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With Italy having disappointingly crashed out of the World Cup a few weeks back, Italian fan Paolo Turchi takes a brief look at what possibly went wrong and what needs to be done.
Since the final 23 man squad was decided by Cesare Prandelli, more then one has asked himself what fate would await the Azzurri this year. Needless to say, if there were any doubters, then unfortunately they have been proven right.
Round one saw a strong Italian side beat England 2-1, and even though the scoreline showed a tight affair, the Italians were by far the superior team with a majestic Andrea Pirlo and a steady Mario Balotelli taking the spotlight. With this result, the expectations around the Azzurri increased and winning the remainder of games in Group D seemed more than likely.
Fast track to today, and Italy has once again returned on the plane home early, wondering what might have been and with a lot of work to do. The reality is, Italy did not deserve to go through, and their games against Costa Rica and Uruguay reflect just how much there is to do. Firstly, out with the old and in with the new. Prandelli is a capable coach, he was able to slowly ease the Italian’s from a very conservative game into a brand of more attacking football, however, he wasn’t able to give the team the strength and cutting edge upfront. When you have a midfield like the Italian one, you boast one of the most compact midfields in the world, but holding possession can only get you so far, you can control the game, but you need someone to finish the play. The Azzurri let the fear of conceding overcome their drive to go ahead. For this, it is probably a good move that Prandelli has decided to resign.
Unfortunately Italy’s problems don’t stop there however, a new coach will have to settle the inside divisions as well. After their elimination against Uruguay, interviews from Gigi Buffon and Daniele De Rossi indicated that the atmosphere in the change rooms was not optimal. Both emphasized that there were no alibis, the team under-performed and there are no excuses, but where Buffon defended the old troops under scrutiny, like Pirlo, Barzagli, De Rossi and yes, even himself, he also specified the urgency to move forward, midfielder De Rossi instead, took a direct approach that didn’t leave much to the imagination. He publicly stated that the national team was in need of “real men” and not poster boys who didn’t want to be there. All this seemed to confirm the notion coming from Italy that there may have been some friction within the change room.
We can talk about these scandals and reports and how they affected the team all day, but like Buffon and De Rossi stated, it’s time to kick back into gear. Italy is a team that belongs in the World Cup and needs to demonstrate that they are not being left behind.
So where from here?
Italy needs to begin again. Look to the youth, start giving them the experience they need so that they do not turn up to a World Cup again without experience.
In goal, Buffon has confirmed his intention to stay, and Salvatore Sirigu is a worthy second who could eventually take the reigns, and there are positive signs coming from Perin.
The defence this year wasn’t a problem in itself, but the initial conditions of Barzagli and Bonucci were, prompting the boss to call up Paletta. Darmian was effective on both left and right full back showing that he is ready for a starting berth ahead of Abate. De Sciglio has his age on his side, being only 21, he has time to improve. The skill is there, the talent is proven, but he was another player brought out of condition. If anything the experience will be vital for his growth. The core can still give a lot, but the introduction of one or two young centre backs will help.
The midfielders were the Azzurri’s greatest asset this world cup even with the injury to Riccardo Montolivo. Pirlo’s class and elegance was still evident in the Uruguay game, as scrappy as it was. Unfortunately, he chose that game to be his last for the national team as he hangs up his blue number 21 shirt for the last time. The future looks good though, as in that same game the fans who do not regularly watch the Ligue 1 got to see what the fuss about Marco Verratti was. Flawless control, smart passing and a knack for beating the man, the future for this young gun looks good. Mixed in with the experience of De Rossi, Marchisio, the return of Montolivo, the midfield can still be a masterclass in technique. Aquilani and Parolo both had great seasons with Fiorentina and Parma respectively, along with PSG’s Thiago Motta, but if they don’t offer the assurances coming from the others, then it’s time to look in the Serie A shopping window. Alessandro Florenzi, Andrea Bertolacci, Stefano Sturaro, Lorenzo Crisetig and many more are some of the young midfielders playing regularly in the league.
Upfront, Insigne, Cerci and Immobile all had to play second fiddle to the inconsistent Mario Balotelli as Prandelli’s formation this year was a 4-1-4-1. Let’s face it. Italy needs strikers. Prandelli holds much of the fault for basing a lot of the game in the centre of the field, and whilst italy has always been well known for its defensive astuteness and tactical know how, the modern game requires that the strikers need to bag them in every chance that they get.
Whoever the new coach is, he can count on Immobile and Insigne, as even though they were inexperienced and had no impact on any of the games, one can trust that with the right guidance and effort, they can bloom and become the strikers Italy needs them to be. The same can be said for Mattia Destro, Manolo Gabbiadini and the likes. Giuseppe Rossi, the forgotten star, if this injury is well over and done, has every chance to be crucial for Italy and can offer some great performances.
As for Balotelli and Cassano, whilst the latter can be thankful for his run around and take his bow, the former should be seriously worried of his spot. Balotelli has talent, but it’s time to stop using that as excuse for his behaviour. Who ever the new coach is, they will have to be able to control him, if not, have the courage to drop him and invest their time in someone who will give it his all.
Italy shot themselves in the foot in Brazil, but it has served to show that even after 4 years, there is need for a change in the Italian system, for this they need the teams of the Serie A, to start investing in their youth. Italy has always produced world class players, but since the league’s drop in status, everyone has looked to the foreigners, leaving talents, unhatched forgotten in the lower leagues. The System needs to change.
Having said all this, this is a golden opportunity to start again. New coach, new enthusiasm, and a new Italy, infused with new ideas, strengthened from their core foundation of the past. If someone can lead this, then the future still looks good for the Azzurri.