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Friday June 15 2012
Italy ignored warning signs

Cesare Prandelli blamed poor finishing as the reason why Italy didn’t beat Croatia, but Rob Paton argues differently.

‘Only win’ emblazoned the Gazzetta dello Sport on their Thursday morning edition. The message to Cesare Prandelli’s Italy was simple. Follow up the good signs shown against Spain with a win against Croatia, to ensure that passage to the knock-out stages would remain entirely in their own hands. However, they did not win, and it is not entirely in their own hands anymore.

Opponents Croatia went into the game unchanged – like Italy – from their first Group C match, predominantly in mentality as well as in line-up. Slaven Bilic maintained two strikers up top supported by attacking midfielders and sent his players out with a clear directive to press high up the pitch quickly and consistently to stop Italy building play from the back.

Key to their early fluidity in the match was Nikica Jelavic and Mario Mandzukic carrying out this task from the very front, backed up by their midfield colleagues too. Their successful occupation of the Azzurri’s central spine for the first 30 minutes and final 45 kept Andrea Pirlo, Thiago Motta and Claudio Marchisio deep, to try and support each other in passing around their running. This retreat of Italy’s midfield crucially allowed for the Croats to push forward into the subsequent space in the middle of the park, and to really target where Italy have been shown in recent outings against Russia and Spain to be vulnerable, in the full-back positions.

Indeed, notable to Croatia’s early spell of pressure, that returned after a half-time reminder from Bilic for most of the second half too, was the ability for the side to regularly work two-on-one situations around Christian Maggio and Emanuele Giaccherini, with the Italians tactically unable to answer it and the result a high number of crosses for Daniele De Rossi, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini to face.

There were the warning signs in the first half, as Croatia missed a couple of good chances and also had a penalty shout turned down from this scenario. However, perhaps in light of a drop in intensity that allowed Italy back into play to finish the first 45, these were largely ignored by the Azzurri, and ultimately to their detriment.

Chiellini will likely shoulder blame for his misjudged positioning for the cross that led to Croatia’s equaliser, but it is an issue reminiscent of Nicola Legrottaglie’s complaints when Catania switched from a back four to a back three during the season – with the extra man in the middle of defence, there is sometimes a tendency to relax and think someone has your back covered. Relevant or not to this case, the Juventus defender’s mistake should only be acknowledged in the context that if the Croats had a pair of full-backs that could cross better, Italy would have lost the game and perhaps by a couple of goals.

Post-match, Prandelli and a couple of his players looked to push attention on to their own poor finishing in front of goal as the difference between the desired result and the actual one. Certainly, the game wasn’t all doom and gloom for Italy, as they demonstrated during Croatia’s first-half ascendancy a very sharp practice on the counter-attack and during Croatia’s first-half lull, an excellent passage of interchange play in the final third. The first 45’s ability to represent a significant danger to the Croats through two completely different routes to goal is both a promising feature to this team and one reflective of Prandelli’s ethos as a Coach.

However, the opportunity for final-third interchange disappeared in the second half as Croatia pinned the midfield back, whilst the Azzurri’s strength on the counter-attack dissipated surprisingly early too, as Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano both lost energy and movement. Indeed, for only seeing second half intensity return once the fresh legs of Sebastian Giovinco and Antonio Di Natale were both on, combined with completely failing to answer Croatia’s very simple targeted play of pressing from the front and testing Maggio and Giaccherini, Prandelli should face questions on the viability of this 3-5-2 formation and on the timing of his substitutions.

Whether or not Italy should have won through converting more of their chances in that final 15 minutes of the first half, as the team and its Coach argues, is a side issue to answering why they faced consistent pressure for almost the entirety of the other 75 minutes. 

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Have your say...
Habibi, did u watch the game? Italy were simply brilliant in the first half and the Croats were no where to be seen. Italy were never pinned back in the first half and had many squandered chances. Italy could have won before going to the second half. I do agree though that with croatia needing a goal in the second alf, Italy should have changed to a 4 3 3 with 2 of borini Giovinco di natale supporting balotelli who s not getting service.
on the 16th June, 2012 at 6:09am
What an absolutely ridiculous article. Italy CLEARLY dominated the first half of the game, and if we had a proper finisher, could have been up by at least two or three goals by half time. I don't know if it was instuctions from Prandelli to sit back, our players just getting extremely fatigued (or both) but we didnt play with the same intensity or drive in the second half, and we allowed Croatia too much space and time on the ball, and they (inevitably) scored off their only real chance.
on the 16th June, 2012 at 3:11am
It is still a mystery to me what are Maggio,Giak,Motta and Balo are doing in a team??? Nocerino should be on a pitch in game 2,Cassano is good only for 45 minutes.
I still believe will be professional and classy in their game with Groatia,but even if they will beat them,Italy has to change a lot. Most of them playing without heart,it's like because they have to,ljke doing a favor.Come on guys,DO IT!!!
on the 16th June, 2012 at 2:45am
rob you are an idiot
on the 16th June, 2012 at 1:40am
Di Natale did his best to break the offside, but the linesman was very poor. If you look at the replay, Di Natale broke the offside trap 2 or 3 times--and I am sure it should be a great scoring chances if play going on,--but the linesman said it was offside.

