Lippi springs no real surprises
Having long ago settled all his really "hot" issues with his rejection of players such as Amauri, Mario Balotelli, Antonio Cassano, Alessandro Nesta and Francesco Totti, the Italian coach had left himself with little more than a delicate fine tuning as he whittled down his 28 strong squad to 23.
As we have long predicted, the side that Italy takes to South Africa to defend his World Cup title will have a very familiar look about it.
Nine of the "Berlin heroes" - Gianluigi Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro, Gianluca Zambrotta, Andrea Pirlo, Gennaro Gattuso, Daniele De Rossi, Mauro Camoranesi, Alberto Gilardino, Vincenzo Iaquinta - will fly the flag, accompanied by a number of experienced players who have featured over the last three seasons in both Lippi's teams and that of his predecessor, Roberto Donadoni.
Not for nothing, the average age of this squad, 28 years and nine months, makes it older by one month than the average age of the 2006 squad.
The exclusion of goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu and defender Mattia Cassani (both of Palermo), Cagliari midfielder Andrea Cossu and AC Milan striker Marco Borriello had been widely expected. If there was a mild surprise in Lippi's final choice, it concerned the fifth player dropped, namely Villareal's Giuseppe Rossi.
Embarrassing Confederations Cup
When Italy were embarrassed in the Confederations Cup in South Africa last summer, being beaten 1-0 by Egypt and trounced 3-0 by Brazil, Rossi was one of the few players to emerge from the tournament with his reputation seemingly enhanced. His mobility, his pace and his long range shooting had all seemed certain to guarantee him a return trip to South Africa.
However, Lippi had already indicated with his exclusion of Juventus players such as Fabio Grosso, Antonio Candreva and Nicola Legrottaglie that he would be paying much attention to current club form. In that regard, Napoli's Fabio Quagliarella, who has done well in his first season with the Campania club, was always ahead of Rossi, who has not been at his best in Spain this season.
Milan fans might also feel that Borriello was too easily rejected, yet here too this choice was staring us in the face from some way back. (If readers think I exaggerate, just reflect that when asked to name a 30-man strong squad for World Soccer magazine two months ago, I deliberately left out Borriello.)
Not only is Borriello a talented player (remember his excellent season with Genoa two years ago when he ended up with 19 Serie A goals) but he has also had a very good season with Milan. However, he would seem to have fallen foul of the "Dad's Army" syndrome. With Lippi clearly determined for months now to include his two big central strikers from four years ago, namely Gilardino and Iaquinta, there was never going to be room for a third "target man" in central striker in Borriello.
So, with just days to go to the finals, what questions are left to be resolved?
Buffon in goal, Cannavaro, Chiellini and Zambrotta in defence, De Rossi and Pirlo in midfield, Gilardino and/or Iaquinta in attack would seem like foregone certainties. In essence, Lippi's final queries concern the form of Camoranesi, the role of Claudio Marchisio and a temptation to use one or more of the relatively inexperienced trio of defenders, Salvatore Bocchetti, Domenico Criscito and Leonardo Bonucci.
Nightmare season for Camoranesi
Camoranesi, like all the Juventus players, is coming out of a nightmare season, made worse in his case by recurring injury problems. Even at the Italian squad's pre-World Cup training camp, 5,000 feet above sea level at Sestriere in the Alps, Camoranesi had further problems, twisting his right knee on June 1st, the very day of course when all the World Cup coaches had to communicate their final squads to FIFA.
This little episode prompted Lippi to delay his final choice right up to the last minute and until such time as team doctor Enrico Castellacci was able to reassure him that Camoranesi was fit to travel.
Deprived of the creative qualities of such as Cassano and Totti, and with Camoranesi perhaps doubtful for Italy's opening game against Paraguay in Cape Town on June 14th, much added responsibility will ride on the talented shoulders of Marchisio, who will be expected to "put himself about" down the left flank, offering something for playmaker Pirlo.
It would also come as no surprise if Simone Pepe starts in the Italian opener. Given his international debut by Lippi in the October 2008, 0-0 qualifier draw away to Bulgaria, 13-times capped Pepe has been much used since by the Italy coach who appreciates his ability to offer both right-side attacking pace and midfield cover.
Which leaves us with that defensive conundrum.
It could be that the most inexperienced player in this squad, once capped Bonucci, could start against Paraguay. The 23-year-old owes his call-up to an excellent season with Bari and also to a very impressive international debut in a March friendly against Cameroon. The intriguing temptation to play him comes from the fact that if you put him into central defence alongside captain Fabio Cannavaro, you leave yourself the option of using Giorgio Chiellini as a solid left back who can offer attacking options.
Ironically, it could be that one or two relative newcomers, such as Criscito, Bonucci and Marchisio, may yet have an important role to play in making up for potential gap in Lippi's once all powerful "Dad's Army".
All in all, as we have said before in this blog, the Italian maestro appears to have chosen cautiously, protecting himself against Korean style (North or South) World Cup disasters of the past and selecting those players who will form part of the all important "one for all and all for one" mentality.
Having said that, it is hard to get excited about this squad since, whilst obviously experienced and solid, it appears to lack that spark of fantasy and quality that would take it a long way down the World Cup road.
Mind you, in Italy right now, there is a certain sense of resignation about the team with very few fans really convinced (and for good reason) that Italy can win back-to-back World Cups.
It is really just a case of going out there, defending national honour and avoiding any sort of "brutta figura" - debacle.
About the Author
Paddy Agnew has lived and worked as a journalist in Rome since 1986. Since 1992, he has been Rome correspondent for the Irish Times, and for 15 years he worked as a soccer commentator for Italian state broadcaster RAI. He is a regular contributor to the BBC World Service radio, Irish broadcaster RTE, London-based TalkSport and many other radio stations, and he is the Italian correspondent for the monthly magazine, World Soccer. Agnew is also the author of "Forza Italia, A Journey In Search Of Italy and Its Football" (Ebury Press, 2006).