If nothing else, at least this Confederations Cup campaign can silence those armchair pundits who still believe Catenaccio exists in Italian football. Conceding eight goals in three group games – and scoring just as many – is the antithesis of ‘go 1-0 up and shut up shop’ clichés. At times the Azzurri played football every bit as spectacular as the Seleçao, complete with Mario Balotelli’s scorpion back-heel flick to set up Emanuele Giaccherini’s goal. As always, what they lack is consistency, but there were flashes of something truly wonderful and they can build on that.
Perhaps Cesare Prandelli ought to surreptitiously move all the clocks so the team think a game is going to start an hour earlier. It might finally get the players to wake up some time before the 30th minute of a match. I’m so tired of seeing Italy start with what looks like a hangover, stumbling around at half-speed and passing the ball straight to their opponents. The side always picks up in the second half for a rousing performance, so the problem has to be psychological. I’ve never seen so many misplaced passes in such a short amount of time, so it was no wonder Italy couldn’t get out of their own half in those early stages. You could also blame Prandelli for these poor starts, as his initial tactical choices rarely prove correct and adjustments contribute to the team settling in during the game.
There were plenty of positives to enjoy in Salvador de Bahia. A team without Andrea Pirlo and Daniele De Rossi still managed to put Brazil under sustained pressure and a 3-3 draw would’ve been a more fitting result. Mattia De Sciglio is growing in confidence at his tender age and even Christian Maggio put in a half-decent performance as a right-back. Antonio Candreva and Giaccherini may not be glamorous figures, but they are very handy utility players when called upon. Was finding strength in depth and gaining international experience not the reason for playing in this warm-up tournament?
Much of the criticism from fans and media has been aimed at Gianluigi Buffon after these three Confederations Cup games. People are bandying around phrases like ‘he’s past it’ or ‘it’s time for a younger goalkeeper.’ I shan’t stand for it. Buffon remains the best goalie in Italy and any disappointment with recent performances is just a reflection of how much he has spoilt us over the years. We cannot always expect Gigi to come to the rescue with miraculous saves, so it’s about time the rest of the team step up and give him some protection. It’s true he has started parrying a few too many shots into danger zones, but I am confident he will watch these videos and work on that weakness in training. Let’s not start writing his career obituary yet!
There are good things in this 4-2 defeat to Brazil. Prandelli, his men and the fans must focus on the positive and build on promising foundations rather than get out the wrecking ball.