Euro 2016 Scouting Report: What you need to know about Italy
Once major contenders every two years, it’s a sign of the times that Italy aren’t in the top six for the betting to claim this summer’s European Championships.
A run to the final four years ago interspersed successive group stage World Cup exits, and with a boss who has already announced his departure following the tournament, it’s not easy to predict how Italy will fare in France.
But there is potential in this new-look Italian side to cause any side problems, and with Gigi Buffon between the sticks they have a keeper who’s been there, seen it all and won it all.
They came through qualifying unbeaten too, if far from impressively, so here’s what you need to know about the Italian threat this summer…
Danger Man – Stephan El Shaarawy
Capable of moments of genius, finding a new lease of life on loan at Roma this term is setting Stephan El Shaarawy up nicely for the summer.
Still only 23, things had gone stale for the forward at AC Milan, with injuries ruining his progression following his breakout year of 2012-13, where he netted 16 times in 37 appearances.
But with six goals in nine league games for Roma, an on-form El Shaaraway is a very dangerous proposition for opponents.
Under the Radar – Domenico Berardi
Sassuolo man Domenico Berardi hasn’t actually made his international debut yet, but the 21-year-old is widely regarded as one of Italy’s brightest young stars.
A haul of 16 goals in his debut Serie A campaign as a 19-year-old brought Berardi to national attention, and he ensured he’s no one-season wonder with another 15 goals last term.
Capable as a striker or a winger, Berardi could become a household name before the summer is out.
The Lynch Pin – Gianluigi Buffon
The Juventus stopper may be 38, but Gianluigi Buffon shows no signs of slowing down.
With over 150 caps, Buffon is one of the most experienced internationals ever to play the game, and with this Italian side lacking past leaders like Andrea Pirlo, Fabio Cannavaro and Paolo Maldini, they’ll need their goalkeeper to help negotiate a tricky group.
Traditionally a side relied upon to come good at the finals, successive group stage exits in World Cup have put that legend to rest.
After surprising Germany with a fine win in the semi-finals four years ago, Spain left Italy trailing in their wake in the final.
With Conte set to depart for Chelsea, a squad lacking in tournament experience and plenty of disgruntlement between country and club over how to handle the players, it’s a little hard to see Italy coming good on their 16/1 outright price.
With Sweden, Belgium and the Republic of Ireland to handle in Group E, Conte’s men need to be on guard to avoid an early exit for the third time in four tournaments, but odds of 2/11 to progress suggest they’ll make the second round.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.