For a player such Di Natale, offside judge accuracy is very important, and mis-judge will become fatal.
on the 16th June, 2012 at 1:39am
Parmajack i know gila didn't have a great season or Pazzini but they are both goal scorers and i think 1 of them should have been given the benefit of the doubt, it jst an opinion as i rate both strikers and think in the right set up like when at samp and first six months at inter Pazzini could be lethal. i agree with you our problem area has been for the last while our lack of a quality cf
on the 15th June, 2012 at 11:56pm
Why are you guys saying that we don't have an out and out scorer. That is exactly what Balotelli is but he seems to be lacking confidence and a little luck at the moment. Once he scores one in this tournament watch him go. Balotelli also does alot more for the team than scoring, his hold up play and his ability to bring others in to play is just as important. To drop him like some of you guys are suggesting is ridiculous.
on the 15th June, 2012 at 11:26pm
How Rob Paton writes for footballitalia.net only the lord knows. International football is not easy and Croatia are a progressive team with exceptional talents particularly Mandzukic Jelavic and Modric. Italy bullied them the entire first half. They made the relative adjustments and made the second half a real game. However, Buffon had no difficult saves to make and their goal was a complete individual error. Prandelli has Italy playing with a great desire and passion.
on the 15th June, 2012 at 10:49pm
You can all talk about formations & players but at the end of the day Italy lacks a player you can rely on to finish, its as simple as that. In all successfull teams there has to be a finisher.
on the 15th June, 2012 at 10:42pm
is it just me or are we missing de rossi in midfield and giuseppe rossi up front?
on the 15th June, 2012 at 10:10pm
Italy appear to tire significantly especially in the second half of games. Croatia were at best solid but did not appear to dominate Italy in any way. One cross leading to one goal does not signify that they were a better team than Italy.
A good result against Ireland and we can press on in this tournament.
on the 15th June, 2012 at 9:41pm
Terrible blog, you blind or something - in summery I believe we didn't take any of the decent chances to make it 2-0.... Croatia upped their game, we lost our energy and allowed them to play....

Could of been avoided, why motta? He adds nothing to us, nocerino is twice the player he is with an amazing engine - but ultimately we didn't finish the game off.

I fear the Irish will suddenly decide to play football and give us a hell of a game with our miss firing goal scorers we may end up goinhome
on the 15th June, 2012 at 9:33pm
Pietro your right Gila was brilliant all season knocking in the goals and Pazzini tore defences to pieces. Reality check- Genoa almost got relegated and Pazzini sat on the bench. I don't rate our attack but the simple fact is Italia doesn#t have an out and out goalscorer at this level.
on the 15th June, 2012 at 9:20pm
Italy played an OK game.........if they were that good, they would of won with no problems. They need to change the formation and keep it as a 4-3-1-2 against Ireland. Ireland is coming to spoil. I will guarentee it. Italy should play with Maggio, Baragli, Chelinni and Abate in the back. Play Derossi, Pirlo, and Norerino with Giovinco and Cassano and Di Natale up front. Thats the formation they should use for the remainder of the tournament.
on the 15th June, 2012 at 9:09pm
About time!!!
on the 15th June, 2012 at 9:08pm
Pietro- how many goals did Gila score this season. how many goals did Pazzini score. Do you really think they would do any better !!!! Genoa nearly got relegated and Pazzini sat on the bench. Surely a coach can only pick players who play and score. The simple fact is italia at the moment and for some time haven't had an out and out goalscorer. Look at the records.
on the 15th June, 2012 at 9:07pm
Matri? Pazzini? Even Quagliarella? No alternatives up front. And De Rossi is NOT a defender, what a waste.

