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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

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It may be two years too late but the feeling that Italy need a revolution rather than an evolution has possibly never been greater.

When Italy and France lined up at the World Cup final in Berlin two years ago both teams had essentially reached the end of the line.

It should have been a last swansong for both but in the ensuing two years both Raymond Domenech and Roberto Donadoni, who had replaced World Cup winning coach Marcello Lippi, opted instead to stick to the tried and tested.

That has proved to be a mistake in both cases with the World Cup finalists both lacking energy and vitality here at Euro 2008.

France's group stage elimination hit home clearly and the international retirements of Claude Makelele and Liliam Thuram will not meet the resistance they did two years ago.

For Italy, too, it is probably time to think to the long-term future and cease to rely on battle-weary legs.

Donadoni had seemed to be heading towards revitalising the squad in his early days but by the time this tournament came around, he had packed it with players in or approaching their mid-30s, such as captain Fabio Cannavaro, defenders Christian Panucci and Marco Materazzi and forward Alessandro Del Piero.

Cannavaro got injured but the others failed to inspire a team that obviously under-performed given they are world champions.

Surely now Materazzi, Panucci and Del Piero will be confined to the international scrap-heap and while Cannavaro is still a great defender, he will be approaching 37 by the time of the next World Cup in South Africa.

The Italy squad clearly needs an overhaul but maybe the answers lie within the non-playing members of this squad.

Marco Boriello, who didn't play a single minute in Austria and Switzerland, played at mid-table Genoa last season but finished third in the scoring charts.

He is almost certain to be wearing the shirt of AC Milan next season and regular exposure to Champions League football and playing alongside the likes of Kaka and Andrea Pirlo could see him develop into a top class goalscorer.

In midfield great things have long been expected of AS Roma's Alberto Aquilani and due to the suspensions to Pirlo and Gennaro Gattuso against Spain, he got the nod from the start.

The problem with Aquilani is that he struggles to hold down a first team place at Roma and without playing regularly from the start for his club, he is unlikely to be able to answer the prayers of his national team.

Looking outside of the Euro 2008 squad, another new face could well be that of Brazilian Amauri. He has played most of his career in Italy and made a big impression last season at Palermo. He is also due to be granted Italian citizenship.

He has now secured a move to Juventus where Champions League football awaits and the hope is that he will provide a more agile, creative and talented targetman than Bayern Munich's Luca Toni, one of Italy's biggest flops here.

At the back, Juventus centre-half Giorgio Chiellini grew into his role having been omitted from Italy's first match and he was clearly their best player against Spain - he could become the new Cannavaro.

Then there is Fiorentina attacking pair Giampaolo Pazzini and Riccardo Montolivo, both set to be unleashed on the Champions League next season having starred for their team this last campaign but been left out of Italy's squad.

Coming up behind them are teenagers Mario Balotelli of Inter Milan and Alberto Paloschi of AC Milan or even Empoli's 21-year-old attacking midfielder Sebastian Giovinco, set to star for his country at August's Olympic Games in Beijing before joining Juventus.

If half of these fulfil their undoubted promise and potential, a bright future for Italian football might quickly confine these bleak moments to distant memory.

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