The provisional roster for Italy's World Cup bid is in, and... well, it's certainly something.
Cesare Prandelli has named a 30-man provisional roster with an extra goalkeeper named in case of injury. The roster contains a number of surprises, but also a pair of Napoli players whose inclusion is no surprise.
Christian Maggio has been a regular with the Azzurri and his inclusion was expected despite his injuries and poor form for much of the season. Lorenzo Insigne was also tabbed for inclusion after nine goals and ten assists in all competitions for Napoli, as well as a goal in a substitute appearance for Italy in a friendly against Argentina back in August.
At first blush, it seems unlikely either will start much for Italy during the World Cup, but both should make the final 23-man roster and provide quality depth for Prandelli in Brazil. Insigne in particular could see time off the bench as an impact sub, allowing Italy to change their shape later in matches, or just give his relentless running and spirit a chance against weary legs.
With just three goalkeepers named to the provisional roster, it seems Mattia Perin has made the final roster without competition. Some are calling this a surprise, but with important battles elsewhere on the roster, it always seemed likely that Prandelli would go straight to three goalkeepers. That implied that Perin would get the nod after being the third Italian keeper several times on recent rosters, and he is again for the World Cup.
In addition to Napoli's two players, several other sides are well represented. Juventus have six players on the provisional roster, AC Milan four, Fiorentina four (five if you count Romulo, who's away on loan), and Torino three. French side Paris Saint Germain also have a trio, with all three members of their Italian contingent getting the nod.
Three names stand out as surprises in defense: Andrea Ranocchia, Matteo Darmian, and Manuel Pasqual. Ranocchia had a terribly inconsistent season for Inter Milan, and it seemed likely that there were others more deserving as consideration. Darmian and Pasqual certainly had decent enough seasons, but Darmian has never been capped for the senior national side, and Pasqual has never been more than a fringe player in the national team picture despite a solid career.
Moving in to midfield, Romulo isn't a surprise after Prandelli has talked up the Brazilian-born player several times of late. His versatility could provide great value in a tournament format. Marco Parolo provides similar flexibility, though seems somewhat less likely to make the final roster. Alberto Aquilani is a surprise to some, but Italy lacks many players who can provide a playmaking presence further up the pitch, and Aquilani does exactly that.
The list of forwards is unsurprising (and is in fact the same group I predicted on Friday), and will probably be the toughest group to make cuts from. Two of the seven named will stay in Italy based on Prandelli's recent comments, and there's no easy call to make among the group.
The full roster is below. We'll have additional coverage of the World Cup squad over the coming weeks, including more detailed breakdowns of the roster and predictions of who will be staying home and who will be on the plane to Brazil.
Goalkeepers (3 +1 standby): Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Mattia Perin (Genoa), Salvatore Sirigu (Paris Saint Germain), *Antonio Mirante (Parma)
Defenders (10): Ignazio Abate (AC Milan), Andrea Barzagli (Juventus), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Matteo Darmian (Torino), Mattia De Sciglio (AC Milan), Christian Maggio (Napoli), Gabriel Paletta (Parma), Manuel Pasqual (Fiorentina), Andrea Ranocchia (Inter)
Midfielders (10): Alberto Aquilani (Fiorentina), Antonio Candreva (Lazio), Daniele De Rossi (AS Roma), Claudio Marchisio (Juventus), Riccardo Montolivo (AC Milan), Thiago Motta (Paris Saint Germain), Marco Parolo (Parma), Andrea Pirlo (Juventus), Romulo (Hellas Verona), Marco Verratti (Paris Saint Germain)
Forwards (7): Mario Balotelli (AC Milan), Antonio Cassano (Parma), Alessio Cerci (Torino), Mattia Destro (AS Roma), Ciro Immobile (Torino), Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli), Giuseppe Rossi (Fiorentina)
* - Standby List