With less than a fortnight to go before they kick off their Euro 2012 campaign, the Italian national team has found itself embroiled in controversy, with a betting scandal scuppering preparations.
Italy, who are 14/1 to win the European championships, are being widely scrutinised, with coach Cesar Prandelli opting to release Domenico Criscito, as well as five others, from his squad.
As Prandelli’s first choice at left-back for the national side, Criscito’s omission from the squad has naturally drawn the most attention, as he prepares to undergo police investigation.
The gambling scandal in which Criscito is involved threatens to once again rock Italian football, and his national manager insists that the pressures he would come under if selected would be “too much for any human being to withstand.”
It seems apparent that stories regarding the betting scandal are not unfounded, though the extent of Criscito’s involvement is, as of yet, unknown.
His withdrawal though, gives Prandelli a selection headache in a position that has proved particularly problematic for him in his two years in charge of Italy.
Prandelli is expected to promote Federico Balzaretti into a starting role in the tournament, though his inclusion has hardly been warranted based on form after an indifferent domestic campaign with Palermo.
Giorgio Chiellini and Angelo Ogbonna are other options at left-back, but both prefer to operate centrally in a defensive capacity.
A final alternative is Andrea Ranocchia, though whilst he is adequate going forward, his defensive capabilities are often ridiculed in the Italian press.
Such selection troubles are particularly worrying for Prandelli, in a time where much attention will be paid to the performance of the one-time European champions.
A group featuring world champions Spain will prove tough to emerge from for the Azzurri, and with the Italian game in such disarray, a group stage exit could add to the nation’s misery this summer.