Prandelli rings changes explains World Cup choices

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli has made nine changes to the team that managed only a scoreless draw against the Republic of Ireland last weekend ahead of their final World Cup warm-up against Luxembourg.

Milan striker Mario Balotelli, who had been sidelined with a groin problem, will spearhead Italy’s 4-3-2-1 formation when they host the European minnows in Perugia on Wednesday.

However only two midfielders — Juventus’s Claudio Marchisio and Marco Verratti of Paris Saint-Germain — from the 11 that started against Ireland at Craven Cottage on Saturday have retained their places.

Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, stretching his national caps record to 140, comes in for Salvatore Sirigu while AC Milan pair Ignazio Abate and Mattia De Sciglio will flank the Juventus centre-back pairing of Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini.

Earlier Tuesday, Italy’s medical staff had raised doubts over Barzagli, who has been feverish with the effects of tonsilitis.

Roma’s Daniele De Rossi and Verratti will play either side of central midfielder Andrea Pirlo of Juventus, with Lazio winger Antonio Candreva and Marchisio playing in support of Balotelli.

Balotelli had earlier been given the all-clear by medical staff and Prandelli said the striker is “fine”.

“He’s a little tired but that’s only because he’s been training hard. Otherwise, he’s looking sharp,” added the Italy handler.

Striker Ciro Immobile, who finished as Serie A’s top scorer this season with 22 goals for Torino, is expected to start on the bench having failed to make an impact against Ireland — a match marred by the loss of Italy midfielder Riccardo Montolivo, who saw his World Cup dreams ended early in the first half when he fractured his tibia.

Prandelli, meanwhile, shed light on the selection controversy that has seen striker Giuseppe Rossi hit out on Twitter after failing to make the squad.

Rossi’s place was hanging in the balance because the striker only recently returned from a four-month injury lay-off following knee surgery in January.

The Fiorentina marksman said claims that he was not fit enough “made me laugh” and that he had been given a boost because Prandelli had spoken positively of him last week.

However Prandelli told reporters: “I said several times -– Beppe, you’re not in the 23 (man squad).

“Before the Ireland game I said that in physical terms he was fine but that I expected to see something extra from him. I wanted to see a striker’s performance, but I didn’t see what I wanted to see.”

Prandelli also commented on the exclusion of Roma’s Mattia Destro, who had been one of seven strikers looking to be among the five Italy are taking to Brazil, where the Azzurri will meet England, Costa Rica and Uruguay in Group D.

“Given the situation (with the strikers), I asked him if he’d be on the stand-by list, and he said he’d think about it.

“I just preferred (Lorenzo) Insigne. I had to make choices.”


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