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Tuesday September 5 2017
Little Italy

The Azzurri stuttering their way to qualification for a major tournament is no reason to panic, says Giancarlo Rinaldi, but business as usual.

If Italian fans were hoping for a big reaction after the misery they endured in Spain, they will have been sorely disappointed. Even against more humble opposition, the much-criticised 4-2-4 formation failed to deliver the tonic the tifosi craved after a performance which had left them feeling distinctly queasy. And yet, somehow or another, by the end of the night against Israel, they were a shaky step closer to the World Cup next summer.

For those of us who have followed Azzurri qualification campaigns for any length of time, this stuttering sort of progress is really no surprise. Over the years we have got used to watching them stumble across the finish line like Dorando Pietri at the London Olympics in 1908. If it is thorough thrashings and comfortable conquests you crave, you really should be looking elsewhere.

But where did this double-header really leave us, other than one point away from a play-off place? The bubbly enthusiasm of a run of good results seems to have fizzled out quicker than cheap prosecco. Has Giampiero Ventura gone from being the right man to bring through young stars to a Coach way out of his depth? Have his tactics hamstrung his best performers or have they let him down on the big stage? Or is the inconvenient truth that this Italy side is simply not good enough?

Some people will tell you any or possibly all of the above and - quite probably - most vociferously. Then they will pick out their least favourite performer - usually according to their club allegiances - and have a go at them too. These are the pastimes Italian fans and pundits have been indulging in since the game began. Some things, like Gigi Buffon’s passion for the national anthem, will never change.

Yet there were some lessons to be learned in the evidence before our eyes if we care to make a more measured judgment. The formation used singularly failed to get the best out of a squad which is surely capable of better than it delivered against Spain and, for the first 45 minutes at least, against Israel. The only options are for the players to adjust, the personnel to change or the Coach to show greater flexibility. You will hear plenty of loud shouts for each and every option.

Personally, I would not hit the outright panic button just yet. Just as Italy did not look like future World Cup winners to me during their more convincing displays, I am not sure they are quite the no-hopers some have branded them after recent performances. I could make the same argument for Ventura. Haven’t we been here before quite a few times, after all?

History has taught us that, with the Azzurri more than most teams, it doesn’t matter how they get to a major competition - simply that they manage to get there. Often their most limp and lifeless qualification campaigns can be the precursor to wonderful tilts at major titles. They have made a habit of confounding those who have written them off in quite spectacular fashion.

Italian Federation president Carlo Tavecchio described it as an apocalyptic event if Italy were to fail to qualify and, although it was a little over-dramatic, he had a point. The play-offs are where this team - and Ventura - should finally be judged.

Winning a group with Spain in it was always likely to be no more than a 50-50 bet at best, but failure to beat one of the other group runners-up would be truly disastrous. There will be those who can tell you with certainty already that this Coach or these players are not good enough to achieve that goal and make any impact in Russia, but I am not one of them. Time has taught me that such absolutes can often leave you with a significant slice of frittata on your face. And, just as often, their purveyors are willing to switch opinion swiftly if events begin to make them look foolish.

Beating Israel was never going to dispel the doubts which brewed up in Spain, but at least, in their usual half-baked way, Italy got the job done. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t emphatic but - with Albania failing to beat Macedonia - it was just about enough.

The law of minimo sforzo - minimum effort - was more or less observed. And, if these latest displays are anything to go by, don’t expect the play-off games to be anything other than close. This is the Italian way, folks, and it has taken them an awful long way an awful lot of times before.

Keep up to date with the latest news and action from Spain's Primera Division with Football Espana - from the team behind Football Italia.

Have your say...
Ventura must go now! Bring back Lippi or Conti last minute with the agreement of Chelsea.
I'm no manager but even I knew that the tactics Ventura employed against Spain would never work. He then amazed me by saying in the press conference that Italy were always going to be runners up in the same group as Spain. Italy are a world power in football and four times World Cup winners second only to Brazil so talk of this kind reeks of a lack of faith or knowledge by the manager. VENTURA OUT NOW!
on the 8th September, 2017 at 10:02pm
So now we got like 4 competitive games left to get familiar with a another system ie. 3-4-1-2!
I wonder if Ventura is planning to keep Belotti and Immobile starting together in this new line-up? If so that's a disaster in itself.
on the 8th September, 2017 at 2:03pm
@ Toto
"Conte at least got the best out of average players - that was a skill set he had. However, he omitted talented players and this was his downfall."

No this was his strength!
Conte selected FIT and INTELLIGENT players that fit his system and would not be persuaded by the media in his selections...and who could argue with him now given his Euro 2016 run that surprised everyone none more so than Spain!

