If you look at the qualifying phase and focus just on the table, you will see zero defeats and a healthy goal difference.It looks on paper like a very good qualifying for Italy; they even qualified with two games to go. However, watch one or two of their matches, and you will quickly how poor the team is. Maybe as poor as Donadoni's team in 2006-2008.
To make things even worse for Conte, two important players won't be available: Marchisio and Verratti. Even if Verratti has never played well for Italy - yet, he is probably the only creative player in this team. But the main problem for Italy is not the midfield, and probably not the defense, it is surely upfront.
Zaza, Eder, Pellè, Immobile, Okaka. These are the players that Conte has been consistently calling up over the past two years:
- Simone Zaza: 9 caps, 1 goal. 4th striker in the Juve hierarchy after Dybala, Mandzukic and Morata. Zaza played most of his matches coming off the bench. He scored this season 8 goals in 23 appearances, across all competitions.
- Eder: 9 caps, 2 goals. From Sampdoria star at the beginning of the season, with 12 goals in 19 Serie A games, to an anonymous squad member at Inter, with just one goal in Serie A since January.
- Graziano Pellè: 11 caps, 4 goals. 10 goals in the Premier League, but only four in the second part of the season.
- Ciro Immobile: 12 caps, 1 goal. Just came back from injury. 5 goals in Serie A prior to that and 2 in La Liga in the first part of the season. 9 goals all in.
- Stefano Okaka: 4 caps, 1 goal. 17 goals this season, 13 in the Jupiler Pro League. It looks like the most prolific Italia striker this season, but in case you haven't noticed, the Jupiler Pro League is the Belgian league...
So who to lead Italy's attack? There is only one name. A player who has not been called up recently but whose talent is way above all the players mentioned so far combined. It's a player who has been extremely unlucky with injuries in the past few years. It's Giuseppe Rossi.
Giuseppe had to move to lowly Levante in Spain to find playing time and he did very well there. He unfortunately was not able to make them avoid relegation, but he managed to score 6 goals while assisting 2. This goal can remind you of his class:
Rossi has 29 caps for Italy, with 7 goals. He has the experience and the talent to lead Italy's attack. But is he in the right physical condition? Maybe not...