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Big names absent from Azzurri frontline
by Paul Kennedy, February 27th, 2012 11:13PM
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TAGS:  italy, men's national team


[ITALY SPOTLIGHT] The USA isn't the only team hobbling. Italy will be without all its big-name strikers for Wednesday's friendly in Genoa. American-born Giuseppe Rossi (knee injury) and Antonio Cassano (heart ailments) both face long-term layoffs. Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli, the bad boy of Italian soccer, is "a little agitated" for Coach Cesare Prandelli's liking and wasn't picked. Despite 18 goals for Udinese this season, Antonio Di Natale was overlooked. That leaves a relatively young (average age: 25) and inexperienced (33 caps between them) quartet of strikers Prandelli picked to face the USA. For a look at the foursome ...

FABIO BORINI (Roma). Age: 20. Caps: 0. Dallas fans will remember Borini for playing in the Dallas Cup two years ago with Chelsea, which he had joined at 16. He made only four first-team appearances for Chelsea before moving first on loan to Swansea then to Roma after his contract was purchased by Roma for which he has scored seven goals this season, including two in a 4-0 demolition of Inter Milan earlier this month. He is the only uncapped player in Prandelli's squad.

SEBASTIAN GIOVINCO (Parma). Age: 25: Caps: 6. At 5-foot-4, Giovinco is more a trequartista -- Italian for a combination midfielder-striker -- than an outright striker. His ball skills are the best in the Italian squad. Nicknamed "La Formica Atomica" (Atom Ant), he grew up in the Juve youth program before joining Parma in 2010.

ALESSANDRO MATRI (Juventus). Age: 27. Caps: 4. It was Matri's late goal Saturday that earned Juventus a controversial 1-1 tie with AC Milan in their top-of-the-table clash on Saturday at the San Siro. He is something of a late bloomer. He didn't earn regular playing time in Serie A until he joined Cagliari in 2007-08. He moved to Juventus during the January 2011 transfer window and debuted for the Azzurri a month later.

GIAMPAOLO PAZZINI (Inter Milan). Age: 27. Caps: 23. Pazzini came off the bench to score the goal that gave Italy the 1-0 win over Slovenia that clinched qualification for Euro 2012 in September. He made one appearance off the bench for Italy at the 2010 World Cup. He scored 73 goals in seven seasons at Atalanta, Fiorentina and Sampdoria before joining Inter in 2010.

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