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Jun 10, 2014

Prandelli: All striking options are open

ESPN FC's Shaka Hislop and Jay DeMerit delve deeper into the Italian striking debate between Mario Balotelli and Ciro Immobile.

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli has said none of his forwards should consider themselves ruled out of a starting role against England in their opening World Cup match.

- #World Cup Rank: No. 20 - Mario Balotelli
- Group D Preview: Europe's biggest test
- Bertozzi: Will Italy's defence be a problem?

Prandelli has been given plenty to consider after Lorenzo Insigne and Ciro Immobile -- who hit a hat trick -- scored five goals between them in a weekend friendly against Fluminense.

Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano have widely been seen as the main contenders to start up front, with Alessio Cerci just behind them in the pecking order, but Prandelli told a news conference: "Everything's possible.

"There's no such thing as alternatives here -- we have 23 players who must all consider themselves starters.

"I've previously made the comparison with [Salvatore] Schillaci who, going into the 1990 World Cup, was considered by everybody to be the fifth-choice forward. Then he became the top protagonist of the entire tournament, the top scorer.

"What does that mean? It means that somebody may consider himself to be fifth-choice forward, but they have to be ready -- they have got to be ready for every game.

"There are many other examples, like [Fabio] Grosso in 2006. After the criticism he received, nobody had him down as a possible starter, yet Marcello [Lippi] put him in after one game and he became one of the absolute protagonists of the World Cup."

Prandelli said he needed to make sure the players who started up front for Italy complemented each other, saying Immobile and Balotelli had similar characteristics that might mean they would be "difficult" to field together.

But former Brazil forward Careca questioned that assessment, telling La Gazzetta dello Sport: "I can see them doing well together.

"Immobile's good at attacking the spaces, but he's also the first man to defend when the ball is lost. It would be perfect for him to play alongside Mario, maybe with a playmaker just behind them."

He said Cassano, who can play both in midfield and up front, could be the ideal fit for that playmaking role, adding: "Italy have a great tradition of number 10s. Cassano is the perfect creative playmaker.

"Insigne, on the other hand, is better out wide. He reminds me a bit of [Gianfranco] Zola, but he is at his best out wide in a 4-3-3 formation."

That is the formation most likely to be adopted by Prandelli at the World Cup, and Careca added: "It surprises me to see Italy play with such an attacking style.

"Under Prandelli Italy attack more than in the past, and I think the Azzurri could make the semifinals and challenge for the title with Argentina, Brazil and Germany."

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