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Thursday October 17 2013
The formations of Italy

What system should Italy boss Cesare Prandelli use at World Cup 2014? David Swan looks at the options.

The 2-2 draw with Armenia brought to an end another successful round of tournament qualification for Italy - securing their place in Brazil two games early and going unbeaten through a second campaign. It makes Coach Cesare Prandelli the first since Ferruccio Valcareggi to lead Italy through two qualifying sections unbeaten. To put that into context, Enzo Bearzot, Azeglio Vicini, Arrigo Sacchi, Giovanni Trapattoni and Marcello Lippi have all had chances to do so since Valcareggi and failed.

That Prandelli has been present for both Euro 2012 and 2014 World Cup qualifiers offers a chance to analyse where his Italy team is now, heading into Brazil, compared to where it was three years ago heading into Poland and Ukraine.

We knew before Euro 2012 how the team was going to play – Prandelli had used 4-3-1-2 for each game leading up to the event. It was only during his first four in charge, where he attempted to play with width, that he used a different system (4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1). Although he threw a curveball by introducing 3-5-2 for the first two games of the tournament proper, he soon changed back to what was then his stock formation. The team was set, they knew what he wanted, and by crunch time he had settled on a combination of players in midfield and attack.

Fast forward a few years and it is all change. He has used five different systems since the 4-0 Final defeat to Spain, a multitude of player combinations, and seems no closer to deciding how he wants his XI players to line up.

It is reminiscent of Lippi’s 2010 World Cup preparations, which also contained a number of system changes. He justified it using the ‘tactical flexibility’ line, but as useful as it was to be able to switch, all it produced was a confused team, albeit one not helped by the lack of talent available at the time.

The reality is that most tournament-winning teams do not win it by being able to change through a plethora of different systems – the majority use two at most, with one of those the alternative for when plan A isn’t working – similar to Lippi’s World Cup winning team in 2006.

The bottom line is that if Italy are to enjoy a successful tournament next year, Prandelli needs to pick a system now and stick with it. The last two qualifying games saw him start the match with two different formations – indicative of the luxury he had to experiment, but also the indecision that has been evident for the last 18 months. He probably has more talent to pick from than he did three years ago, particularly in forward areas, but it seems the options he has are leading to the difficulty in nailing down a choice. Here is a rundown of the five systems he has used since the Euro 2012 finale, and the pros and cons of each.

4-3-3

Pros: It offers the width that most teams desire at the top level, and allows Mario Balotelli – one of the most important players in the team – to be the focal point of the attack. Playing with two wide players also offers the chance to fit Lorenzo Insigne – who so far is playing in such a way that it is difficult to justify leaving him out in the team – in his best position. The Napoli youngster was one of the best players against Armenia and is forcing the 4-3-3 issue with his performances.

Cons: The left side is fine – Insigne and Stephan El Shaarawy are not a bad duo to have competing for one spot. The problem is finding someone who can have an impact on the right side. The first thing to make clear is that Prandelli does not want to play with three forwards, so this spot has to go to a midfielder. Prandelli obviously likes Antonio Candreva, but it is debatable whether he has the quality to make a dent against the sort of teams Italy will need to beat to win the World Cup. Alessandro Florenzi has been brilliant for Roma at the start of this season, and his efforts in Naples on Tuesday did his chances no harm at all. Matches in which he has tried 4-3-3 have also seen Italy experience a lot of difficulty controlling the game – the midfield has often been overrun, and it has left Prandelli switching in the second half more often than not in an effort to regain control, even if he then returns to it for the next game.

3-5-2

Pros: It works incredibly well against Spain – still the team everyone is measuring themselves against in the international arena, regardless of the Confederations Cup. In the two games where they have played an Italy team lined up this way, they have been arguably second best. It allows the Azzurri to compete with the Spanish in the middle, but offers the width you need to hurt them when their wide midfielders inevitably wander inside to try and create superiority. That a large number of teams in Serie A are playing 3-5-2, including the reigning champions, is also a strong bargaining factor.

Cons: As great as it is against Spain, 3-5-2 doesn’t seem to work against anyone else. Croatia were comfortably the better team at Euro 2012 when Prandelli carried the 3-5-2 into the second group game (so much so that he reverted back for the rest of the tournament), Bulgaria took it apart in Sofia last year on their way to a 2-2 draw in qualifying, and it was so bad against Czech Republic last month that Prandelli switched to a back four after just 20 minutes.