We all know that was effectively elimination. Spain and Croatia will fix a convenient high scoring draw like Denmark and Sweden in 2004.
on the 15th June, 2012 at 9:02pm
why have "Your message" if you're not going to post them.... come your beginning to upset me!!!
on the 15th June, 2012 at 8:56pm
This article is not a very accurate overview of the game in its entirety, Mr. Paton. The Azzurri totally owned the first half, and in two games, got pushed back for half an hour in one of them, other than that, they have played well. ( especially v Spain). The introduction of Montolivo was a poor decision, Nocerino should have come on. I have the utmost faith in the team and Prandelli, a win will see us through, as Spain will defeat Croatia, IMO. Sensa Biscotti.
on the 15th June, 2012 at 8:47pm
couldnt agree with you more, anwar. against ireland, balzaretti to take left wingback role
on the 15th June, 2012 at 7:53pm
parmajack, Gila does play for Genoa on a regular basis Pazzini has been fazed out at inter but is a goal scorer and with cassano is lethal, the reason Pazzini wasn't picked is because Prandeli and him dnt see eye t eye end of, Pazzini and Gila are goal scorers which imo is the only missing component in making Italy a true force again
on the 15th June, 2012 at 7:47pm
Trappatoni is Italian. If he doesn't field a somewhat weakened team against us, we should strip him of his nationality. On a different note, this is the team to beat the Irish:

Buffon
Balzaretti-Chiellini-Barzagli-Maggio
De Rossi
Marchisio-Pirlo-Motta/Nocerino
Cassano-Giovinco
on the 15th June, 2012 at 5:59pm
Italy were solid, Buffon had little to do. Maggio was disappointing he should be dropped and Nocerino should start for Motta. PS linesman in second half got all 3 offside decisions wrong, 2 were clear
goal scoring positions, - however you failed to mention hat in your article.
on the 15th June, 2012 at 5:25pm
taking 2006 as a starting point, italy have only won 1 match at euros or world cup. 3 different coaches, different players, and different modules.

it seems to indicate that the quality is not sufficient.

the traditional mental strength of italian players seems to have vanished, the ability to win games 1-0, to control a game by lowering the rhythm.

i think this is above individual players or tactics: no one player or tactic or coach seems to be able to change things.
on the 15th June, 2012 at 4:36pm
I think the squad selection has been very poor by Prandelli. Giovinco and Borini are too lightweight. Di Natale does not have the legs to play the full 90
minutes. Balotelli is a hard worker but is not clinical enough in front
of the goal - not to mention his questionable attitude. And, Cassano
is clearly not match fit and has not had enough games under his belt
, since his surgery, to make the difference.
on the 15th June, 2012 at 4:31pm
Its very simple.
We did what we always do which is sit back on one goal and try and defend it. We just did not push hard enough to increase our advantage, dropped too deeped and let them equalise.
We have to believe in our own ability, which incidentally is far greater than that of Croatia and finish these teams off.
That said we normally get stronger as tournaments progess , so lets hope we finish off the Irish convincingly!
on the 15th June, 2012 at 4:15pm
I feel I'm repeating myself on every blog but what rubbish FI writers are coming out with. RU watching the game as at no time did Croatia dominate the 1st half. Look at shots & % of play. This does not win you games but neither does sitting back like they did in the 2nd Half.Marchisio/Pirlo had good 1st halfs but both sat back in the second and created nothing. Did CP tell them to do this. Subs were a mistake and AC tires to quickly. Mario must start again as he keeps defenders busy.Forza Italia
on the 15th June, 2012 at 4:13pm
Totally preplexed by Prandelli, he states that this team has the ability to switch systems during the game that the players can adapt. Well that didn't happen, Prandelli couldn't see that Giac... was out of his depth offering very little in attack.

Whose the leader of this team, as I didn't see one against the Croats. Come Italia, show use your class and score more than one goal!

Forza Azzurri, make those 4 stars on your shirts shine!
on the 15th June, 2012 at 3:51pm
taking. off super mario was a huge mistake.because mario was keeping the back four. and they couldnt attack. i,d have takin cassano off and bring on borini. with nocerino. comin for motta. blieve in mario and he will deliver. mark my words,,,,,,,,,,,,,
on the 15th June, 2012 at 3:20pm
this article is total rubbish..dont know what game he watched..italy was totally dominant in the first half and should have closed it out..dont know what was said at half time but italy went into a shell and i dont know why.but they have done it before with a lead..why take balo off..he was having a great game..and montolivo is a complete waste..bring on nocerino...not convinced that the ant can compete at this level..italy's only problem is that they are not holding leads IN BOTH GAMES!!!
on the 15th June, 2012 at 3:06pm

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