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Zaza and Immobile impress


Horncastle: Italy roll dice on Conte


Rodriguez lost control in Italy-Uruguay

World Cup Central
 By Michael Cox

Can Verratti, De Gea and Kane break into their national teams' starting XIs?

The ESPN FC crew debate whether or not Harry Kane should start up front for England against Lithuania.
England head coach Roy Hodgson, and striker Wayne Rooney are confident about Harry Kane's debut in the European qualifier against Lithuania.

The European Championship's expansion to a 24-team tournament has a multitude of effects -- one is that it effectively gives the major countries a free pass. Therefore, managers have more license to experiment and evolve their side with significantly less risk of failure.

Here are five fine talents still attempting to break into their country's first-choice XI -- what chance do they have of overhauling more established names?

1. Marco Verratti, Italy

By this stage, we expected Verratti to be Italy's...

Three Points: Italy vs. Croatia

Croatia respond quickly to Italy's early goal to draw with in this group H clash of the table leaders in a game that was extended due to flares being thrown onto the pitch.
Play was suspended between Italy and Croatia in Milan after flares rained down from the stands onto the pitch.
Croatia and Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric had to leave his side's Euro 2016 Qualifying match against Italy due to an apparent thigh injury.

A trio of observations on Italy and Croatia's 1-1 draw in Euro 2016 qualifying.

1. Conte takes the draw

Antonio Conte believes appetite comes with eating -- winning begets winning. Up until now Italy had won all four games since his appointment and another one on Sunday would have matched the record for the best ever start made by an Azzurri coach, as established by Edmondo Fabbri and equalled by Azeglio Vicini.

So why, then, did Conte say before the game that "we don't need to win to be satisfied...

Explaining Antonio Conte's gamble to call up Mario Balotelli to Italy

Antonio Conte has given his opinion on Mario Balotelli by calling him up to the national team.

It was a surprise. A bolt from the Azzurro if you will. No one expected Mario Balotelli to feature in the latest Italy squad. But there it was, his name standing out in print on the 26-man list released by the FIGC on Sunday evening for the crunch upcoming qualifier against Croatia in Milan and the friendly with Albania in Genoa.

Returning to Coverciano for the first time since the World Cup in Brazil, Balotelli's actions in Natal had left the impression of there being little or no chance of him...

Sumeet Paul blog profile  By Sumeet Paul

Milan men Abate, Montolivo and El Shaarawy key to Italy hopes

The ESPN FC panel discuss Iceland's surprising form in their European qualification campaign, AC Milan's ability to return to prominence and Raheem Sterling's work ethic.

Despite winning all four games since replacing Cesare Prandelli as Italy coach, Antonio Conte has failed to convince entirely thus far. The former Juventus boss has guided the Azzurri to joint-top in Group H of Euro 2016 qualifying, but tense wins over Azerbaijan and Malta have left the Italian media with more questions than answers.

While individuals have been praised, the collective have fallen short of impressing with La Gazzetta dello Sport noting that Italy "failed to show up" particularly...

Andrea Pirlo's Italy U-turn could jeopardise Azzurri's future

Andrea Pirlo has hailed his Italy teammates after securing a late win over Azerbaijan in their Euro 2016 qualifier.

A meal was all it took to bring Andrea Pirlo back into the fold. The One Apple Concept Bar in Turin promises patrons "fresh and colourful food" in a downtown setting. But the Juventus player took something much more valuable from his visit: a fresh start to his international career.

Owned by Antonio Conte's brother, Daniele, One Apple was where the new Italy manager arranged to meet Pirlo in late August. Nobody was sure, at the time, if the midfielder would play for the Azzurri ever again.

He had...

Zaza and Immobile offer Conte's Italy some forward potential

Antonio Conte debuts as Italy coach with a 2-0 win in a friendly match against the Netherlands.

Reflecting on Italy's 2-0 win over the Netherlands last week, the staff at the Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper identified a noteworthy trend. Of the 17 players used in Bari by new manager Antonio Conte, 13 had worn beards.

"An Italy of Barbudos," quipped the paper's reporter, Sebastiano Vernazza, likening the Azzurri to the bearded rebels of the Cuban Revolution. He was quick to clarify that this comparison belonged strictly to the realms of facial fashion, adding that, "we can exclude the possibility...