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

Giancarlo Rinaldi On November - 16 - 2011

Italy RoundUp Post-Uruguay

If you are ever planning a party, don’t invite Uruguay. They famously scuppered Brazil’s World Cup festivities back in 1950. And, on a much more minor scale, they burst the balloons blown up for the match to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Italian unification in Rome.

It brought the Azzurri back down to earth after a victory over one of the hosts of next year’s European Nations a few days earlier. In truth, nobody was getting too carried away about that triumph. Cesare Prandelli, and anyone who watched both matches, could see there was plenty of work to be done.

The rebranding of Italy remains a work in progress. Their new coach wants a team that can go out and impose itself on a match but he only saw that in flashes over his two latest friendlies. In Poland, his troops were under pressure for long spells before Mario Balotelli lashed in a wondergoal to stun their opponents and Giampaolo Pazzini completed the job. Against Uruguay, they slipped behind early and could not find the key to unlock a rugged and stubborn defence.

The games highlighted both concerns and reassurances for the man in charge of Club Italia. His side produced some nice football on occasions, particularly revolving around Andrea Pirlo. However, it also suffered the odd defensive blackout and a lack of sharpness in front of goal which meant the home friendly ended in defeat.

There is no shame, of course, in losing to a side which finished fourth at the World Cup and won the Copa America. There was little friendly about the game as the tough tackles flew in and the play-acting levels were set to competition mode. If it was a test of this Italian team’s maturity, however, they narrowly failed.

A lack of confidence or character stopped them from hauling themselves back into the game. Fernando Muslera was inspired in the visitors’ goal but he was not tested often enough for Italy to really have any major complaints. If they aspire to dominate a match, they definitely need to find a cooler approach in front of goal.

Yet there was no need to come away from the games feeling as miserable as Daniele De Rossi after a screen test for a razor blade advert. There was enough there to suggest that Prandelli is building a side ready to compete in Poland and Ukraine. All that is needed now is a little fine tuning.

The defensive partnership of Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Ranocchia is starting to develop a better understanding. All of the full-backs used across the two games - Christian Maggio, Federico Balzaretti, Domenico Criscito and Ignazio Abate - acquitted themselves well. And Gigi Buffon looked assured, as always, as he matched Dino Zoff’s 112 international caps.

In midfield and attack, however, there are a few more questions. Pirlo made the side tick and Claudio Marchisio also confirmed his return to international class. De Rossi was solid but Riccardo Montolivo looked as out of sorts as he has for his club of late. The sooner he gets a move, the better.

Up front, with the injuries to Antonio Cassano and Giuseppe Rossi, it is really all about Super Mario. He is the man who can make the difference at any moment, as he did in Poland. He also managed to keep his cool under pretty severe provocation against Uruguay which was another positive sign.

Pazzini showed himself a more than valid option in attack while Simone Pepe displayed his usual good and bad sides. There is no faulting his endeavour, but sometimes his technique falls way short of international quality. As for Alessandro Matri, there really was not enough time to issue a proper judgment.

All of which left Prandelli looking at his grappa glass as half full rather than half empty. He acknowledged the deficiencies, but chose to accentuate the positive. He reckons his side is making progress towards his goal of starting to take control of matches and that can only be encouraging.

The good news is that this Italy side is flying under the radar, just where it always likes to be. Spain, Germany and Holland and the likes are gathering all the pre-tournament hype with some undeniably good results and performances. But don’t rule out the Azzurri getting things to click at just the right moment when their first real test under their new boss comes around.

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