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Wednesday September 12 2012
Azzurri fringe impressions

Italy defeated Malta on Tuesday to earn their first win in World Cup 2014 qualifying. Luca Cetta asks which fringe players aided their chance of featuring in the next round of fixtures.

Cesare Prandelli will take the three points. After the Bulgaria draw a win was a necessity to kick-start the qualifying campaign and Italy got the desired result. Mattia Destro scored five minutes in and Federico Peluso netted right at the end for a 2-0 victory. In between the Azzurri laboured to victory. Prandelli will wonder whether they were dragged down by the level of opposition or by themselves.

In a month Italy travel to Armenia before the big group meeting with Denmark. After five changes from Friday’s side, the Malta contest at the Stadio Alberto Braglia in Modena represented a chance for those on the periphery to shine. Given the absentees in attack included Mario Balotelli, Antonio Cassano and the benched Sebastian Giovinco, eyes were firmly on the front line.

Destro was busy throughout. While Roma teammate Pablo Osvaldo struggled to make an impression and cause the Maltese defence too many headaches, the 21-year-old showed he can have an impact for the Azzurri. The Argentine-born striker never truly threatened, while his replacement Giampaolo Pazzini was more involved and vigorous in his 20 minute showing. It also begs the question whether starting two burly forwards like the Giallorossi pair in place of Giovinco was the right one, given Italy lacked incision. Yet it does show Prandelli has depth in attack.

Italy’s 4-3-1-2 system required the trequartista to take command of proceedings, with width provided by the advancing full-backs. However, neither Alessandro Diamanti, Peluso nor Mattia Cassani were decidedly impressive. Beside a vicious free-kick, Diamanti was not involved enough during his 45 minutes and Prandelli was unhappy with the Bologna player drifting wide on too many occasions.

Meanwhile, the full-backs struggled to offer the essential width. Cassani was the liveliest of the pair initially, with Peluso looking timid in his first start. After the interval Cassani was more withdrawn, while the Atalanta man strode forward with greater purpose.

He was helped by the 4-3-3 and the impact of substitute Lorenzo Insigne. The Napoli youngster was the most creative player on the pitch. Playing with the confidence of an international veteran he was not afraid to run at defenders, although at times was let down by the final ball. Nonetheless, Insigne can be happy with a thrilling debut performance. Should Prandelli persist with the trident attack, Insigne has shown he can play a part. The tactician was pleased with what the player offered. “Insigne did well when he came on and we spread the play with his introduction, getting more down the flanks.”

It raises the question of what system Prandelli will go with versus Armenia and Denmark. From the three utilised in these two matches, Italy produced their best football with the latter. Should Daniele De Rossi and Federico Balzaretti be fit the pair will reclaim their spots, while Domenico Criscito is another full-back to consider after his name was cleared in the Calcioscommesse investigation. Balotelli and Cassano will also be in contention, but other positions are up for grabs. The Malta contest showed Prandelli has options. The question is which combination of players will work best to launch Italy towards Brazil.

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Have your say...
Destro made a great run to score an easy finish for Italy. The ball from Marchisio was even more impressive. Overall though, the team lacked ideas. De Rossi really is a key player and the team missed him. I hope Italy has a full strentgh squad against higher ranked teams. As always, Forza Azzurri!
on the 14th September, 2012 at 1:03am
Italy has two main problems which have been evident for sometime but which CP can't seem to admit and resolve. The fist problem is that CP can't understand that there is no one tactic that brings the best of every player. Eg. Playing 352 when Balz and Abate the best two wb in Italy were unavailable. Second and more worrying is that Italy's weakest area is the midfield. Too slow, too static and tend to give away the ball easy. How can the strikers score if they're not well served?
on the 13th September, 2012 at 12:56pm
Prandelli is scaring me sometimes, he needs to realize the potential of Insigne & Giovinco in creating chances for Destro. I trust 4-3-2-1 is good one to see a diamond of them three players mentioned plus Balotelli in for Destro. Insigne has created and done well in left side, so Giovinco can do the same with his qualities to the right side, them both can provide tricky, slicky, quality passes to CF. or CP can use 4-3-3 with Insigne + Giov + Balotelli/Destro up front. Criscito on left side.
on the 13th September, 2012 at 9:25am
Is there a law which prevents Pirlo from being criticised? His way below par performance (partially because of the good man-marking the maltese did on him, partially because he wasn't good enough to use his class and experience to escape their trap) was another of the key factors in Italy's poor showing.

