For a nation with a footballing history as storied as Italy, whose success was always pinned to their resolute defense and clinical (and timely) finishing, fans knew what to expect when the Azzurri strode upon the pitch, and I mean that in the best possible way. Now, on the precipice of Euro 2016 and with a host of stalwarts either injured or simply too old to matter, not to mention a manager with one foot in London, Italy faces perhaps their greatest foe; the unknown.
Long gone are veterans Andrea Pirlo and Antonio Cassano, while would be stars like Alessio Cerci and even Mario Balotelli have fallen by the wayside. In their stead is a hodgepodge of 2010-2014 holdovers and some intriguing up and comers, oh and three Romans.
As you can see from that oddly slanted Tweet, Daniele De Rossi, Alessandro Florenzi and Stephan El Shaarawy have been named to Antonio Conte's provisional 30-man roster, which must be cut down to 23 prior to the June 10th kickoff. For De Rossi this honor most likely represents one final shot at Azzurri glory, a chance at redemption following 2012s heartbreaking loss to Spain, and proof that he's as important as ever in the national setup.
Florenzi, meanwhile, can see this nomination as confirmation that he's arrived, that all his hard work and the constant shuffling between positions hasn't gone unnoticed on the national scene. For El Shaarawy this is proof positive that he's well on the mend; who would have imagined this a year ago?
With the tournament a few weeks away, and with seven men left to cut, it's a bit premature to speculate on Conte's favored XI, but suffice it to say, Italy's success will depend largely upon the Juventus contingent of Gianluigi Buffon, Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini. It will be interesting, however, to see who Conte relies upon for the goals--will it be the nominal strikers like Ciro Immobile and Simone Zaza or the wingers/forwards like El Shaarawy and Federico Bernardeschi.
Time will tell, of course, but this is neither the best nor the worst Azzurri lineup we've seen. They could ride the Old Lady's back to a surprise appearance in the final just as easily as they could flameout due to lack of direction in attack.
Either way, this is sure to be De Rossi's final tournament in an Azzurri shirt, so be sure to savor every minute of it.