Donadoni gung-ho for EURO
In atypical Italian fashion, national team coach Roberto Donadoni has decided to tackle June's UEFA European Championship in Austria and Switzerland with all guns blazing. Not only did Donadoni pick an impressive six forwards in his squad of 23 players but among them were two proven match-winners who had been missing from recent squads.
Veteran Alessandro Del Piero had been in stunning form for Juventus since fighting his way back into the team despite starting the season on the bench. He finished the last campaign as top scorer with 21 goals, equalling at the ripe old age of 33 his best ever tally in Serie A. The clamour for his inclusion gained pace all season long and it was really no surprise to see him picked for the final squad.
More surprising was the inclusion of Antonio Cassano, the mercurially gifted but temperamentally flawed Sampdoria forward, whose team qualify for the UEFA Cup. His return of 10 goals from 22 matches was less impressive than Del Piero's, but Cassano was playing in a less free-scoring or even successful team. His season was also blighted by injury and suspension, something that seemed certain to see him omitted from the Italy squad altogether.
Back in March he copped a five-game ban for throwing his shirt at, insulting and threatening a referee that had sent him off. After that incident Donadoni seemed to suggest that the 25-year-old's temperament rather than his talent would be the deciding factor in the decision as to select him or leave him at home.
However, since selecting him, Donadoni has changed his tune a little. "He's a very normal person, I've already said it, for me it's getting difficult to give a different reply every time," he said recently at Italy's training camp near Florence.
A glimpse at his plans
Despite selecting six forwards, Donadoni is expected to go with the tried and tested - at least from the start in the first match. He is most likely to play a 4-3-3 formation, meaning a central striker supported by two wide men. That's the system he played against Belgium in a 3-1 friendly victory on Friday night.
Donadoni started with Bayern Munich's Luca Toni flanked by Juventus's Mauro Camoranesi on the right and Udinese flyer Antonio Di Natale on the left.
However, he gave an indication of his intentions regarding Del Piero and Cassano by bringing on both in the second period. Del Piero replaced Di Natale at the break and Cassano came on for Camoranesi just after the hour mark.
The game was already won by then with the Italians 3-0 up in Florence after 49 minutes, but it demonstrated Donadoni's conviction that both players can come on and potentially turn a game from a wide position.
"This victory is in the natural progression of our work," said Donadoni afterwards. "Going forward I wanted to try other options. These are extra possibilities, we have options."
Donadoni also demonstrated his intention to have a go by selecting the more attack-minded Alberto Aquilani of Roma in midfield alongside AC Milan pair Andrea Pirlo and Gennaro Gattuso, instead of picking Aquilani's defensive midfied club team-mate Daniele De Rossi. "I wanted to see him (Aquilani) from the start, he played well, I was happy with him," said the coach.
It all points to an Italy side that is determined to go out and win the tournament in Austria and Switzerland, rather than simply avoid being eliminated, as they did in their successful FIFA World Cup™ campaign in Germany two years ago. If all goes well, there could be some fireworks from a surprisingly attack-minded Italy in just over a week's time.