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

Jay Scardina On January - 19 - 2011

Under Construction: The Italian National Team

Chances are if you love Serie A then you keep up with the Italian National Team, or gli Azzurri. The national team has a long history on the national stage. Italy  has won the World Cup tournament 4 times, only second to Brazil’s five time championship record. The names Giuseppe Meazza, Alessandra Del Piero, Dino Zoff and Paolo Rossi have all worn the blue jersey at one time. However, after winning the World Cup in 2006, Italy seemed to be on downward spiral. It seemed like things had hit rock bottom after they were eliminated from the group stage in the 2010 World Cup. That was definitely a black mark on the teams history.

So what happened between 2006 and 2010 to the reigning world champs?

After the 2006 World Cup Italy, like most European national teams, set their sights on the Euro 2008 tournament. Marcello Lippi was replaced by Roberto Donadoni, who made few changes to the national squad. Italy did not have a great start to the tournament, losing 3-0 to the Netherlands. However, they were able to make it to the quarterfinals where they were eliminated by future World Cup champions, Spain. Donadoni failed to impress the higher ups, and Lippi returned as head coach.

In my opinion this was a where things went from kind of bad to worse. To make it to the quarterfinals in the European Championship is not a bad effort. Especially with a new coach. I am not sure if another coach could have gotten more out of the team at the time. Lippi seemed determined to keep as many of the players from the 2006 World Cup as possible on the team. The team’s first test came with the Confederations Cup in 2009, which was held in South Africa. It is basically a warm up tournament for the World Cup. I don’t believe that the tournament means much, but it was a chance for Italy to show that they were still a force in a tournament that included the United States, Egypt, and Brazil. Italy only won one match, their opening game against the United States.

This should have been a wake up call to Lippi to try some new players or new strategies. Italy managed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup, and were placed in a group that included Paraguay, New Zealand, and Slovakia. Italy came in last place, and failed to win a single group match. Fans were outraged, and blamed Lippi for picking a squad of old players. Some of the players he picked were injured most of the regular playing season leading up to South Africa such as, Buffon and Camoranesi. There seemed to be almost no attacking game with Gilardino and Iaquinta, and older defenders, like Zambrotta and Cannavaro, could not keep up with young forwards from the opposing teams. Things needed to change, and like many football teams things started at the top with a new head coach.

Cesare Prandelli, at first does, not seem like he would be at the top of most fans’ list of coaches to head the Italian national team. It was no surprise that he replaced Lippi, since he was chosen before the team headed to South Africa. Prandelli seemed to be a breath of fresh air though. The first thing he did was call up some younger players who could not get a shot under Lippi’s rule. The first player to come to mind is Antonio Cassano, whose creativity on the pitch is desperately needed on the national side.

Another youngster who has had a chance on the senior team is Mario Balotelli, who has played for the U21 team in the past. Balotelli and Cassano are both known for their behavioral problem, but no one can deny that they are gifted players who deserve a chance. Prandelli has kept some players from the South Africa squad like Daniela De Rossi and Andrea Pirlo, who bring a level of experience to the team that is unmatched. In the back we have seen players like Davide Santon, Giorgio Chiellini, and Andrea Ranocchia.

The team lost their first game under Prandelli in a friendly match against the Ivory Coast. The team then played against Estonia in their first qualifying match for the Euro 2012 tournament. They came from behind to win 2-1, but they seemed to struggle for the victory. Italy then thumped the Faroe Islands 5-0. Many fans predicted they would win, but not with such a high goal count. Even with the victory there were some who criticized Prandelli for keeping to a 4-3-3 formation that was favored under Lippi.

Prandelli’s big test was an away game to Northern Ireland. This was a tough match for both sides, who knew that a win could lift them to the top of the group. The game ended in a goalless draw. Most of us are aware of what happened when Serbia came to play the national team at home. It really is kind of sad that some fans use the sport as a means to start trouble. I am not going to say that every Serbia fan who bought a ticket to that match caused trouble, but there were many who did. In the end the game was called off, and UEFA gave Italy 3 points as a means of punishing Serbia.

I think that this could have been solved another way, because Serbia’s players did not cause any trouble and I am sure that many of them worked hard to get a chance to play on their national team. Prandelli currently has a record of 2 wins 2 ties and 1 loss. Keep in mind that the loss was his first game as head coach, and it was a friendly. One of the ties was also a friendly with Romania.

The team are currently at the top in their qualifying group for Euro 2012. Prandelli has said that he still sees the team as a work in progress, and there has been a revolving door of players since the World Cup. He seems determined to find the right players with a winning chemistry that can make an impact in 2012. There have been some rumors that he may start to ditch the 4-3-3 formation and go with a 4-3-1-2 or a 4-1-3-2. We’ll have to wait and see as their next match is a friendly against their 2006 World Cup semifinal opponents, Germany, on February 9th.

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