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Friday June 8 2012
Are Italy ready for Euro 2012?

With Italy out of form and tactically unsure ahead of their Euro 2012 debut, Rob Paton asks if they are ready.

“This team wants to get on to the field to prove it has quality and the right determination to be a protagonist at the Euros. This is the spirit we have now. I have found yet again a group ready to be honest and take responsibility,” declared Cesare Prandelli during this week’s build-up to the European Championships kicking off.

Yet, for his statement that Italy are mentally prepared for Poland and Ukraine, he and his players could not have imagined a more disruptive build-up to the tournament.

It actually began, as the squad was announced, with cautiously optimistic debate over which formation was best, which midfield most representative of collective strength and how interesting Antonio Cassano and Mario Balotelli may prove to be in attack.

Less than a month ago, Italy may have had a few minor selection debates here and there, but they looked able to provide options in more than one sense. Importantly as well, the team had competitively shown itself to be strong, running through qualification unbeaten and with a record defensive return. In comparison to how the nation had headed into South Africa 2010, Prandelli’s Italy looked on course. Realism existed, but so too did optimism.

However, preparation now ends this weekend for the game against Spain with new questions raised, and pertinently, they are not positive ones. In light of Andrea Barzagli’s injury, uncertain is the new word to describe the record-breaking back-line, whilst a dressing room that showed all the signs of positivity are being suggested as heading into the summer tournament with a ‘siege mentality’. For what worked in qualifying – a tranquil environment and a set pattern of play – is currently absent for the competition proper.

Indeed, parallel to scrutiny on certain members of the squad for perhaps unfair media coverage relating – and not – to the ongoing betting trials in the peninsula, Prandelli has been trying out some last-minute experiments in training. What was a choice between 4-3-1-2 and 4-3-3 has evolved into a debate between the former system and an untried 3-5-2. In light of the popularity of the three-man defence tactic domestically this season and for the Azzurri’s no-show performance at the back against Russia, Prandelli looks to be considering changing the back-four shape that worked through qualification and every other game the CT has overseen to a back-three to face the defending world and European champions Spain on Sunday.

The late reflex is being interpreted by some as a measure that Italy are not quite sure of themselves with days left. Indeed, where Fabio Capello is among the names to suggest a sense of trepidation, Republic of Ireland Coach Giovanni Trapattoni tellingly hints that he knows he can again get a result against La Nazionale.

Even so, there is also a mild expectation that the Azzurri can turn the chaos of Calcioscommesse and overcome any tactical uncertainty – as Daniele De Rossi prepares himself as an emergency centre-back – because they have done it before. For the 2006 World Cup, the team united to put Calciopoli to one side and win the tournament. Twenty-four years before, Enzo Bearzot’s Giro Azzurro went across to Spain 1982 with the 1980 betting scandal still fresh, a woeful run of recent performances and a warning from FIGC’s President to ‘play well or pull out’, but they too returned with the trophy.

However, exactly because it has been done twice before perhaps runs the risk of blurring the lines between realism and expectation. Whilst the team may take inspiration from its own history, it is worth noting that before the scandal, Italy may have held hopes of a quarter-final or semi-final berth thanks to the excellent qualification, but there was still the realisation that Spain, Germany and the Netherlands were better-prepared, more experienced and more capable nations.

If you have followed Spain, for example, the most notable aspect to their work has been the creativity the media have had to embrace to find new ways to talk about exactly how good the team are. A win against the Azzurri is not only expected, but would also be a new world record.

In real terms, Italy are weaker now without Barzagli and Domenico Criscito and contemplating a system of play untried before. But, does the increased hope that the Azzurri put on a performance in Group C to distract from the unhappy circumstances at home mean that anything but a good showing from the country will undo Prandelli’s previous good work?

There was a sense last week that the CT, who recently admitted that in taking the job he felt ‘too young’, committed perhaps his first faux-pas in the position, when his suggestion that he would understand if Italy were pulled out of the Euros because of the Serie A and B betting scandal, drew criticism in some quarters.

“I have learnt that as CT, for anything I say I can get a slap across the face,” he reflected with the realisation that in a divisive climate, not everyone can be satisfied. “What I said was clear enough, but it has been interpreted as each person has wanted. I speak with sincerity.”

Indeed, it was an honest declaration, reflective of the moral approach the former Fiorentina man has taken to the national position, from his code of ethics to his linking of off-the-pitch activity to on-the-pitch attitude. However, it is because of this representation as an honest man, that his claim that Italy are ready may be the real first slip in his reign. By acknowledging and raising expectations in an atmosphere that will feed on it more so than before, it may prove to be the one stance taken that will come back and haunt him, if as the situation otherwise suggests, Italy are not ready.

