Italy has had what football federation officials would refer to as a crisis in their youth developmental system. Apparently the next generation of wonderful players like Totti and Del Piero is seriously lacking in the early to mid twenties and younger generations and Italy’s new coach Cesare Prandelli has been forced to select an old favorite in thirty three year old Gianluca Zambrotta for this weekend’s Euro 2012 qualifying match with Northern Ireland because of this lack of young players to choose from. I say “forced to select” because Zambrotta was one of the scapegoats to the team’s poor World Cup form this summer and the Italian federation blamed many of the sluggish older defenders that were past their prime for the poor results and several officials pointed out this fact that their country currently lacks any of the necessary young talent to hope for future World Cups down the road.
Prandelli was expected to go with a youth movement this qualifier, but the coach was quick to admit that the decision to activate the AC Milan man with over 90 career caps was likely a temporary one:
Zambrotta is physically very fit, he can play on the right or the left. At the moment there aren’t any interesting young players so instead of calling up someone of 28 or 30 it makes more sense to pick someone with great experience. I don’t see any really young players who are good enough to be here right now. I hope in five or six months the Serie A championship will present me with some.
Prandelli not only brought back Zambrotta to likely start on the backline, but the coach also decided to bring back young Domenico Criscito of Genoa. The twenty three year old played on the backline alongside Zambrotta for several of the matches this summer and is another player that was blamed for the poor results. The league combo of striker Giompolo Pazzini and secondary striker Antonio Cassano will likely start on attack for Italy and I know the secondary striker’s a happy man at the moment after the turmoil of last year’s overlooking for caps. The side lacks Gilardino to injury and several other familiar faces have been left inactive, but perhaps the return of Giuseppe Rossi to the side after the non selection for the World Cup final will put the team on solid scoring ground. The American-born forward has 4 goals this season in La Liga with 2nd place Villarreal and is looking to become a regular selection again after a fantastic performance over a year ago in the Confederations Cup against the U.S..
On the bright side Italy is currently in first place in their group after going 2-0 with wins over Estonia and Faroe Islands, but the squad has two much tougher fixtures this upcoming week in an away match at Northern Ireland on Saturday and Serbia at home on Tuesday. The Serbians desperately need a win after losing to Northern Ireland, so that game will be a vital one for the Italian squad.
Here are the likely rosters for the weekend’s match proposed by yahoo.com soccer
Northern Ireland: Maik Taylor; Gareth McAuley, Jonny Evans, Aaron Hughes, Chris Baird; Steven Davis, Grant McCann, Corry Evans, Chris Brunt; David Healy, Kyle Lafferty
Italy: Emiliano Viviano; Mattia Cassani, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini, Gianluca Zambrotta; Andrea Pirlo, Daniele De Rossi, Claudio Marchisio; Giuseppe Rossi, Giampaolo Pazzini, Antonio Cassano