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Italy: Confederations Cup Disaster

Italy out of the Confederations Cup

Italy out of the Confederations Cup

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.

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  1. Jason Blacklock

    July 8, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    I imagine I was one of many witnesses to the capitulation of the Azzurri, when faced with a relatively ordinary Brazil side; and was not exactly shocked by the said capitulation. Firstly and with respect the only time the Azzurri aren’t in crisis are on those occasion when they do win World Cups etc….. In fact if I recollect correctly, on every occasion when the Azzurri are unceremoniously dumped from one major international competition or the other, there are perpetual cries of foul, and ruminations concerning the condition of Italian Football.

    This of course is not to say there is no crises, or that there are not problems, or obstacles to be overcome. So secondly, and in no way imposing any disrespectful doubt over the unambiguously potent skills of Mr Lippi. But why on this earth does he continue to choose, and refuse to choose young and clearly talented players, who were they allowed their opportunity in the spotlight, might be the difference between the Azzurri’s capitulation or not? Naturally a huge debt of gratitude is owed to Cannavaro and the world class talent surrounding him at the previous World Cup, but fielding a team of thirty-somethings against Brazil, in any competitive match is an enormous error. There are a massive number of young and talented players emerging from Serie A in spite of recent scandals, but Lippi perhaps even out of necessity appears to be sticking with the same aging hand he was successful with previously. I hope this is from necessity and not fear of the unknown; for instance I witnessed some remarkable performances against a Northern Ireland eleven from certain players such as D’agostino, Foggia, and senton etc…… However none of these players were chosen to represent their country in the Confederations Cup. Too add insult to injury, Lippi appears to be ignoring the likes of Zaccardo, and Barzagli, both proven performers at international level! One other point which still irks me somewhat: in modern Football, if a manager was to not choose his best performer due to differences of opinion, or thanks in some part to the players attitude, and that the action of not choosing the said player, the team were perhaps not afforded an adequate opportunity to win, in certain high level games would this be considered unprofessional? If so I think perhaps Mr Lippi might want to reconsider his decision not to pick one Antonio Cassano, arguably one of the best player in Serie A, and perhaps even in world Football!

  2. Jay Gould

    July 2, 2009 at 7:52 pm

    Saying teams “don’t want to win” is slightly extreme, but it’s unquestionable that the European teams, in particular, weren’t treating it as seriously as they would have if it were a World Cup or European Championship. It’s hard to play a game of football and not try to win, but squad choices and other factors reflected the status of the tournament, whether we like it or not.

    However, I don’t think that Lippi was simply conducting some grand experiment to assess the merits of his veteran players. He clearly genuinely believes that these players are good enough and continues to make nonsensical decisions like leaving Cassano out of the team.

  3. free bet

    June 30, 2009 at 1:09 am

    I would get rid of the catenacchio if I were them

  4. Soccer Jerseys

    June 29, 2009 at 10:03 pm

    Marco, I think your point # 1 is a bunch of bunk. Teams don’t want to win? Take a look at the third place game, are you telling me Spain didn’t want to win???

  5. Marco P.

    June 28, 2009 at 12:07 am

    David, like I wrote in this post, there’s two important considerations you need to make here:

    1) This wasn’t a major tournament, it was the Confederations Cup. Psychologically, none of the teams (USA excluded) are here because they want to win. I mean winning is nice, but above all this is in loco preparation for South Africa 2010.
    2) Bringing a large number of WC 2006 veterans was a studied move I think for Marcello Lippi. He needed to make an assessment on how these guys would perform when placed in a (mini) tournament setting. Some of them clearly failed that test, and will have to pay the price when call-ups are made again in the next few months.

    Besides, one always has to be careful with hasty accusations of the type “he’s too old he’s gotta go”. The same argument could be made for some of Italy’s youngsters (“they’re too green/inexperienced to play at the senior level just yet”).

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