Juventus suffered another defeat which perhaps came as no surprise despite the fact Roma were rather not impressive until the penalty-kick which was converted by Francesco Totti. The Bianconeri did not deserve to lose the match but the players have certainly been struggling despite putting in a better effort against the Giallorossi.
Without discussing the much maligned Coach Ciro Ferrara who has been the focus of the Italian Press and was rumoured to be on the verge of being sacked for the umpteenth time, the Italian core of the Old Lady has become quite fragile. Whilst Alessandro Del Piero found the back of the net from a well-taken strike, he is on the downside of his career due to age and declining physical attributes. No doubt Del Piero will be remembered as a legend but he is no longer the player who broke one record after another wearing the famous Bianconeri shirt. Moving on to the Juve players who are likely headed to South Africa 2010 (Del Piero will not be in the Azzurri squad unless he goes on a torrid scoring run), they have been playing miserably or struggling with inconsistency due to the morale damaging crisis engulfing the Turin club.
Azzurri Coach Marcello Lippi has at one point or another relied on a core of players from Juventus starting with Gianluigi Buffon, Fabio Grosso, Giorgio Chiellini, Fabio Cannavaro forming the defensive line and ending with Mauro Camoranesi, Claudio Marchisio and striker Vincenzo Iaquinta. Those seven players are certain to head to South Africa 2010 unless they are sidelined with injury or something out of the ordinary occurs to force Lippi to exclude them. Adding to the list squad players Nicola Legrottaglie and Antonio Candreva will give the Bianconeri up to nine international players who are on Lippi’s list for consideration to make the World Cup.
The problem here is in the fact none of these players have impressed over the season. Only Gianluigi Buffon and Giorgio Chiellini reserve some credit as they have tried their best to shore up the Old Lady’s defense without much success. Even the great Buffon suffered the ignominy of being sent-off against Roma as he tried to cover up for the lack of concentration amongst the Bianconeri defenders while Chiellini has been one of Juve’s most consistent players but his performances have been affected by the disastrous slide as well.
The other defenders including Azzurri captain Fabio Cannavaro have been performing at a dismal level highlighted by comical errors and serious lapses in concentration. Cannavaro has seen time on the bench while his understudy Legrottaglie has not done any better with left-back Grosso in constant decline after a bright start to his Juve career.
The two players besides Buffon and Chiellini who will likely escape harsh criticism are Camoranesi and Iaquinta. Those two players were performing admirably prior to their injuries which put a massive dent in Juve’s armor. There is no guarantee of how they would be performing if they were healthy and actively participating in the midst of this crisis. One of the greatest disappointment has to be the free-fall of young midfielder Marchisio who was having a breakout season prior to his surgery and time spent rehabilitating. Marchisio appears to be a shadow of the player who sealed the famous victory against Inter with an exquisite goal. No doubt he has been negatively influenced by the events in Turin.
The question remains whether these Azzurri hopefuls, and in some case certainties, will carry the club’s baggage with them on the flight to South Africa. If they do, then Italy’s defense of the crown won in Germany 2006 will likely fizzle by the second round or the quarter-finals at best. Perhaps this is why Lippi paid a visit to Vinovo after checking out Milan’s Azzurri players at Milanello while bypassing the Nerazzuri on his way to Turin. Lippi acknowledges the importance of Juventus to his and Italy’s ambitions. After all Lippi opted for an Azzurri squad anchored by the Old Lady’s players in the last few World Cup qualifiers.
The only way to circumvent the Bianconeri crisis is by relying more on Milan’s Italian players but they too failed to shine against the Nerazzurri in the Milan derby. The Rossoneri have Azzurri regulars Gianluca Zambrotta, Andrea Pirlo, Gennaro Gattuso as well as hopefuls Massimo Ambrosini and Marco Borriello. Looking back at the Juventus-Roma match Lippi knows he has a committed player in Daniele De Rossi but the former Juve Coach might be actually considering the recall of Giallorossi legend Totti. The forward has missed games with injury but when fit he has played reasonably well.
As for the back four, Lippi was rumoured to have focused on Alessandro Nesta during his stop at Milanello in order to shore up the Azzurri’s defense. Frankly, no one can blame the experienced Lippi for attempting to lure back Nesta as the centre-back has been one of the main catalysts behind Milan’s recent revival with his absence extremely felt during the 2-0 defeat to Inter. The Rossoneri defense looked uncomfortable, unreliable and shaky in his absence. With Cannavaro struggling for form a rejuvenated Nesta can be a good bet to hold the Azzurri defense together.
Once again the dilemma for Lippi remains whether to alter his plans and rely less on Juve’s international players or simply to hope their hunger for victory after a tumultuous season could propel Italy to another triumph in World Cup 2010. During the World Cup in Germany the Italians were written off after the Calciopoli fiasco only for Lippi to rely on the players affected by the scandal. His faith was repaid with assured performances by those same players who helped carry la Nazionale to glory after 24 years of waiting.