Pirlo can make fantasista role his own

Andrea Pirlo’s neatly spooned penalty against Montenegro was just the lift the country needed after such an extended period of navel-gazing that there was a danger of everyone ending up with a sore neck.

The midfielder’s cheeky execution from the spot brought back memories of Francesco Totti’s similar deft finish against Holland at Euro 2000.

Italy has been crying out for a No.10 ever since the Roman icon called it a day at international level after the last World Cup. And given that Marcello Lippi has no intention of calling on Antonio Cassano, Pirlo could be the man to answer that call.

Can Pirlo be the perfect No.10? 

Pirlo has been out of sorts for most of the season but there is no doubting his quality when it comes to distribution, his flair and of course, he possesses the required long, flowing locks.

Carlo Ancelotti converted the 29-year-old from an attacking midfielder to more of a holding role, and until Saturday evening he had been employed there at international level as well. 

However, Lippi is well stocked with more defensively-minded midfielders, such as the most recent pairing of Angelo Polombo and Daniele de Rossi who provided a solid platform and protection in front of the back four.

Once fit, Rino Gattuso, Alberto Aquilani and Simone Perrotta can be added to the squad. And when qualification for South Africa is ensured, expect to see Claudio Marchisio of Juventus move up from the U21 set-up.

If Lippi is determined to employ a 4-3-1-2 formation then Pirlo is ideally placed to make the fantasista role his own.

He is probably a more complete player than Totti – certainly in his range of passing – and although there may be some question marks over his pace, that's less of an issue if the ball can be worked up to him in and around the opposition area.

Pazzini: Ready to step up to the plate 

Of course, there then needs to be two forwards who are tactically compatible. Although Lippi has preferred the Luca Toni-Alberto Gilardino partnership, age is catching up with Toni and it's now time to unleash the livewire Giuseppe Rossi as the perfect foil to either Gilardino or Giampaolo Pazzini.

Rossi’s pace and movement coupled with a Gilardino or Pazzini’s twists and turns inside the area are in need of the perfect pass – and of all the possible players to provide that, the outstanding candidate is Andrea Pirlo.

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