That was pretty much the performance we expected from an experimental Italy side in Copenhagen: a few spurts of creativity interrupting long periods of below par football with heart more than quality scraping a result. Let’s just breathe a sigh of relief and be thankful the Azzurri’s unbeaten record in World Cup qualifiers since 2004 remains intact.
At least we got to see what some players can do, both in positive and negative terms. Dani Osvaldo confirmed himself to be an effective striker when he’s not riding the crazy train, Thiago Motta is another alternative to Andrea Pirlo – though I’d prefer Marco Verratti – and Andrea Ranocchia is still a terrible defender. It doesn’t matter how many opportunities you give to the Inter centre-back, he’s just not going to deliver. So here’s hoping this latest test convinced Cesare Prandelli to scrub his name off the list of potential call-ups.
We were all so proud when Italy qualified with two games to spare, the first time in the country’s history this had been achieved for a World Cup. Looking at the other results now, it’s a less impressive feat. Whoever finishes second in Group B will likely miss out on the play-offs anyway, as all the other runners-up have amassed more points. Denmark, Armenia, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic all took points off each other to make it inevitable Italy would break away at the top. It’s as if these teams got into a circle and invited each side to shoot the other in the foot.
Still, let’s focus on the positives from Copenhagen. Italy does have a lot of competition for places in attack and midfield, which could not be said a few years ago. Giuseppe Rossi is returning to fitness and I look forward to seeing what kind of partnership he can form with Mario Balotelli. Alessio Cerci is a useful figure to throw on in the second half when opponents are tired and at Torino this season has developed tactically to become more versatile.
I just hope Prandelli continues with the experiments against Armenia on Tuesday night. What we do not need to see is Pirlo starting in midfield. I don’t even know why he’s part of this group once qualification is assured, especially as he has begun to look fatigued for Juventus. And try not to take lessons from Milan on how to defend headers, otherwise you end up making Nicklas Bendtner look good.
Having said all that, let’s not pretend it wasn’t amusing to ruin Denmark’s hopes of qualification in stoppages with a 2-2 scoreline. Sweet Scandinavian revenge for Euro 2004...