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Giuseppe Rossi: A vital cog in Prandelli’s well-oiled Azzurri machine

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By Tom Brooks

Wednesday 30 March 2011

When the ball bounced loose in the Ukraine penalty area 27 minutes into last night’s match, Giuseppe Rossi saw his opportunity and pounced. The significance of his goal to the game itself was obvious in that it set Italy on the road to victory. In the longer term, however, his first half strike could prove to be a great deal more significant to his hopes of claiming a regular starting berth with the Azzurri.

The argument for Rossi to be given a key role in the team is strong. His international goal scoring record, while not brilliant, is equal to Antonio Cassano’s and he boasts almost a goal every two games for his club, Villarreal. Unlike his international teammates Cassano and Mario Balotelli, he is not known for his temper tantrums or indiscipline. Rather, he is often praised for his work rate and his attitude on and off the pitch is exemplary.

But it is not just his work rate that merits a place in the Azzurri starting line up. Rossi brings with him a skill set not present in any other player currently eligible for la Nazionale. His pace, direct style and desire to get in behind immediately put opposition defences on the back foot, as was demonstrated against Ukraine last night. As his record suggests, Rossi is a natural goal scorer and is capable of both poaching and pulling off the spectacular. Cesare Prandelli recently described him as: “a real modern striker,” and listed: “a sense for goal, cold bloodedness and a capacity to link up with his teammates” among his attributes.

It is also worth noting, despite being born in America and spending the majority of his playing career so far outside of Italy, Rossi is well versed in the Italian approach having spent his formative years in the Parma youth set up before moving to Manchester United. In fact, his experience playing in England and Spain could prove vital to an evolving Azzurri side largely inexperienced both in international and domestic football. The experience he has gained playing in abroad makes him an interesting ace in Prandelli’s pack and one it would be foolish to discard.

Prandelli obviously has faith in Rossi. He has been a consistent part of the Azzurri squad since Prandelli took over and was even named as captain in the friendly against Romania at the end of last year. Rossi is one of a number of players including Alberto Aquilani, Riccardo Montolivo and Cassano who are being moulded into the spine of the Azzurri under the Coach.

With Prandelli clearly favouring a three-man attack comprised of Cassano, Balotelli and another, the stage is seemingly set for Rossi to stake his claim. With Cassano operating at trequartista and Balotelli filling the role of prima punta, deploying Rossi as the seconda punta would add work rate to an attack somewhat lacking in that department while also contributing pace, skill and a definite goal threat. Of course, Rossi must continue his recent run with la Nazionale and look to get more playing time in competitive games, but with Prandelli’s backing and hard work there is no reason why his very individual talent will not win him a regular place in the starting eleven.

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