Italy's lack of firepower puts Group E chances in peril
Italy face Belgium, Republic of Ireland and Sweden in Group E. Here's a look at their squad and how they will fare at Euro 2016.
At a glance
It is difficult to believe that Antonio Conte's Italy side can truly defy critics and progress far in the competition, considering the team is nothing more than a hardworking unit lacking star quality.
Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon said it best: "We are not having our best moment," adding that few believe in the Azzurri's chances in France. It seems Italy are a team made up of men who are expected to give everything after a long season, but perhaps lacking the talent worthy of a European trophy. Expectations are at an all-time low and Conte's choices have only dampened the hopes of those who still believed.
Popular website Calciomercato.it conducted a survey in March asking its readers how far they thought this Italy team could go in Euro 2016. At the time, most thought they'd manage to reach at least the second stage of the competition, if not the quarterfinals. That question was asked again after the official squad was announced and the majority of those voting now don't even believe the Azzurri will make it out of the group stage.
With so many absences in midfield and a forward line that struggles to score, it's difficult to expect exciting performances. The one hope this Italy side have is that they can demonstrate the tenacity and aggression that Conte's Juve managed once upon a time to collect important wins.
The coach, branded the best by many of his current players, has a way of transmitting his ideals and character to a squad and the players do follow him. While the formation will not extract the best out of certain players, such as Lorenzo Insigne, a player who just finished an exciting season, it's thought that Conte's ability to create a team unit that sacrifices for one another could lead to miracles.
Federico Bernadeschi is the youngest player in the Italian squad and was recently voted as the best under-21 player in Serie A by the Italian coaches. Comfortable playing through the middle or on the wing, Bernadeschi is a versatile youngster who displays tactical maturity, an excellent mentality and great technique.
With so many absences in midfield due to injury, including Claudio Marchisio, Marco Verratti and Riccardo Montolivo, the Azzurri are short of genuine talent and experience and Conte has opted for warrior-style players rather than those who could help create chances for those ahead of them.
A lack of talent up front means Italy, much like they have in recent friendlies, will struggle to score goals. There is no great No. 9 or a player capable of overcoming the tightest of defences, thus the only hope Conte really has is ensuring his team do not concede and then convert the few opportunities they are allowed to create.
The round of 16 is perhaps the most realistic outcome. The 3-5-2 formation may hinder the team's ability to play attacking football and certain individuals will struggle to express their brilliance in a formation that could prove exhaustive, considering how often the team are expected to play.
With a demanding coach at the helm who preaches relentless running and never-ending belief, the players will need to give everything if they are to make up for the lack of genuine quality to progress far in the competition.
Mina Rzouki covers Juventus and the Italian national team for ESPN FC. Follow her on Twitter: @Minarzouki.