Italian football has been rocked by the news that inspirational captain Fabio Cannavaro will not be able to play in the European Championships.
Cannavaro collided with teammate Giorgio Chiellini in training and landed awkwardly on his ankle, causing substantial damage to his ligaments and ruling him out of the tournament.
Italy have called up Fiorentina’s Alessandro Gamberini as a replacement and they have cover in the squad with Andrea Barzagli and Marco Materazzi, while Chiellini and Christian Panucci can play at centre back rather than full back.
Despite the adequate replacements they have and the fact that legendary goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is likely to take over as captain, the loss of Cannavaro cannot be underestimated.
The thirty-four year old Real Madrid defender was probably going to be in his last tournament for Italy at the end of a truly glittering and remarkable career. The list of honours won by Cannavaro, who at around 5Ã¢â‚¬â„¢9Ã¢â‚¬Â is one of the smallest centre halves in international football, is astonishing and he is one of the few defenders who deserve to be and regularly is, mentioned in the list of all time greats.
With his various clubs in Italy and Spain Cannavaro has won two Serie A titles, the Supercoppa Italiana, the UEFA Cup and two La Liga titles. With Italy, he has won the World Cup, been runner-up in the European Championships and twice won the UEFA under 21 tournament.
Individually, Cannavaro has a long list of achievements:
-FIFA World Player of the Year 2006
-European Footballer of the Year (Ballon d’Or) 2006
-World Soccer Player of the Year 2006
-2006 FIFA World Cup Golden Ball Award
-2006 FIFA World Cup Team of the Tournament
-EURO 2000 Team of the Tournament
-Oscar del calcio (4)
-Serie A Footballer of the year: 2006
-Italian Footballer of the Year: 2006
-Serie A Defender of the Year: 2005, 2006 Runner-up: 2000, 2001, 2002
-UEFA Team of the Year: 2006
-FIFPro World XI: 2006, 2007
The award of world footballer of the year in 2006 was the only time a defender has picked up the title in its seventeen year history. He was also the first defender since Matthias Sammer in 1996 to win the European footballer of the year award.
With one hundred and sixteen caps for his country he sits second in the list of all time appearances for Italy behind that other great defender, Paulo Maldini. He is ten appearances behind and would have been looking to make a large inroad into that deficit over the next few weeks. As it stands now, it is probably unlikely that he will add to his collection.
Cannavaro was injured in training just six hours after the Italian squad had arrived in Austria. The bad news for Cannavaro and the Italian team and fans was confirmed when the Italian Football Federation issued a statement saying, “The news we feared was confirmed in Baden late on Monday evening. Fabio Cannavaro will say goodbye to our European adventure, before it has even begun. The captain has suffered torn ligaments, which happened the moment his foot made contact with the ground. His ankle twisted awkwardly.”
There is no doubt that His absence is a serious setback for Italy, who are in Euro 2008’s ‘Group of Death’ with France, the Netherlands and dark horses Romania. Whether it is a setback that Italy can overcome or not remains to be seen.
Fabio Cannavaro may not still be quite the player he was a couple of years ago, but he still one of the best in the world. The loss of his ability, leadership, experience and presence is a loss that the Italians may struggle to overcome. They still have world class defenders and, of course, a great goalkeeper, but they will miss their inspirational leader.
Italy remain among the favourites for the tournament and as the current world champions, it is right and proper that they should. They need to produce the type of togetherness and team spirit in the face of this news that will see them battle together for their side.
Above all, this is a personal tragedy for Cannavaro himself who would have loved to have finished his international career captaining his country on the biggest stage. Lifting the European Championship trophy would have been a fitting end to a great career. If Italy do manage to overcome the loss of their skipper, I hope they allow him to lift the trophy at the end of the tournament.
He is one of the best defenders the world has ever seen and I for one am very disappointed that I wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be able to watch him at work in Austria in Switzerland.
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