Stark reality

By JEFFREY GANTZ  |  June 14, 2010

Giuseppe Rossi was your key player to watch for Italy. How surprised are you that he was left out of the Italian side?
Rossi should really be in the team. Despite a mediocre season at struggling Villarreal in Spain, he added much-needed creativity to Italy at last summer's Confederations Cup, and his absence will be felt. Marcello Lippi has always preferred older, more experienced players despite their form (Fabio Cannavaro, 36, had a shocker of a season at Juventus and will likely start anyway), but we thought Rossi was worth breaking his policy for. Even with Fabio Quagliarella's and Giampaolo Pazzini's good club seasons, as anyone who watched the friendlies against Mexico and Switzerland saw, Italy's attack line will be weak.

Rossi, who was born in New Jersey of Italian parents, could have chosen to play for the US rather than Italy. Do you think US manager Bob Bradley would have picked him?
If he were available, absolutely — he's much more talented than any of the USA strikers, despite all the hype one reads about Jozy Altidore and Robbie Findley. But Rossi was never going to play for the USA — he's been playing for Italy since he was 16.

Staying with the US team: you rate Tim Howard high as a goalkeeper, but many think Brad Friedel is even better. Why isn't he in the US side?
Friedel retired from international duty in 2005, and despite frequent calls for him to return, he has continually reiterated his desire to stay off the team. He's still good enough to play, and if he went, he wouldn't even be the oldest keeper — England's likely starting keeper, David James, is older. Having said that, Howard is still a very safe pair of hands in goal and could prove the US's saving grace.

You also argue that a great goalkeeper is essential for penalty shoot-outs — but in the 2006 final shoot-out, Italian keeper Gigi Buffon never even touched the ball. Aren't most missed penalties poorly taken rather than saved?
France always have trouble finishing, and 2006 was no exception. We would argue that keepers matter a great deal in penalty shootouts — earlier in that tournament, England went out to Portugal on penalties despite every England penalty being on target. The Portuguese keeper, Ricardo, was brilliant.

Someone else who's not in the US side is Freddy Adu. A few years ago, ESPN was touting Freddy as soccer's next great superstar. Now he's playing in Greece. What happened?
Unclear. He probably should have gone abroad sooner to develop, and he stagnated at DC United early in his career. A combination of injuries and lack of confidence on the field are likely to blame.

We open this Saturday, June 12, against England. What are our chances of repeating the historic upset of the 1950 World Cup?
We have more of a chance now than we did then, so anything's possible. It'll likely be a close game — we say England will probably edge the win over the US, but only by a goal. The US team will be champing at the bit for that match, and with England's recent injury woes, it's a very open game.

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