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Have your say...
Italy has always overcome. They are strong, they are ready, I say take us to victory my brothers of Italy!!
on the 13th June, 2012 at 10:00pm
Silence... from the peanut gallery.
Forza Azzurri!!!
on the 10th June, 2012 at 8:20pm
I think we're READY!
on the 10th June, 2012 at 8:09pm
Italy what great start...De Rossi better at the back than in the middle.Di Natle the boss will getvgoals!! Pirlo class act....Balo and Cassano both good did well to hold up the ball and bring the others in. Good start now keep it going and win the next 2 games I have that 2006 feeling
on the 10th June, 2012 at 7:14pm
The nerves are kicking in for me as we count to down to 5:00pm.

Come on Italia, give those ITV pundits something positive to talk about Italian football, not the slow-starters, too defence blah blah...

Forza Italia, Forza Azzurri.
on the 10th June, 2012 at 3:05pm
Italy aren't ready but who else in this scenario would be? Despite all the issues, Italy is probably the only team that can prevail in a situation like this. The similarities with Euro 88 are still apparent but the Spain 82 comparisons are more evident now. Before Paolo Rossi shone, no in-form striker was picked, Bettega was injured and Pruzzo didn't get called-up. It's also time for Balotelli to be a star.
on the 10th June, 2012 at 9:29am
i hope italy stuff spain, i really want see the media and the english press eat there words.
on the 9th June, 2012 at 11:26pm
If rossi was fit, pazzini could hit a barn door then di natale wouldn't be there. I haven't heard any players say they don't want balo there, would love to know your sources. Barzagli should be fit for ireland maybe even sooner and to be honest de rossi is suited to this position. Yes we are ready and yes we WILL do well! Forza italia Forza ragazzi
on the 9th June, 2012 at 11:01pm
Can everyone just watch Italy get out of the groups and prove their critics wrong.

Buffon- The Legend

Bonucci- Turned a bad season Good
De Rossi- Always consistent when he plays
Chiellini- One of the best defenders in Europe
Maggio- A great Wing Back
Pirlo- Best Italian Footballer
Marchisio- Has had the season of his life
Motta- A good player who has a point to prove
Giaccherini- After years of failure he has shown he is worth it
Cassano- The most creative Italian striker
Balotelli- Good
on the 9th June, 2012 at 8:44pm
Yes course they are. Forza Italia.

Buffon

Bonucci
De Rossi
Chiellini

Maggio
Marchisio
Pirlo
Motta
Giaccherini

Cassano
Balotelli

Subs

Sirigu
Balzaretti
Ogbonna
Montolivo
Nocerino
Di Natale
Giovinco
on the 9th June, 2012 at 8:25pm
FORZA AZZURRI, FORZA ITALIA
on the 9th June, 2012 at 4:22pm
Im so sick of fellow Italians not getting behind the AZZURRI. All the talk about us having a weak team is a joke. Pirlo, Chiellini, Buffon, De Rossi are world class. Bonucci, Barzgali, Maggio, Giach, Di NAtale all had great seasons and are on form. Plus We have the 3 biggest WILD CARDS in the whole tournment. BALLOTELLI, CASSANO and GIOVINCO. All 3 together if they get in sync will be impossible to stop!! GIOVINCO to prove a point this tourny, hes ready for ITALIA and JUVE,he wants the number 10
on the 9th June, 2012 at 1:26pm
Italia should play their young talent, i mean giovinco should of being playin 1st team football regulary at juve not rotting on the bench,young players like longo of inter and verratti should in italia squad. We need another il codino(roby baggio) .,remember guys were still a great footballing nation
* * * *
on the 9th June, 2012 at 9:16am
I just hope c p can mentally prepare his player's this time unlike lippi openly admitted he didn't do after s. AFRICA. Losing to spain would be no disgrace italy could grow tho as tournament progresses. C p seems more pro active than lippi changing formation early enough unlike lippi leavin quaglia too little too late. A little luck please this time too. Italy need to score what ever result against spain. Not done so in 8 months or more!
on the 9th June, 2012 at 9:13am
What happens to an injured wolf when backed in a corner!! beware of the teeth!!!!!!!!!!!!
on the 9th June, 2012 at 8:12am
Forza Azzurri! They will grow and the next 5 to 10 years are going to be amazing from what I see coming out of the youth ranks. Avio Cesare semi unico! Cassano its your time Peter Pan!
on the 9th June, 2012 at 4:48am
10 of the possible starting 11 have played with the 3-5-2 system this year, I think it could work well, the unknown factor will be an advantage
on the 9th June, 2012 at 1:45am
I think Azzurri Are ready players are on form super mario pirlo giovinco chiello buffon dinatale usually flops for his country but he can still do damage derossi i like in the back he is strong but lacks experience at the same time cassano looks like he eats pasta everynight but theres something about his touch that is world class mixed with super marios grit giovinco will be coming out hard trying to convince conte he is good enough for juve .. If italy beat spain we will defenetly be a force.
on the 9th June, 2012 at 1:27am
I echo the sentiments stated before, don't count the the nazionale out just yet. Everyone is riding the band wagon that is call la roja, there was a WSJ article today asking if the Spanish team is one of the best ever , in sport? Seems premature if you ask me and the world will watch in amazement if we beat the Spaniards. We have done it before and gli azzurri used to handle the iberians with regularity going back to the nineties & before that. Forza Azzurri!
on the 8th June, 2012 at 10:51pm
I find all this quite amusing as Italy have all these problems and yet the spanish players such as alonzo and pique are quite concerned about playing the so called wounded animal. Have Italy not won 4 world cups? Did they not qualify with ease? Did Anyone not see what happened to the mighty barca this year? Beaten by a depleted Chelsea side! You know the score. This italy side are poor but only a fool would bet against them! They may just make the semis but will be fully ready for the world cup!
on the 8th June, 2012 at 10:25pm
the lack of faith will bring the best out of these players.

