole even though he was basically rubbing up on all the big clubs looking for some action like a recently dumped and drunk freshman makes one wonder whether or not everyone else knows something we don’t. I suspect they do. (Among other reasons.)


Looking at the ages of current defensive Azzurri regulars - Oddo (31), Zambro (30), Canna (∞), Barzagli (26), Matrix (34), Panucci (∞∞), Chiellini (23), Grosso (30) - reveals this little area might be an issue sometime soon. Most will either be out or on the cusp of being out. No doubt they produce some stellar talent in the boot, but defenders typically take a little longer to ripen and there aren’t exactly any young’uns pushing for a spot at the moment. Wing and a prayer.

Andrea Barzagli: Solid CB and the future owner of the Azzuri’s back line. Easily the best combination of talent, youth and experience they currently have at their disposal, and he’ll be in his prime when South Africa rolls around, assuredly as a starter.

Giorgio Chiellini:
The Schnoz will be there as a part-time LB, part-time CB, with most of the starts coming on the left. Versatility is the name of the game when it comes to limited rosters, and his will be huge eventually.

Christian Panucci: I kid I kid. (Although...)

Marco Andreolli:
Regardless of what team he’s on at the time, way too talented not to make this roster unless his career becomes a complete bust. May even push for a starting spot, and if the Nesta comparisons are even remotely true, this back line goes from questionable to team strength immediately.

Marco Motta: That blur you’ll see floating down the right hand side of the defensive flank is this guy, yet another in the long line of Italian defensive phenoms. A personal fave, and will leave few, if any, harping for the fullback performances in Germany.

Speaking of Zambro, though he’ll only be 33 at the time, it’s highly unlikely he’ll be on the plane if only because the guy just cannot seem to stay healthy, and when you’re over 30, that’s a very bad sign. It would not surprise one bit to see him retire after the Euros in order to prolong his playing career. And of course, once he begins having his many children, he'll need to stay home to breast feed, as I don't think his wife's mosquito bites will produce The Milk adequately.

* - Don't believe me?

Daniele Bonera:
He’ll put it together enough to be a quality back up, but how much else is really up for debate. Luckily for him, the older you get at Milan, the more one improves. I still think that entire organization should be pee tested. Including Uncle Fester.

Philippe Mexes:
Because by 2009 Sepp Blatter will impose a rule that says: “If you are easily the best option for your position for your country and your coach is too much of an idiot to play you, you may switch national allegiances after sitting out a period of one year.”

Cristian Zaccardo: He’s too talented not to be there, and he must have done his penance for that own goal last summer, right? Maybe not yet. But he’ll most likely be in South Africa backing up Motta.

Manuel Pasqual: He’s like that girl who you were friends with in high school and forget about until she comes around during college breaks. Continually she starts to look better every year, and each time you see her you say “Oh yeah, you”, until finally she graduates and she starts looking like marriage material. Intelligent, a nice, mature girl and very pretty, although not drop dead gorgeous, but someone who you know would make a fantastic wife and a great long term decision. So if you missed that: I want to marry Manuel Pasqual.

Paolo Cannavaro:
Come on, what's a World Cup Azzurri team without a Canna in the squad? Even so, it's very plausible he winds up on the squad.


Daniele De Rossi: At some point this team is going to get some coach that realizes you play your best players, especially when you don't have a consistent system to speak of. This isn’t brain surgery.

Alberto Aquilani:
Already an integral cog in the current Azzurri machine, he’s there for the long haul. One of the first of The Don’s very reluctant young callups. A complete midfielder and a quality partner with his Roman brother in the middle. Owning the midfield as they do so well.

Riccardo Montolivo:
He’ll be there. He’ll be starting. Somewhere.

Andrea Pirlo:
He’ll only be 31 when Sudafrica rolls arround, and if recent performances mean anything, his playmaking abilities will be needed desperately. Actually, the slightest hint of creativity will be needed desperately. But that won't be the case. This wave of young midfielders is grossly talented, and it may get to the point where he can’t make it above a group in their respective primes consisting of: De Rossi, Aquilani, Montolivo, Rossinaldo, and Dessena.

Gennaro Gattuso: I’m just not sure he’ll ever broach the idea of retiring from the Azzurri. Or, more accurately, that anyone will have the grapefruits to tell him that maybe it’s time to hang them up. So this means he’s brought in as a late game sub when the Azzurri needs to protect a lead. And also as the team’s personal bodyguard in the country with an alarming crime rate. You can have your automatic weapons, I’ll take a pissed off Ivan 8 days a week.

Alessandro Rosina: It’ll probably take the sudden death of The Don for Rosinaldo to earn a starting spot anytime soon, but he should earn one by ‘10, regardless of the gaffer. In a team that right now desperately right now needs a creative influence, Rosinaldo and Montolivo will be enough to strike fear into the hearts of all.

Daniele Dessena: Oh he’s good. Real good. But he’ll be looking up from the bench for most of the tournament. Having a talent like Dessena on the bench makes “luxury” the understatement of the century.


Alberto Gilardino: One of these days he has to put it together. Might be close, might not. Strange to think less than 18 months ago he was starting for the Azzurri in the World Cup. It appears he's found those finishing booties once again, but only time will tell.

Luca Toni: Here’s the deal, his skills are going to fade much more slowly than most strikers because he doesn’t base his game on speed. Also, he is a relative late-bloomer, as he spent much of his career in the calcio dungeons. Every team needs a little Tonigol, and he'll be hugely effective during his time on the pitch.

Giampaolo Pazzini: His talent is crazy good, and by this time he will have most likely put it all together and begun terrorizing the (old) women and children of Serie A with regularity, to the point where I’m almost ready to say he’ll be the #1 come 2010. Almost.

Giuseppe Rossi: Results trump, well, everything. Despite not being good enough for Sir Whiskey Nose’s Portuguese-speaking tastes, he’ll be good enough for the Azzurri’s. Not to mention the versatility to split out wide or play up through the middle of the pitch. As always, versatility is the name of the game. Except when it comes to gender. (Write that down.)

And, last but not least.....

FRANCESCO TOTTI: You know it’s happening. Don’t even act like it’s not.

(For the helluva it: Gigi; Motta, Barzagli, Andreolli, Chiellini; Montolivo, De Rossi, Aquilani, Rosinaldo; Totti; Pazzini.)