Riccardo Montolivo fractures leg, will miss the World Cup with Italy

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Midfielder Riccardo Montolivo will miss out on a trip to Brazil after fracturing his left leg in Saturday’s goalless draw with Republic of Ireland.

After a collision with defender Alex Pearce, Montolivo attempted to walk off his injury. But it was clear he was in pain and, just eight minutes into the friendly, needed assistance to make his way to the sidelines. He was carried away on a stretcher and sent straight to the hospital, where X-rays confirmed a fractured tibia.

After the match, Italy coach Cesare Prandelli confirmed that Montolivo will undergo surgery in Milan and will miss the World Cup. It’s heartbreaking news for Montolivo who, at 29, is unlikely to get another chance at the tournament – unless, of course, he ages as well as Andrea Pirlo.

It’s upsetting news for Italy as well. Although Prandelli has yet to announce his 23-man squad, Montolivo was almost certainly going to be included in the roster. While many azzurri supporters are not fans of the midfielder, alleging that he drifts out of games and often contributes little, he’s a favorite of Prandelli.

And it’s fair to say that Montolivo will be missed in Brazil. His eye for a pass and ability to get himself into positions that trouble the opposition’s defense helped to spur Italy’s attacks. His most likely replacement, Marco Veratti, is still young, contributes almost nothing defensively and has a definite tendency to disappear in matches. He’s an exciting young talent, but Italy may end up missing Montolivo’s refinement and his leadership.

The azzurri have other concerns as well. Alberto Aquilani, who replaced Montolivo after his injury, left the game before halftime with a concussion. His Fiorentina teammate, Giuseppe Rossi, missed nearly half the season with injury, and failed to impress during the Ireland match.

In 2010, Italy left South Africa after the group stages, picking up just two points from what looked to be a rather weak group. Will this be another disappointing World Cup for the azzurri?