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

Rocco Cammisola On September - 7 - 2011

Good News Italy Qualify For 2012 Euro Cup, Bad News Is,…

The good news is that Italy, with a 1-0 victory, have secured qualification to the European Championships in Poland and Ukraine next summer. The bad news - it’s not that bad - is that the they haven’t been living up to the hype recently. Italy have been compared with Barcelona an awful lot during Cesare Prandelli’s tenure in charge of the Azzurri, but any viewers tuning in to see a Catalan imitation tonight will have been left feeling unsatisfied, confused and disappointed.

They were instead served up what may have passed for a performance from a Barcelona veterans side. The pace of play was slow and labouring, and when any injection of pace was applied the passes lacked the correct weight or angle and were dealt with efficiently by the Slovenian back line. That was until substitute Giampaolo Pazzini lashed home from close range on 85 minutes and the side hung on for the rest of the game.

Italy began the evening with what was billed as their signature 4-3-1-2 formation, but appeared to be more of a 4-2-2-2 with a midfield of De Rossi, Montolivo, Pirlo and Thiago Motta. The side looked quite narrow and the central areas were heavily congested.

Worse still, is that none of the first choice creative midfielders appears to be happy to take on the trequartista role, both Montolivo and Pirlo are much happier playing from deep. The unoccupied space was filled by either Cassano or Rossi, further compressing the side towards the wrong goal.

The full backs are absolutely crucial in this current Italy set up. Balzaretti and Cassani in particular have flourished under Prandelli, and last night was no different. Consistently overlapping, linking with the strikers and forcing their way inside. Without this outlet the movement of the ball would have been a far more static and sluggish affair.

For all the pointless parallels being drawn between Italy and Barcelona, and for all of their delightful deep lying midfielders, Italy were actually incredibly easy to defend against. Slovenia remained organised in the defensive phase and staying very narrow to reduce the space allowed to the Italians in an already heavily congested central area. When the Azzurri attempted to play passes in behind the Slovenian defence they were often poorly weighted or far too straight and Handanovic snaffled them up gleefully.

Freddezza is a word you’ll hear bandied about in Italian football analysis, coolness or calmness. Italy lacked freddezza in front of goal against Slovenia. Chances were created but only five out of fourteen shots were on target, and when they did Handanovic was stereotypically imperious.

When Pazzini came on for Cassano, he was able to stretch the pitch as he usually does by hanging on the last shoulder but it was the introduction of Mario Balotelli that really swung the game - marginally - in Italy’s favour. Prandelli brought Mario on for Montolivo and for the first time in about a year the standard formation was abandoned as well. Balotelli played on the left of a front three with Pazzini as the central point and Giuseppe Rossi on the right.

This suddenly stretched the Slovenian defence for the first time in the game, and more chances were created instantly. The presence of both Balotelli and Pazzini at the far post on the 85th minute is likely to have been a major factor in the Slovenian defensive mistake that handed Italy their goal on a plate. It was then just a case of playing out the rest of the game in stereotypical fashion - not that Slovenia didn’t come close on a few occasions.

“We have our first match point for qualification.” Prandelli had said before the game “It would be marvellous to achieve this goal in Florence, where I spent 5 splendid years.” In the end it was a far from captivating performance, but the ball had hit the line, there was a puff of chalk in the air and, with a little help from hawk-eye too, Italy lurched over the line. Lessons must be learned and there will be time for changes and experimentation, but the important thing is that the mission was accomplished.

Rocco Cammisola

Rocco is a football writer who follows football in England and Italy for a number of sites, including his own - The Football Express (.co.uk). Most of his writing focuses on the lesser talked about teams, attempting to bring them to the world's attention.

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  • Ron

    at least they won. However the azzurri have not come close to being one of the worlds elite in a long time.

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