Balotelli to shine
on the 8th June, 2012 at 10:04pm
All the current Bloggs are the same. Ready or not I will have my Azzurri Top of supporting Prandelli till the end, hopefuuly it will be with the Azzurri lifting the Trophy. But if its not lets not make the same mistake as 4 years ago and replace the manager. Let him build on this and learn from his mistakes if he does make any. Lets face the facts dispite the odd 2 or 3 most managers and supporters would have taken a similar squad with more than likely 9/10 of the starting 11.
on the 8th June, 2012 at 8:22pm
You are mostly all so depressing! Get behind this team, for years you all moan..... Same old guard, too old, not enough quality. Prandelli gives us something fresh, a great qualifying campaign and now you all plot our downfall because of things out of his control!

FORZA ITALIA!

Teams fear us now, as they don't know what to expect, what formation, what players? Does know one see this as a strength?

Support your nation, because no one else will. Especially UEFA!
on the 8th June, 2012 at 7:55pm
we surely go to euro 2012 with our eyes closed but that seems to motivate the players!

this is football, so anything can happen. no one predicted juventus to win serie A!!!!!

3-5-2 is a formation that i feel suits the team way better than 4-3-1-2 which is starting to dissapear on international football! plus we have lot of creative forwards and they would have to do so much more work with 4-3-1-2
on the 8th June, 2012 at 7:23pm
I am reading that our proposed 3-5-2 formation is going to be interchangeable with De Rossi having licence to move into midfield.

Does that mean when Italy defend the formation will be 3-5-2 and when we go forward we'll play a 4-3-1-2? that would imply that Pirlo will play as a trequartista wouldn't it?

It could work? Well it sounds good anyway, may be hard to implement though. What do others think?

Good to hear Barzagli can still play a role, maybe our fortunes are finally changing?
on the 8th June, 2012 at 7:13pm
Thanx Xavi, with u...
on the 8th June, 2012 at 5:31pm
@Moh - if you were a Juve fan, you would have said replace De Rossi with Giaccherini on that team sheet :D

@Marcello - if I was joking, I be rolling over Laughing Out Loud saying that...

Serious Face on Now....

With Barzagli injured, I would prefer De Rossi playing in a 3 man Defence with Bonucci & Chiellini but I still have no faith of confidence in this team. I'm not expecting the Azzurri to win the tournament but atleast do their country proud.

FORZA ITALIA !!!
on the 8th June, 2012 at 5:02pm
while i think aquilani should've been favoured over montolivo, the midfield is strong, with motta, pirlo, marchisio, nocerino, (de rossi) all pretty great players. even up front there is a lot of talent, if cassano plays how he did in qualifying and balotelli acheives even half of his potential the team will be doing pretty well, and if not toto can always pitch in. I probably would have brought quagliarella though.
also, buffon and chiellini are world class.
on the 8th June, 2012 at 4:54pm
ENOUGH WITH THESE BLOGS !!!
on the 8th June, 2012 at 4:49pm
Another point why would you put De Rossi in CB when you have chose Ogbonna, whats the point in Ogbonna? he isnt in the plans clearly
on the 8th June, 2012 at 4:36pm

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