4-3-1-2

Pros: The players are more than familiar with this, having played it for the best part of two years under the ex-Fiorentina boss. Italy have controlled games the best in this formation – the four central midfielders generally allowing for the lion’s share of ball possession, while also protecting Andrea Pirlo without the ball. Similar to the 4-3-3 and Insigne, the 4-3-1-2 allows another star performer in Serie A so far – Giuseppe Rossi – to play in his favoured position.

Cons: The lack of width is a problem – Spain exposed that in front of millions in Kiev just over 15 months ago, and that game seemed to trigger the experimentation with various shapes. There is also doubt over the trequartistaRiccardo Montolivo has little competition for the role in this system, even though he is not a classic exponent of the position.

4-3-2-1

Pros: A small variation on the above that sees Prandelli remove a striker and add a midfielder that, in theory, allows greater control of games with the extra man in the middle. It plays to Italy’s strengths in the middle – there is going to be fierce competition for midfield places in the squad next year, and if he picks the right combination this system could prove useful.

Cons: Unfortunately, Prandelli doesn’t usually pick the right combination. Candreva and Emanuele Giaccherini behind a striker are unlikely to concern top opposition. The options are there for the CT – if you assume a standard midfield three of Daniele De Rossi, Pirlo and Claudio Marchisio, that still leaves him with Montolivo, Marco Verratti, Alberto Aquilani and Alessandro Florenzi to pick from and move around in the five midfield spaces. But such is the determination to pick other players that it weakens the potential value of the formation. This also suffers with the width issue detailed above for the 4-3-1-2.

4-2-3-1

Pros: It’s in fashion, to say the least. Width, close support for Balotelli and probably the most opportunity for different player combinations perhaps make it surprising we have not seen this more often under Prandelli. He switched to this during the second half against Armenia, though this is probably because he wanted to chase the win, rather than a desire to test a team with Giuseppe Rossi, Insigne and Balotelli all on the pitch.

Cons: Prandelli has used it twice from the start of matches – most recently was against Brazil in the Confederations Cup group stage, the other was his very first game in charge, all the way back in 2010, against Ivory Coast. Both were defeats, and the Brazil game in particular saw a ludicrous double pivot of Montolivo and Aquilani get overrun – a problem that was repeated on Tuesday night (and against lesser opposition) when the team’s double pivot consisted of Montolivo and Pirlo. That Italy, or indeed many Serie A teams, has not used this too often means we probably won’t see it in Brazil next year.

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Have your say...
Italy aren't the same without pirlo .. He will play a central role with his experience, intelligence, vision and tactics.

I would go for a mixture of agression, creativity and experience.

Buffon
Sirigu
Marchetti
Cheillini LB
Barzagli RB
De sciglio CD
Maggio RB
Cricito CD
Ogbonna \ abate CD
Pasqual CD LB
De rossi CMF
Pirlo DLPM
Marchisio AMF
Montolivo CMF
Verratti CMF
Motta AMF
Candreva Wing MF
Giaccherini Wing MF
Berardi \ immobile \ osvaldo
Cerci F
Insigne F wing
G Rossi F
Balo F
on the 20th February, 2014 at 12:27am
It has to be 3-6-1 with Buffon; Barzagli-Bonucci-Chiellini; DeRossi-Verratti; Candreva-Cerci-Rossi-Berardi; Balotelli. Defense in M style, attack with wide wingers and technically skilled guys. Not a WC Champion but spectacular, possible Semifinalist surprise.
on the 14th February, 2014 at 11:51pm
Italy need pace n agression in brazil. they also need fresh legs due 2 hot weather. I go for 7 defenders with 3 who play wide, 8 MF of which 3 classic wingers cum 2 attacking options and 5 pure strikers.

Buffon
Sirigu
Marchetti
Cheillini LB
Barzagli RB
Abate CD RB
Maggio RB wings
Cricito CD
Ogbonna CD
Pasqual CD LB
De rossi CMF
Pirlo DLPM
Marchisio AMF
Montolivo CMF
Verratti CMF
Motta AMF
Candreva Wing MF
Giaccherini Wing MF
Diamanti AMF wing
Cerci F
Insigne F wing
G Rossi F
Balo F
on the 22nd December, 2013 at 11:27pm
My 23 :

3 GK, 7 Defenders with 3 who can play on the wings and go forward, 8 mid fielders with 3 wingers and 2 attacking MF,5 pure strikers