Sad part is we had to let Conte go because FIGC could not afford him.
on the 8th September, 2017 at 1:50pm
@ kunal. Thank you, but the love children of captain back kick special move bonucci may come looking for you. Sad that one of the defenders and keeoer that carried his sorry self on their backs for 3 years are in question.
on the 8th September, 2017 at 1:47pm
@ kunal. Thank you, but the love children of captain back kick special move bonucci may come looking for you. Sad that one of the defenders and keeoer that carried his sorry self on their backs for 3 years are in question.
on the 8th September, 2017 at 1:44pm
There is still time to improve a lot, especially with our past track-record, however a 4-2-4 formation doesn't inspire too much if playing against football's top National teams.
With no time to prepare matches it might be better to make more use of blocks of players used to play together, week in, week out.............
on the 8th September, 2017 at 1:38pm
Is this writer being serious? Claiming he's been following Italian football for 109 years.

"For those of us who have followed Azzurri qualification campaigns for any length of time, this stuttering sort of progress is really no surprise. Over the years we have got used to watching them stumble across the finish line like Dorando Pietri at the London Olympics in 1908."
on the 8th September, 2017 at 8:27am
Stay behind them tho. They should be allowed to make mistakes. As long as Italy qualify. They have been shocking qualifying in past n then done well in comp but they need to give young guns experience now! There was tons of talent on that bench v Spain but stalwarts like Eder always get the nod. I always like to watch Italy when they have their tricky little players like Verratti, Insigne n Giovinco on. Seems effective too. Gabbiadini also looks good but what do I know. Trust in them yet!
on the 8th September, 2017 at 6:28am
Problem Italy has is once anything goes wrong there is a huge backlash to go back to tradition n the coaches don't know whether to stick or twist. Like Prandelli n the open attacking football before the 4-0 v Spain made him try to shore up the defense which led 2 Italy being impotent at both ends. Conte knew his plan n tactics but was limited by his poor player choices. Yes Italy have to be fluid but they need a structure n formation that works to the players strengths. Then integrate the youth.
on the 8th September, 2017 at 5:55am
I'd feel better if GV just admitted afterward that he'd got it wrong against Spain. He was appointed to be progressive n to help bring in youth but it's hard to determine how good the youth set up is as the 'kids' only tend to start in friendlies! The other thing I don't get is this elitism towards other league's. Giovinco is in form n plays well 4 Italy. I recall in a Euro Q v Norway when 1-0 down he came on n set both goals up to turn the match around n help Italy qualify. Youth n experience.
on the 8th September, 2017 at 5:41am
Years back Italy would play a 4-4-2 and it worked very well. We had a tight D, strong holding midfielders and a decent support striker to work with the target man.

Ventura is like 1000 years old, so clearly he has seen what made Italy successful.

However, he opts to play ridiculous formations and plays the worst brand of soccer.

These excuses of September football due to lack of games played are just not funny anymore. It is just sad.

Man i wish Gattuso was there to slap out this coach.
on the 8th September, 2017 at 3:22am
Conte at least got the best out of average players - that was a skill set he had. However, he omitted talented players and this was his downfall.

Ventura by contrast, offers no fight back or intensity. He looks like a senile old man feeding pigeons at the park. The game is being played vs Spain and we are getting slaughtered but no plan. This guy has no PLAN A, B, C, etc.

This is just awful as Italy is crumbling before our own eyes and this FIGC doesn't care.

Get rid of these politicians!
on the 8th September, 2017 at 3:12am
Ventura is not fit to lead this team - Italy cannot accept being just average anymore.
Buffon must step aside - father time has come calling and he must bring in the new GK's. His reflexes are not what they once were. Barzagli, De Rossi, Montolivo, Astori, Candreva, Parolo must retire.

Italy could have ushered in new players in 2010 and 2014 but they did not - the result was embarrassing anyway. Why not just give our youth a chance and win/lose with them. At least they gain experience.
on the 8th September, 2017 at 3:07am
I agree. It wasn't Barzagli who was at fault. He may be old but he does his job.
Bonucci did not do well. But maybe thats due to the formation, and with 3 CB's, it might suit Italy more.
But I would still like 4-3-3 as 3 solid MF's will not pressurize defense as much.
Looks like he would play 3-4-1-2, and that may be better defensively, but it might mean no room for El Shaarawy, Berardi, etc. Not sure if Insigne is a no 10 either, and he may play Verratti there.
on the 7th September, 2017 at 9:53pm
I thought the worst Italian manager ever was Gianfranco "idiot" Zola but God help us the Nationale have managed to find someone worse!!
There's a reason a 70 year old manager has never found a top club side...... He's not up to the job and can't be trusted, the clubs know this the players know this the media knows this and the fans know this.
It appears only the fools at FIGC can't see this failure for what he is.
on the 7th September, 2017 at 8:51pm
And if successful in the playoffs
Ventura's continuation will expectedly depend on whether they somehow qualified or with relative ease playing well. But however they perform ..... short of disaster he himself will not quit. As of now he is in good position and its the players who have to on one hand tolerate him and the other stay focussed on the job and play for their biggest ambition and the pride of the CRJersey.
on the 7th September, 2017 at 8:23pm
If the news of a bust up betweenn Ventura and a player jst before the Spain game & many players being unhappy with Ventura are true (which is totally expected)... its a very worrying
time for the team & supporters as not much time is left for the last round of qualifiers. If Ventura has to be sacked it is right now but it won't happen so the only go is for him & players to pull together through the remaining qualifiers. (contd)...
on the 7th September, 2017 at 8:15pm
Like the look of @MM's Team .....
on the 7th September, 2017 at 7:40pm
Correct me if i am wrong but i do not think barzagli was at fault for the goals conceded against spain. He passed the ball out from the back a lot in the israel game. Only saw the last 40 mins or so of the spain game, but then again isco owned everyone on the pitch and spain on a whole played better than italy.
on the 7th September, 2017 at 7:05pm
If not Jorginho (as V doesn't like him) would love Diawarra to start - he is an engine, reminds me of bigger version of Kante and also a better passer, a perfect DM to break up the play but I haven't heard any news on his Italian Passport. Balotelli is a joker card - worth the risk only if he doesn't ruin the harmony of the team - Zappacosta because looked good against Israel and he should have a good season at Chelsea. Candreva could be good at WB. Barzagli out is the best we can hope for in DF
on the 7th September, 2017 at 12:20pm
Little we can do, we all seem to share the same opinion apart from Ventura. Read we are scrapping 424 for 3412. Best we can hope for based on his favorites / optimism:

