Conte gives lazy excuse for leaving Giovinco, Pirlo out of Italy's Euros squad

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Conte gives lazy excuse for leaving Giovinco, Pirlo out of Italy's Euros squad
Conte gives lazy excuse for leaving Giovinco, Pirlo out of Italy's Euros squad

Neither of Major League Soccer's Italian national teamers will actually represent the Italian national team at the European Championships this summer.

When Antonio Conte announced his 30-man preliminary roster, Toronto FC's Sebastian Giovinco and New York City FC's Andrea Pirlo weren't on it. But it's the way that he explained the decision that has particularly ruffled feathers.

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"I spoke to Andrea, I needed to hear from him and we sent people to the U.S.," Conte said at a press conference on Tuesday. "However, we've made other choices and you have to accept them and deal with the consequences. Nothing was left to chance."

"We evaluated him and Giovinco," Conte continued, before landing the blow, "it's normal that if you choose to go and play there [MLS] then you can pay the consequences in footballing terms. We evaluated them technically, we didn't leave anything to chance. Anyone who thinks otherwise is wrong. We went everywhere to have clear and precise ideas."

First off, let's establish that Pirlo not making the team isn't immensely surprising. He's a 37-year-old central midfielder who can't run anymore and donned the Italy jersey just three times last year. He's been almost exclusively pedestrian in MLS, although, weirdly, he seems to blame that on the league not being up to his technical level.

Giovinco, on the other hand, is the MLS MVP and the author of 30 goals and 21 assists in just 45 appearances for Toronto. He's 29 and in his prime. What's more, he has a good relationship with Conte from when the latter managed him at Juventus. And he offers something that Italy is desperately short on: a creative spark up front.

Yes, the Atomic Ant has scored just once for his country in 23 appearances. But with Marco Verratti and Claudio Marchisio both injured, severely hampering Italy's playmaking ability in an already forgettable team, his speed and dribbles would have counted. The five strikers who did make the preliminary team – Ciro Immobile, Graziano Pelle, Eder, Simone Zaza and Lorenzo Insigne – aren't the sort to create their own chances. And there is no other convincing creator in the team.

But Conte did not see fit to include Giovinco even in his camp. And even though he'd publicly encouraged Giovinco's move to Canada when it was sped up almost 18 months ago, Conte now leaned on an old trope about MLS to defend his decision.

That playing in American carries "consequences in footballing terms." Never mind that plenty of players have continued to have successful national team careers for respectable countries after they arrived stateside.

Conte – who called up just five players who aren't active in Serie A – alluded in his press conference to needing to alter his tactical approach now that he no longer has his playmakers available. If he just wants to bunker and counter at the Euros in France and has no use for a little dynamo like Giovinco, that's fair enough. This is his prerogative.

But to blame it on playing in MLS, a league growing stronger by the year, even though Giovinco has become better than ever in North America, is a lazy and sorry excuse.

Leander Schaerlaeckens is a soccer columnist for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter @LeanderAlphabet.

 

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