Around 6:15 am on Monday morning, Italian police entered the national team’s Coverciano HQ to search Domenico Criscito’s room as part of an investigation into Italy’s latest football scandal.
A few hours later, a second right hook struck the Azzurri full in the face: to compound Criscito’s decision to stay at home and clear his name, we were now informed that, despite being a “person of interest”, Leonardo Bonucci would still travel to Poland.
This is only the latest disaster to undermine this country’s once-proud footballing tradition and it has led many to question whether Cesare Prandelli will be able to steer Italy to a successful campaign.
Certainly, there are two sides to every coin: Bonucci’s involvement is, it seems, far more tangential than Criscito’s, with the ex-Genoa man being called to justify a photo taken of him and some of the organisation’s ringleaders.
Moreover, this isn’t the first time that Italy have turned up to a tournament on the back of a major debacle: in fact, both the Totonero and Calciopoli scandals gave Italy a crucial hand on their way to winning the World Cup in 1982 and 2006.
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This isn’t the first time that Italy have turned up to a tournament on the back of a major debacle: in fact, both the Totonero and Calciopoli scandals gave Italy a crucial hand on their way to winning the World Cup in 1982 and 2006.
After all, the Azzurri still boast a fine squad with a winning mentality and three excellent goalkeepers in Gianluigi Buffon, Morgan de Sanctis and Salvatore Sirigu, with Emiliano Viviano being left at home (presumably not with Joe Pesci).
Criscito’s absence has left the defence looking a tad exposed on the left, as Federico Balzaretti’s injury-filled season and Giorgio Chiellini’s recurrent thigh problem are hardly much of a guarantee.
Prandelli has won many admirers, however, in keeping Torino’s young jewel Angelo Ogbonna with the squad instead of Rubin Kazan’s Salvatore Bocchetti and Cagliari’s Davide Astori. Ogbonna can, if anything, be employed on the left, though he has played there just once this season against Juve Stabia.
Italy’s manager has left himself a few extra options in midfield in case his Plan A doesn’t work: therefore Emanuele Giaccherini, with only nine starts to his name for Juventus this season, gets the nod ahead of Ezequiel Schelotto, while Pescara youngster Marco Verratti and Luca Cigarini have also failed to make the cut.
West Ham fans celebrating promotion back to the Premier League may have further reason to smile this summer, as former player Alessandro Diamanti’s explosive season has seen him selected as a possible alternative behind the strikers.
Thiago Motta has also found a berth among the 23, being the only one of Italy’s central midfielders to really know how to make his studs count.
In attack, Prandelli has decided to shed just one player, Mattia Destro, who just happened to be Italy’s only old-fashioned centre-forward.
With Sebastian Giovinco, Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano guaranteeing the quality needed to play the manager’s “fluid” brand of football, many have still forgotten about former Swansea City man Fabio Borini.
He may not be a “traditional” striker, but he has what it takes to find the net (as, of course, does Antonio di Natale) and ensure that nobody will miss the likes of Pablo Osvaldo, Fabio Quagliarelli or Alessandro Matri.
Italy squad for Euro 2012:
Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Morgan de Sanctis (Napoli), Salvatore Sirigu (Paris St Germain)
Defenders: Ignazio Abate (AC Milan), Federico Balzaretti (Palermo), Andrea Barzagli (Juventus), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Christian Maggio (Napoli), Angelo Ogbonna (Torino)
Midfielders: Daniele de Rossi (Roma), Alessandro Diamanti (Bologna), Emanuele Giaccherini (Juventus), Claudio Marchisio (Juventus), Riccardo Montolivo (Fiorentina), Thiago Motta (Paris St Germain), Antonio Nocerino (AC Milan), Andrea Pirlo (Juventus)
Strikers: Mario Balotelli (Manchester City), Fabio Borini (Roma), Antonio Cassano (Milan), Antonio di Natale (Udinese), Sebastian Giovinco (Parma).
Follow Edoardo Dalmonte on twitter @DalmonteE