Italian Serie A News, Results, Analysis and Features on Football Soccer

Ryan Ross On August - 10 - 2010

Why is Pepe in the Azzurri squad?

A new era has begun for the Azzurri under the stewardship of Cesare Prandelli. This is a time to forget the woes of Marcello Lippi’s unsuccessful reign and usher in a new generation of young hopefuls. A time to wipe away the tears caused by a team’s failure to justify their presence at the world’s biggest tournament. This is an opportunity to rebuild a nation’s pride, to restore their faith in something which had so disappointed before. So why then has Prandelli decided to recall Simone Pepe? He was one of the worst things about Italy at the World Cup.

As soon as Lippi named Pepe in his initial 30 man squad I was sceptical; why was he there ahead of players such as Cassano and Balotelli? Or even the dynamic striker Guiseppe Rossi? He hadn’t done enough to merit his inclusion for me. I couldn’t see what he would offer. Pace? Yes. Ability to combine that pace with skill? No. I then tried to convince myself that he would at least provide some “flair” in a squad that was completely lacking the stuff; how wrong I was.

In the opening game against Paraguay Pepe threatened to prove me wrong; he got an “assist” after taking a corner to set up De Rossi for the Azzuri’s only goal of the match. He tried to get involved with the play and provide some inspiration for his team; he should have been hauled off and Quagliarella put on in his place. Against New Zealand things didn’t get much better, he was subbed on 46 minutes for the veteran Mauro Camoranesi. Finally Pepe justified my beliefs when he failed to score from a clear chance in the dying seconds of Italy’s game against Slovakia; a more able player would have scored the chance.

It might seem unfair to single out Pepe as the only player who disappointed at the World Cup, and of course he’s not. But it’s necessary to highlight his failings when it comes to discussing his recent inclusion on the new team. So why has Prandelli called Pepe up? I just can’t understand it, he doesn’t offer anything new to the team and he has proved his game-intelligence is lacking; there are better options out there to select from. Sure he might provide a sense of balance by creating width on the right, but can’t an overlapping fullback do this? For example playing Balotelli on the right would work if you had one of Zambrotta, Santon, Motta or Maggio bombing down the wing to give them an out-ball. All of these defenders can cross a ball more efficiently than Pepe and thus would provide balance.

By insisting on playing with Pepe I fear that Prandelli will be pursuing one of Lippi’s greatest flaws, this would be a chink in Italy’s armour. But I implore Pepe to prove me wrong, if he shows he can do it on the big stage I will confess to being wrong. But somehow I doubt it will happen.

Ryan Ross

I became enthralled with Calcio back in the 90’s, when James Richardson presented Football Italia. My early mornings were spent following the trials and tribulations of Internazionale, during a period where they always flattered to deceive. It took a Frenchman to get me hooked though; Youri Djorkaeff, my favourite player of all time. This guy was key to Inter’s midfield, never mind his role in France’s World Cup win in 1998! I have a keen interest in Calcio’s rich history.

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