As the final of the Confederations Cup approaches, the tournament for one team in particular has been an unmitigated disaster. Coming into the competition, as World Champions would surely mean an easy route to the semi-finals at least, however Italy capitulated in almighty fashion. A somewhat fortuitous victory over the USA followed by an embarrassing defeat to Egypt and a master class from Brazil, meant Italy were on the first plane back to Rome.
Going into the tournament Italy were expected to contest the trophy with Brazil and Spain, not necessarily the favourites but with more quality than the other sides, a semi-final berth was the minimum expectation.
Marcelo Lippi named his 23 man squad, ‘old’, ‘past-it’, ‘over the hill’, ‘geriatric’ and claims they ‘don’t have the legs’, were all terms used to by the media to describe the Azzurri hopefuls. Lippi was defiant and had complete faith in his band of World Cup winners.
Personally, I was more concerned with the quality of some, for example Andrea Dossena is not international quality and how he is in an Italy squad remains a mystery to me. Luca Toni has not been performing to the standards set in 2006. While Gattuso has missed most of the season through injury and Cameronesi has also spent large chunks of the campaign on the treatment table. Add this to a 32-year-old Zambrotta, 35-Year-old Cannavaro, 32-year-old Legrottaglie, a recipe for disaster was unquestionably in the making.
In their opening fixture against the USA, Italy started the match well, but as the first half wore on the USA edged more and more into proceedings, creating the best chances of the half. Even after going down to 10 men, USA took the lead through a Landon Donavan penalty. But it wasn’t until the introduction of Giuseppe Rossi that Italy looked dangerous in the final third. He grabbed two goals and all the headlines.
But it was against Egypt that the wheels well and truly came off, a hapless performance both defensively and creatively. Italy lacked ideas going forward and solidity at the back. They fully deserved to be beaten.
Then came Brazil in the final group game, a win was needed to guarantee qualification but 3 goals in eight minutes put an end to any hopes of winning the match. Although with the USA leading Egypt by thee goals all the Azzurri needed was one goal, but the impotent attack couldn’t even muster a decent opportunity. Italy were humiliated and on their way home.
After such a humbling tournament Lippi must realise that with the World Cup less than a year away, a serious and quick rebuilding program is needed. Young players need to be introduced; Rossi and Santon have to be given more responsibility. Some of the 2006 class need to be dropped for good, as it is quite clear they are not of the required quality any longer.
The tactics have to be rethought, the 4-3-3 does not work, it has been tried for a year and it has be a veritable disaster, the players don’t like it, aren’t suited to it and cannot make it work. It requires a lot of hard work from the midfielders and so called wingers, Pirlo, Montolivo, Rossi et al do not work as hard as the tifosi would like and age has caught up with Gattuso.
Each time Italy changed formation in the competition they were more competitive, relatively speaking of course. Why not use 4-4-1-1 or 4-3-1-2? These are two formations used on a more regular basis in the peninsula, the players are used to them and this would have a positive effect on the side as they would know what their job is on the park.
A couple of positives did come out of the tournament, one being Andrea Pirlo, his passing and vision seem to be back after a two year absence, coupled with his advanced position up the pitch, it is clear he is a vital player for the Azzurri. Second, Giuseppe Rossi, he has clearly demonstrated his quality and must now be one of the first names on the team sheet, young, hungry and with a predatory instinct, he can be the catalyst to a younger, brighter Azzurri, once that may have something to say in 2010 in South Africa.