Buffon

Chellini Bonucci Romagnoli

Zappacosta Candreva
Jorginho Marchiso

Veratti

Insigne Belotti

Subs Donnarumma Perin Caldara Conti Florenzi Pelegrini Gagliardini D.Rossi Berardi Bernardeschi Immobile Balotelli
on the 7th September, 2017 at 12:09pm
Little we can do, we all seem to share the same opinion apart from Ventura. Read we are scrapping 424 for 3412. Best we can hope for based on his favorites / optimism:

Buffon

Chellini Bonucci Romagnoli

Zappacosta Candreva
Jorginho Marchiso

Veratti

Insigne Belotti

Subs Donnarumma Perin Caldara Conti Florenzi Pelegrini Gagliardini D.Rossi Berardi Bernardeschi Immobile Balotelli
on the 7th September, 2017 at 12:08pm
Besides the stupid formation of 424, he also played players that are not match fit such as Spinazzola & Darmian (eventhough Darmian was the best out of a bad bunch). Isco was right when interviewed and stated that it was Italy's attitude that wasn't there. Unlike they were against Spain in the quarter finals of 2016. I like Spinazzola but I would have played only match fit players. I am afraid Ventura was not the right man for the job. The FA should already be courting Ancelotti!
on the 7th September, 2017 at 11:40am
@Why Ventura why????

Bonaventura is pure class...
on the 7th September, 2017 at 9:33am
This way is not the Italian way. This is just the idiots way. Idiots because they fail to learn lessons, deal with stubbornness or swallow pride. Sacchi had a problem with Baggio but still played him through out 94. Everyone had a problem with Balotelli but still played him through out euro 12. On most occasions it has been the coach who have brought failure to the team by screwing around with formations at the wrong time or not adapting with the direction of the game.
on the 7th September, 2017 at 9:23am
reading you people comments, I can understand the pain. but I must say; some of you like begging Ventura to listen to your suggestions while you know he won't. there's a problem in Italian Football whilst none official person will admit it. why on earth would a federation invest in youths knowing they will never play regulars at their teams & think of a 21 22 players as very young on the other hand Germany, Spain, France & England call them up to get more experience. Italy needs CHANGE.
on the 7th September, 2017 at 6:57am
We still have Marchisio(when fit), Bonaventura, Jorginho if Ventura really wants to bolster the midfield....

Marchisio is intelligent enough to play a Pirlo type roll as he has shown with Juventus..
on the 7th September, 2017 at 4:33am
Can't believe some of you guys are still going on and on about the players.
It should be clear to everyone by now that loser Ventura is stubborn, clueless and trying to make a name for himself, he's on a different wavelength to the players.
If Conte's Azzurri squad was able to trouble the best teams in the world and play some of the most innovative football in Euro 2016 with half the talent why can't this fool do the same?
I'm convinced the players want him out bar maybe Immobile..
on the 7th September, 2017 at 4:26am
For defense, in back 4 chiellini and bonucci/barzagli, but if Chiellini injured, back 3 with Rugani/Romagnoli or both better. Against Spain, Barzagli played fine, Bonucci had bad game, and the 2 midfielders,and that's down to coach.
Hope Ventura does away with his arrogance.
3-4-3
Buffon/Donna; BBC (Romag, Rugani);Zappa-Marchisio-Verratti(DDR,Pellegrini)-MDS(Darmian)Berardi-Bellotti-Insigne(El Sha, Candreva)

4-3-3
Buffon; Zappa-Bonucci-Chiellini-MDS/Darmian;Verratti-DDR-CM; same front 3
on the 6th September, 2017 at 9:54pm
@Anonymous

ABAHHAHAHAHAH BArzagli is better than Bonucci ahahahahhaha... Omg, im gonna call it a night after that one. Wow.
on the 6th September, 2017 at 9:27pm

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