If Prandelli wants to reach the WC and have a good run there he also needs to stop being so reliant on him, especially given he will be 35 by then.
on the 13th September, 2012 at 8:23am
Prandelli is boring me now, all I hear of is "italy are a work in progress" everytime this is all I hear! We were a work in progress after we got smashed in the final of euros. Its boring. we have been a work in progress since 2006. Bottom line is we just don't have the quality to look past pirlo and buffon. Italy needs to pull togethr in tough times this could be the time to discover the real talent by clubs playing young italians!
on the 13th September, 2012 at 7:20am
From what we saw from the last two matches Italy's next month probable line up will be a 4-3-3 formation

Buffon

Abate, Barzagli, Bonucci(Cheillini), Balzaretti(Criscito)

Marchisio,Pirlo, De Rossi

Balotelli, Destro, Insigne

Unless there is an injury issue the above will be the most likely line up against Armenia & Denmark.
on the 12th September, 2012 at 10:58pm
Its correct Italy never set the world alight in August/September of any campaign. Malta was an easy game and The Auzurri could and should have scored more but Malta defended well but did you expect anything less. Its akin to Northen Ireland playing England. They will raise their game. Considering the players missing we have 4 points. Was impressed with Destro, Insigne, and Nocerino.
on the 12th September, 2012 at 9:03pm
no reason to panic, people. 3-time champion Spain needed 87th min to beat Georgia with a ‘shaky’ performance. it means little. That said, it’s clear CP must find another playmaker in mid to absorb some of pirlo’s pressure. Motta sure as hell isn’t it and motolivo can be only in spurts but that’s it. If Diamanti isn’t the answer then abandon the trequartista and go to a 4-3-3 with derossi supporting Pirlo. Then a dynamic wide player like insigne, which paired with balotelli would give Ds the fits
on the 12th September, 2012 at 7:41pm
Poor again! tempo was slow & too many long balls! But it will get better I'm sure, Sept is never a true reflection of what Italian teams are capable of. For me the positives to come out of the game was Insigne, Marchisio, Nocerino and Destro. Giovinco should have started as trequartista with the option to move wide when switching to a 4-3-3. I would have also liked to have seen Verratti get a run out and I think La Nazionale need Juve's Luca Marrone in the squad too.
on the 12th September, 2012 at 5:52pm
Malta, on paper, was our easiest qualifier. Why didn't Prandelli play Verratti instead of Pirlo? After all, we all know what Pirlo can do. With a busy schedule for Juve' coming up, surely it would have made sense to give the veteran a breather?! For me, Prandelli has missed an opportunity. No disrespect to Malta, but I would have liked to have seen Ogbonna, Acerbe, Verratti, Poli, and Insigne start instead of Bonucci, Barzagli, Pirlo, Marchisio, & Osvaldo.
on the 12th September, 2012 at 3:39pm
the main questions to be answered are more about tactics than personnel. we all know who the important players for the Azzurri are and we got a chance to see how players with less caps fit but it highlights the same issues. CP still needs to figure out what system brings the best out of the players he has at his disposal. we lack a true trequartista for a 4312 while 433 best suits our FW options with the wide attackers we have...352 requires discipline but is the best plan B
on the 12th September, 2012 at 1:56pm
Have to say that although it's a nerve-wracking time, it's exciting to see all these younger players given a chance, and I think we have real promise for 2014. Insigne impressed, as well as Destro; and for me, so did Peluso in the 2nd half. Glad to see we have depth in attack with these younger guys.
on the 12th September, 2012 at 1:24pm
was worried a bit with these two matches. italy was very unimpressive, which i expected. short of the likes of balotelli, cassano, de rossi, balzaretti, chiellini, motta, montolivo etc etc... with some new faces & fringe players, italy was able to get 4pts out of the possible 6pts so in the end, that's all that really matters.
on the 12th September, 2012 at 12:27pm
We should not get too concerned with this result. In the next games we should see te return of Barlz, Chiellini and Abate at the back. De Rossi in midfield and a front 3 of Balo, Destro and Insigne in a 433. The positives were the performances of Marchisio and Insigne, with Destro playing well out of position. My biggest fear with CP is the formation. If he wants to play a trequartista, fine, but Diamanti, Montolivo or an out of position Marchisio isn't the answer.
on the 12th September, 2012 at 10:20am
I can't believe this game was not broadcasted on TV, your article did give me some insight on how the boys in blue are doing. I don't know whether to be happy, it sounds as if they are not getting off to the best off starts. Why does no one have any faith in Giovinco??
on the 12th September, 2012 at 9:45am
I feel very frustrated with the last 2 performance. I want to see us put teams to the sword. We all go on about our strength in depth in attack yet we always struggle to score goals. I think prandelli should be more worried about this than anything else. It was the same story in the euros when we only scored 6 goals. In the past perhaps defensively when we where a lot better this was less of an issue but at present defensively we look ok but nothing more, therefore we must be more clincial.
on the 12th September, 2012 at 9:41am
Pirlo was man marked, and was tightly marked with Bulgaria, we need to try and be less reliant on him. Unlike against England and to some degree Germany in the Euros teams are going to get tight to pirlo and try to stop him playing we need to be able to adapt to this. The last 2 matches have shown me just how valuable balzaretti, chiellini, motta, montolivo, de rossi, balotelli, cassano and rossi (when fit) are to us. Cassani did ok, I'd play him ahead of Maggio everytime.
on the 12th September, 2012 at 9:36am
Not happy with the perfomance. I was expecting more goals we should be beating the likes of malta 5-0 maybe more. Prandelli keeps saying how we dont play well at this time of the year but we where playing malta not spain.Give some credit to malta they defended well but we should be doing a lot better.Destro and Insigne where the only bright sparks for me. We need a big improvement next month against Armenia and Denmark in which we are more clincal in front of goal hopefully we will get this.
on the 12th September, 2012 at 9:29am

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