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

Luca Cetta On June - 28 - 2012

Ital-Juve At The Forefront For The Azzurri

When Juventus are strong so too are the Italian national team, as the old calcio legend goes. And when reviewing past tournaments it is hard to argue with that. Juventus have provided the most World Cup winners of any club, with 22 of the 24 champions Italian.

In 1934, amidst the golden Quinquennio era, Juve has nine players in the squad as Italy defeated Czechoslovakia in the final. When Italy finished fourth in Argentina 1978, Juve contributed up to nine players per match and this squad dominance carried through to Euro 1980 and the 1982 World Cup (the ‘Juve Block’), where six Juventini started the final. Fast forward to 2006 and five were involved in the final for the Azzurri, plus three for France, underlying the dominance.

Even in the times of lean representation (two Juventus figures in 1938 and three in 1968) key players like Alfredo Foni, Pietro Rava and Sandro Salvadore were part of the Azzurri setup in tournament victories.

In Poland and Ukraine Juventus players account for a third of Cesare Prandelli’s squad, with the contingent strong defensively, as to be expected after Antonio Conte’s side conceded just 20 goals in 38 matches on their way to win the Scudetto.

Captain Gianluigi Buffon had two major moments against England, saving in the opening minutes from Glen Johnson and sending Alessandro Diamanti to the spot with the chance to seal the match after repelling Ashley Cole’s spot kick. In earlier fixtures Buffon has been largely untested and whilst beaten twice – through no real fault of his own – has made important saves when required. Just like at Juve he looks to build from the back rather than play balls long.

Just ahead the trio of Andrea Barzagli, Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci have not yet featured together due to formation changes and significantly, injury. Barzagli missed the opening two matches and Chiellini - who has looked dominant barring the mistake versus Croatia which led to the equaliser - is not yet assured of a semi-final return. Bonucci has come in for criticism at club level for a lack of big-game mentality but has copped well to date – even when asked to play on the right of a back three, unlike in Turin - and in the quarter final hardly put a foot wrong.

In midfield, Claudio Marchisio has mixed a spectacular display in the opener in Gdansk where he won plaudits, with tidy and energetic performances. Unlucky not to have a goal to his name the Turin-born player has shown his worth for the national side and looked at his best in the early games when the 3-5-2 system was in place. He was man of the match for both matches in that system.

Yet his role can at times go unnoticed when assisting the mercurial Andrea Pirlo. Give Pirlo time on the ball and he will punish. So far in Euro 2012 he has punished opponents. Despite succumbing to fatigue as the group stage wore on - evident versus Ireland, the worst of his displays - what was witnessed before and after was brilliant, notably against Spain. He netted a sublime free kick versus Croatia and grabbed an assist in the two other Group C encounters. Against England Pirlo was central to all Italian moves and his penalty was magnificent. In the context of the shootout it was a game-changer. His 131 passes (with 88% pass accuracy) were well above anybody else and England could not deal with his influence.

Emanuele Giaccherini was a surprise inclusion in the squad and only made his international debut when the tournament began against the reigning World and European Champions. Utilised as a wing-back for both that and the Croatia contest, Giaccherini was solid enough. Finally, Sebastian Giovinco has made two substitute appearances - also in the opening two matches - where he showed glimpses of his creativity, but like Giaccherini is a reserve member of the squad. For Giovinco the tournament is a learning curve for 2014 and beyond.

Marcello Lippi was criticised in qualification for the 2010 World Cup for basing his team around a struggling Juve outfit. Nobody can admonish Prandelli for that, with his large number of Juventini ready to lead the charge in Warsaw as Italy faces long-time rivals Germany in the semi final. The final, and perhaps the chance to add to Juve’s six previous European Championship winners, awaits.


Checkout Bookmaker odds for Italy’s semi-final against Germany.

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