Even though there's still a bit of time left before Cesare Prandelli has to make his Italian national team World Cup choices, it's always fun to debate and discuss who will be called up.
From what we've seen in the qualifiers thus far, here is a preliminary list of the starting XI we should see in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
It's a no-brainer that Gianluigi Buffon will be the starter, as Prandelli has said that as long as he's in charge the Juventus No. 1 will be his man between the pipes.
Expect Federico Marchetti and Salvatore Sirigu to take the two back-up spots. Marchetti has been exceptional since joining Lazio, impressing Italy with his near-impossible reflex saves.
Here's where it gets tricky. The defense will change drastically depending on what formation Cesare Prandelli decides to go with.
A 3-5-2 means the Juventus back-line of Andrea Barzagli, Giorgio Chiellini, and Leonardo Bonucci will get the nod, while a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1 would change the entire system. In a four-man defense, Prandelli has gone with Milan's full-back pairing of Ignazio Abate and Mattia De Sciglio.
Assuming the 3-5-2 remains his preferred tactical lineup, don't be surprised if Christian Maggio becomes his right wing-back, with Emanuele Giaccherini on the left.
Other than a few changes, there shouldn't be any real surprises in the midfield. Andrea Pirlo will pull the strings in front of the defense, with a rotation of Daniele De Rossi, Thiago Motta, Claudio Marchisio, and Riccardo Montolivo flanking the deep-lying playmaker.
Antonio Candreva performed extremely well for Prandelli in the Confederations Cup, becoming useful with his high-energy role on the wing. He also has a fantastic long-distance shot and gives his coach a multidimensional player.
The dark horses in this category are Bologna trequartista Alessandro Diamanti, Alberto Aquilani, and Emanuele Giaccherini.
Here's where it gets real fun. In recent years, the Azzurri have morphed from the traditional catenaccio formation filled with quality defenders to a team that has their best repertoire in the offense.
You could say the hopes of Italy lie on how well Mario Balotelli does up front, and there's a good chance he'll be a much better all-around player in a year's time. Alongside him, Italy have a plethora of talented wingers and second strikers.
Lorenzo Insigne, a product of Naples, should be on the left flank. The youngster is one of the most electrifying players in Italy, blending raw quickness with a creative instinct and finishing ability that's way beyond his age.
On his opposite side, two left-footed players with plenty of talent can start for Italy: either Torino winger Alessio Cerci, or the reborn Italian-American Giuseppe Rossi.
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