Strikers Italy Must Call Up Soon

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Nice's Italian forward Mario Balotelli controls the ball during the UEFA Europa League football match between Nice and Lazio on October 19, 2017, at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice, southeastern France. / AFP PHOTO / VALERY HACHE (Photo credit should read VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images)

Italy faces Sweden in a two leg playoff round in November with World Cup qualification on the line. It is no secret that the Azzurri have had their fair share of struggles in games leading up to the playoff, and Sweden was arguably the toughest draw Italy could’ve gotten paired with. Most would argue that Italy’s struggles have come from Gian Piero Ventura’s squad choices, specifically his choices to lead the line. The Azzurri have simply struggled to create scoring opportunities, and this not only comes from an absence of creativity from the midfield, but also a lack of firepower/individual ability up front.

Strikers Italy Must Call Up Soon

Andrea Belotti would be Italy’s top choice at striker, but a knee injury is likely to see him sidelined for the playoff round. Ciro Immobile has been in scintillating form in both the Italian Serie A and the Europa League, so he is more than likely to get the nod as the main striker once again.

Ventura opted to call up Éder, Manolo Gabbiadini, and Roberto Inglese as the other striking options last international round. Éder has struggled to make an impact for his club ever since he transferred to Inter Milan, and that trend has continued this season as has yet to find the back of the net. Unless he turns his whole game around, there is no logical reason why he should get continue to get called up for the Azzurri. Gabbiadini and Inglese have been subpar in their leagues, scoring three and two goals respectively. Forwards with these numbers should not be called up by one of the most prestigious international teams in their two most crucial games since the European Championship in 2016.

What strikers should Ventura call up to pair with Immobile to ensure goals and World Cup qualification?

Mario Balotelli

It is time for Super Mario’s return to the national team. He’s made it clear that he’s committed to the game and the team has never needed his explosiveness more. Balotelli dominated the French Ligue 1 last season with 15 goals in 23 matches, and is once again firing on all cylinders with five goals in six matches this season.

“The way of judging this is not whether Balotelli is scoring goals, the problems are elsewhere — the rest of Balotelli, ” Ventura said in a news conference in early October.

Balotelli, on the other hand, has seemed to be a different person since his move to France and has stayed away from controversy. All he’s been doing has been scoring goals on a consistent basis, yet for an unknown reason that hasn’t been enough to convince Ventura that he deserves to be called up. Italy is going to need the kind of energy and firepower Balotelli brings to the table versus a solid Swedish defence.

Sebastian Giovinco

Yes, the ‘Atomic Ant’ plays in the MLS. It’s understood that the league is not nearly as competitive as the top tier leagues in Europe, but Giovinco’s dominance cannot be overlooked. He tallied 22 goals in 34 appearances while he lead his team to the final last season, and this season he has knocked in 17 goals in 27 appearances.

Giovinco’s frame limits him from being a traditional striker, but perhaps Italy needs a break from that. With a midfield struggling to create scoring opportunities, a player with Giovinco’s cleverness and talent  could be the missing piece in the Azzurri’s quest for World Cup qualification.

Ventura has specifically said in the past that Giovinco does not get called up due to playing in the MLS, but it is also time to give him a chance as he’s dominated his league while the options Ventura has opted for in the past have proven unsuccessful.

Simone Zaza

Zaza has been an unpopular name due to his infamous penalty versus Germany in the quarterfinals of the European Championship in 2016. He followed that tournament with an season full of struggles for West Ham United in the British Premiere League and Valencia in Spain’s La Liga Santander, but this season he’s been a changed man. Zaza has already found the back of the net seven times in eight matches in the league, trailing only Lionel Messi in the race for the Trofeo Pichichi.

Zaza plays in a top European league and has no controversial history, so Ventura has absolutely no reason to not call him up. It’s time to put away the grudges held against him after his penalty miss as he’s not the first nor the last to miss a crucial penalty. His form has been second only to Immobile in terms of Italian strikers, so the fact that he wasn’t called up during the previous international break is already mind-boggling.

 

Any of these three strikers getting called up would be a welcomed sight for fans of the Azzurri. A team with this much quality not qualifying for the world cup would be both a tragedy and a disaster, so there is no room for errors. Ventura’s job could very well be on the line in the upcoming playoff round so his final squad choices need to be spot on.

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