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Striking issues for Italy ahead of American test

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By Luca Cetta

Wednesday 29 February 2012

Rather than focus purely on Italy’s friendly with USA on Wednesday, Cesare Prandelli has had the preparation to the match overshadowed by incidents surrounding an explosive weekend of Serie A action.

The tactician has the chance to work with his players in a match situation for the final time before June but will need to ensure his squad are focused on the task at hand. The friendly pits Milan and Juventus players together days after they vehemently scuffled and argued.

Prandelli has aimed to diffuse the furore surrounding Gianluigi Buffon and his post-Milan comment regarding the goal that never was. While calls have been made to strip Buffon of the captaincy, the former Fiorentina tactician has stuck by his number one.

More pressing for the Coach is the situation in attack. Antonio Cassano and Giuseppe Rossi formed a promising partnership in qualifying and accounted for seven of the 17 (discounting the forfeit win over Serbia) Group C goals, yet both could miss the tournament. This means the door is ajar for others to stake a claim. However, despite considering Mario Balotelli an integral part of the squad, Prandelli has not called either the Manchester City striker or Pablo Osvaldo because of his code of ethics. Prandelli told Corriere dello Sport he does not want to be left a man short during a match:

“I don’t want a player, because of a reaction on the field of play, to leave my team down to 10 men. In my head, Balotelli is in my first team for the European Championship, but now he needs to demonstrate some consistency in his behaviour. I don’t want to see reaction fouls. Balotelli and Osvaldo know my telephone number, they are aware that I am at their disposal and I’ll await their phone call.”

Antonio Di Natale has also not been included but come June his goalscoring form surely cannot be ignored if Cassano or Rossi - or both - are absent. Of those picked, Alessandro Matri (10 Serie A goals) and Fabio Borini (seven) netted at the weekend. The Roma player has steadily improved throughout the campaign, with Prandelli noting his consistent performances. Sebastian Giovinco appears closer to a landing a spot in Poland/Ukraine than Borini and while he has scored nine goals and assisted five, the last strike came a month ago.

Matri will be battling Giampaolo Pazzini (five) for a starting position. The Inter striker has suffered during their barren run and has not scored since January 22nd. Pazzini’s League goals have come from 64 shots, while Matri has taken 56 shots to score double that amount. Yet the former Sampdoria striker has netted in three of his last four Azzurri appearances and this could be a welcome change for him.

US Coach Jurgen Klinsmann faces Italy for the first time since the 2006 World Cup semi final where his Germany outfit was defeated on home soil and his side will be without the influential Landon Donovan. Players will be out to impress Klinsmann ahead of World Cup qualifying, which commences in June.

After a demanding few days Prandelli will be happy for the focus to be back on the pitch as he continues preparations for Euro 2012. Sandwiched between club fixtures, we may see player rotation during the match. However, against a side lacking its most influential player and still building during this early stage of the Klinsmann era, the match represents a chance - especially for the strikers called up - to cast a thought in Prandelli’s mind as he seeks alternatives to his absent duo. The tactician has the nucleus of his team set and will use this test to smooth the edges as he looks ahead to June 10th against Spain.

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