Italy Olympians set for gold medal assault

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Time for Italy to restore some pride at international level after the fiasco of Euro 2008 – and where better than at the Olympic Games.

After all, it’s basically a mini-version of the World Cup, minus a couple of big names.

Italy would not have been there if England had of taken their place following their fourth-place finish at the European Under-21 championship.

The fifth-placed young Italians had to overcome Portugal in a penalty shoot-out to secure at trip to China.

Italy celebrate bronze at 2004 Athens Olympics 

While all eyes will be on Brazil and Ronaldinho and Argentina, the Azzurri are certainly in with a medal shout.

Pierluigi Casiraghi’s side will face Cameroon, Honduras and South Korea in Group D and will want to come out on top to avoid a potential clash with Brazil in the quarter-finals.

While the South America nations have filled their full compliment of over-23s with experienced internationals, Casiraghi has ignored the headline-grabbing star turns and quelled any potential club-versus-country row by selecting Tommaso Rocchi.

Rocchi: 30-year-old in to marshal Italy's young guns 

The guitar-loving 30-year-old Lazio striker is just the sort of no-nonsense frontman Italy need to bring out the best of two youngsters who could really catch the eye in Beijing: Sebastian Giovinco and Giuseppe Rossi.

Both 21, the nimble-footed pint-sized goalscorers are set to shine at this level.

At Juventus since he was 13, the angelic-looking Giovinco has grown a mere two inches to 5ft 4 in that time, but the Turin club have been quietly nurturing him as the new Alex Del Piero although his style is more reminiscent of Gianfranco Zola.

Villarreal’s Rossi is the only non-Serie A based player in the squad but an eye-catching display in China could propel the former Manchester United starlet into Marcello Lippi’s plans for the senior side.

Rossi: Aiming to impress and break into senior side

Riccardo Montolivo just missed out on the final squad for Euro 2008, but as a sort of sorry for that oversight the Fiorentina midfielder has been handed the captain’s armband.

The Games are set to be fertile hunting ground for stars of the future and it would be a surprise if Marco Motta’s name doesn’t pop up on a few scouting reports.

The 22-year-old Udinese defender is being touted as the new Alessandro Nesta sans alice-band and has already played three seasons in Serie A.

The team of four years ago picked up a bronze medal, with future World Cup winners Andrea Pirlo, Daniele De Rossi and Alberto Gilardino in their line-up so there’s plenty to prove for this new crop of Olympians.