Meet Italy’s secret weapon for the World Cup in Brazil
With Giuseppe Rossi still on the road to recovery following a World Cup threatening injury and Mario Balotelli out of form for AC Milan, Azzurri manager Cesare Prandelli would have been forgiven for feeling a little worried.
Earlier on in the season Italy had looked well on course to maintain their mantle as outside contenders for the World Cup at 22/1 with Ladbrokes, with Super Mario ready for a repeat of his Euro 2012 showing and Rossi racking up the goals for Fiorentina.
But with latter sidelined and the former proving an erratic force, Prandelli is facing a headache when it comes to finding an in-form striker, with the regressive spectres of Luca Toni and Francesco Totti looming large.
Other options like Dani Osvaldo have floundered this term while Alberto Gilardino may be scoring freely for Genoa, but is a player who has been found wanting on the international stage with just two goals in his last 12 appearances for the Azzurri.
It could prompt Prandelli to consider other options and he could do worse than Graziano Pelle, who is making a name for himself in the Eredivisie.
A product of Lecce’s youth academy, Pelle’s career was floundering after spells with AZ, Parma and Sampdoria before Ronald Koeman brought him to Feyenoord in 2012.
Since then the 28-year-old has displayed the kind of ability that once saw him earmarked for the Italian national team, collecting 21 caps at youth level for the Azzurri and representing them at the Beijing Olympics.
Slender in frame and standing tall at 6 ft 4in, Pelle is an adept finisher with either his head or his feet – as his impressive tally of 45 goals in 50 appearances for Feyenoord attests.
Similar in some respects to Marco van Basten, the Italian generated more comparisons with an exquisite volley last weekend during the Rotterdam club’s 5-1 win over NEC.
A tally of 27 league goals in his debut season in the Eredivisie will have also caught Prandelli’s attention, with Pelle surpassing Toni and Christian Vieri to become the best-ever Italian scorer in a league outside of the country.
Amid talk of calling Totti out of retirement and with fans eager to avoid a second consecutive group stage exit at the finals – something that is 2/1 with Ladbrokes – Prandelli could do far worse than take a gamble on a striker that is fit and in form for the finals.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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