Cesare Prandelli’s path as Italy coach begun four years ago, just after the South African World Cup fiasco, which was led by the former World Cup winner Marcello Lippi.
During his four years in charge as Italy’s coach, the former Fiorentina manager led Italy to second place at Euro 2012 and the third place at last year’s Confederations Cup. Prandelli has always tried to present a national team able to win and convincingly too, through high quality football.
Before the 2014 World Cup, Italy had almost always played enjoyable football and Prandelli’s project looked untouchable as he also signed a two-year contract extension with the Italian Football Federation.
The first complaints about Prandelli came less than a month ago, after having announced his World Cup squad. The choice of leaving at home striker Giuseppe Rossi, due to physical problems, had not convinced some Italian media. Many fans also were disappointed by this omission too. Some newspapers were also criticizing his new contract, with the ridiculous accusation being he was taking advantage of Italian taxpayers.
Prandelli’s project was ambitious and probably impossible as he couldn’t count on too many quality players, like for example, Spain or Brazil. When he become Italy National team’s boss, the Spanish Tiki-Taka was the example to follow. He tried to give Italy a winning mentality, through a ball possession that many players simply could not yet accomplish.
He always seemed secure in his tactical choices, but but seemed unsure before the World Cup started and carried through the group stage. Just before the tournament, he changed the system into a 4-5-1, a formation he tried in a couple of pre-World Cup matches. He discarded the winning Juventus 3-5-2, as well as the 4-3-1-2 that he always used, before Riccardo Montolivo’s injury, just before the World Cup began.
The new 4-5-1 appeared to be exactly what he was looking for after Italy’s winning World Cup debut. The Azzurri seemed solid, with lot of quality in the middle of the field, thanks to the class of Andrea Pirlo and Marco Verratti.
Everything changed against Costa Rica, when he should have been more proactive on offense. He confirmed the 4-5-1 which is not really an offensive option, and Italy’s ball possession become a problem instead of a virtue, especially after the first Costa Rican goal. The Azzurri were not able to produce one single shot on goal, exactly as it happened against Uruguay in the last match of both the group stage and the tournament.
Against the Celeste, he reverted back to 3-5-2, immediately repudiating the new 4-5-1 he had used in the first two matches. If that’s not enough he also made questionable substitutions. He called in Cassano far too early, as well as setting a too defensive team, substituting Mario Balotelli with midfielder Marco Parolo which meant he was effectively playing for a draw from halftime onward.
I think Prandelli made the right decision in handing in his resignation. He had demonstrates too much confusion in his tactical decisions during this World Cup. Despite this, it will be a mistake to consider Prandelli the only reason behind Italy’s disappointing World Cup campaign
There are not strikers able to attack the space in front, like Suarez or Cavani. Italy is still waiting for Mario Balotelli to mature. The Italians needed him to produce in World Cup and he seemed to peak against England. The general quality of the young players is not as good as the older ones, excluded, probably, Marco Verratti, Ciro Immobile and a couple of defenders, which can’t really be compared with players that have done the Azzurri history proud. These players include Paolo Maldini, Fabio Cannavaro, Alessandro Nesta or Marco Materazzi, just to name a few.
Prandelli’s choice of resigning after the defeat is reminiscent of Jose Mourinho’s tactic to attract all the blame on himself, rather than on his team. It will be a big mistake for Italy and Italians, just to concentrate on the manager’s responsibilities, rather than on new players’ lack of personality and technique.