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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...
Prandelli has turned this team into a complete shambles!! he demonised Criscito without a moments notice but stayed silent about Bonucci,he picks Balotelli who does nothing but cause trouble to the point where no1 in the squad wants him there, he cast aside Di Natale 2 years ago saying he was too old but now recalls him after realising his mistake & now instead of sending Barzagli home he will use De Rossi in defence???? Oddio!!!
on the 8th June, 2012 at 2:02pm
This itay tean can go a long way in euros.when their backs r against the wall they pull through,we had a nightmare in s/africa it cant happen again.im more focused on giovinco an di natale .cassano abit rusty balotelli to volatile. My prediction win against spain and draw with eire+croatia.then ....? Possible Win cup,
on the 8th June, 2012 at 1:50pm
the lack of faith here is funny. personally, i'd rather be italy than spain right now, and i fear your team.
on the 8th June, 2012 at 1:37pm
I reckon Italy will lose to Spain, but get through and do well - maybe even the final.

It is the Spain game which will get us ready. We must not forget, we can afford to lose the Spain game, but win the rest.....
on the 8th June, 2012 at 1:35pm
@Moh You must be joking!!

The team Prandelli has picked is the best Italy has, Players such as Pepe, Matri, Quag are not great players and should not be playing for Italy. Plus none of them were even first team players at Juve.....

Italy have the players, midfield and defence as good as anyone's. With a spine of Buffon, Chiellini, Pirlo and Mario, they have a team that is able to compete with the very best.

Italy 1 Spain 0

Forza Italia.
on the 8th June, 2012 at 12:32pm
i think italy need that extra game, then we wouldnt be reading this. I think they are half ready. They played well against russia, the mistake they made was putting maggio as RB when he is RW. If they get off to a good start aginst spain and early goal it can be a trun around for us. I dont think de rossi should play as center back, i think he was going to go with 3 at the back i would chosses Balzaretti, Chiellini and Ogbonna with de rossi in front of them
on the 8th June, 2012 at 12:26pm
lol, so the whole juve squad basically! Im a juve fan but even I find that a little far fetched
on the 8th June, 2012 at 12:16pm
This will be the team against Spain (Thoughts in brackets)

Buffon

De Rossi (Shows no faith in other defenders, but at least he's played in that position in that formation & has experience)
Bonucci (Is reliant on a 3 man defence to be at his best, makes too many mistakes otherwise)
Chiellini

Maggio (Last chance saloon)
T.Motta (Commanding, brings aerial and defensive stability)
Pirlo
Marchisio
Balzaretti

Cassano (Can create no doubts about that)
Balotelli (A gamble, I would prefer Di Natale)
on the 8th June, 2012 at 12:10pm
I'd say a big fat 'NO'. I can't beleive they have only had one warm-up game where as some teams have had 3!! We go into sundays game completey blind as to what tactics CP will use. I'm guessing he'll use a 5-3-2 : I reckon we'll see; Buffon, Maggio, Bonucci, De Rossi, Chielini, Balzaretti, Marchisio, Motta/Nocerino, Pirlo, Cassano, Balotelli.
on the 8th June, 2012 at 12:02pm
Italy is not ready for Euro 2012 & like the 2010 World Cup, it will not end very well. There are players on the 23 man team that don't deserve to be there.

This team should have been built with Juventus players. Matri, Quag, Pepe & De Ceglie deserve to be there.

3-5-2 formation

Buffon

Bonucci, Chiellini, Barzagli

Pepe, Pirlo, Marchisio, De Rossi, De Ceglie

Matri & Quagliarella

That would have been my starting 11 against Spain come June 10th.
on the 8th June, 2012 at 11:16am
Italy's qualification group was weak & the 4-3-1-2 formation has been found out in the last 3 games! Logic suggests that with ? over tactics & our lack of goals we are not ready! Change should have been sought after defeat by the USA (remember we lost to Ireland too). Also tell me why Prandelli has introduced new players & novices to the squad over players that helped us qualify? It's all too disjointed!

However, we can't fully judge until after the 1st two games, so I hope they prove me wrong.
on the 8th June, 2012 at 11:02am
I don't think Italy are ready for the Euro's. They aren't in a perfect situation what with the many injuries they have been faced with and the betting scandal.

Not forgetting their awful form , such as not a goal being scored in 4-5 games. So they are definitely not prepared and ready.

But how can Italy be prepared for the Euros? with all these obstacles in their way, let alone playing Spain in the first game. I honestly feel it would be a success to even get out of the group stage.
on the 8th June, 2012 at 10:40am
Considering a new formation is no weakness, it is a strength. Prandelli must be tactically agile. Remember, the teams they played in qualifying were almost all very poor. The real surprise in the lack of prep for me was only organizing two games to warm up, one of which wa cancelled without another being arranged. That was ludicrous, esp. when we need a quick start against the world champs.
on the 8th June, 2012 at 10:38am

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