Buffon
Sirigu
Marchetti
Cheillini
Barzagli
Abate
Maggio
Cricito
Ogbonna or Bonucci
Pasqual or Balzaretti
De rossi
Pirlo
Marchisio
Montolivo
Verratti
Candreva
Giaccherini
Totti or Diamanti
Cerci
Cassano
Insigne
G Rossi
Balotelli
on the 13th December, 2013 at 11:20pm
I think my team suggestion is balanced with presence of holding MF, playmakers,top attackers,creative attackers, wingers n attacking mid fielders. Italy can go wide with candreva, diamanti, giaccherini, insigne, cassano, cerci and totti. Most of them are also are potent attackers. giuseppe rossi and balotelli as central forwards are great choice with support from the above mentioned powehouses. if things go wrong then the likes of insigne, cerci, diamanti and totti can step up to a strike role
on the 10th December, 2013 at 1:18am
Pool of 26- chose final 23 depending on tactics n formation italy want to play considering their 1st group n likely 2nd round opponents. I think brazil 14 will see aggressive football n italy must combine its flair n creativity by deploying aggressive tactics : Buffon
Sirigu
Marcheti
Chiellini
Abate
Barzagli
Bonnuci or Pasqual
Maggio or ogbona
Cricito
Derossi
Pirlo
Veratti
Motta
Montolivo
Marchisio
Candreva
Giacherini
Diamanti
Insigne
2 from Cerci,Cassano, osvaldo
Totti
Giusepe Rossi
Balotell
on the 10th December, 2013 at 1:08am
agree italy should play a purposeful strike team wit " go for the kill " forwards. balotelli's record in big games is gr8, he is big impact player respected by opposition. can't drop him. Balo, rossi, osvaldo, insigne, cerci r sure shots in strike. Chose 2 from Quag, cassano, di natale, totti depending on their fitness and form. I think totti and cassano must be included for their winning mentality, track record, experience, versatility, agressions, skills, creativity, ability to lead n inspire
on the 10th December, 2013 at 12:45am
italy have great wingers coming up d ranks - giaccherini and candreva for example who can also score. Marchisio can attack too. Motta n verratti provide solidity. Pirlo is a pivot, de rossi n montolivo can hold the ball n also protect defence, they also can improvise moving the ball around n doing constant creative moves. Cerci n diamanti can attack aggressively while playing in MF n wings. Insigne is improving on a daily basis so it looks good. I suspect he will be used as an out n out striker
on the 10th December, 2013 at 12:28am
italy have great wingers coming up d ranks - giaccherini and candreva for example who can also score. Marchisio can attack too. Motta n verratti provide solidity. Pirlo is a pivot, de rossi n montolivo can hold the ball n also protect defence, they also can improvise moving the ball around n doing constant creative moves. Cerci n diamanti can attack aggressively while playing in MF n wings. Insigne is improving on a daily basis so it looks good. I suspect he will be used as an out n out striker
on the 10th December, 2013 at 12:25am
Prandelli did well over past 3 years, italy performances have improved, they r more consistent, more confident, more aggressive but team selections do leave question marks over his judgements. Cassano, dinatale must b in side for their experience. Italy r too dependent on its strong mid field putting them under pressure to cover poorest defending side I have seen from italy over last 35 years. This approach can choke service to forwards against good attacking teams.
on the 10th December, 2013 at 12:10am
"It offers the width that most teams desire at the top level, and allows Mario Balotelli – one of the most important players in the team – to be the focal point of the attack."

He is certainly NOT one of the most vital players in this squad. He's made to be better than he actually is!

Where are Pazzini? Miccoli? Cassano? Cigarini? This tactically inept manager is going to screw us again.

And to think we have a more than decent chance to get our 5th Cup in Brazil.

Sack him now!
on the 8th December, 2013 at 6:47pm
denis, u got it! Tactics n formations vl change game 2 game n situ to situ but a central core remains. on basis of match winning abilities n current form buffon,pirlo,de rossi, candreva,insigne,marchisio,montolivo,motta,verratt,G rossi, balo,chiellini,abate, barzagli shud b playing 1st up with bonucci,maggio,cricito,diamanti,cerci n giaccherini providing d back ups. Cassano n totti r wild cards in selection n r dark horses, dey may well prove to be d difference.toss up for a few places in d team
on the 6th December, 2013 at 12:13am
Is Bonera an option in defense? Does he have something to offer that both Bonucci and Barzagli seem to lack in tighter marking, positioning, control & confidence. Milan improving now that he's back(plus Kaka)!
While there's a bit to go yet before June with injuries, improvements, etc - I'd like to see:
buffon
abate, bonera, chiellini,
pirlo
candreva,de rossi,giaccherini
parolo/florenzi/cassano(workrate?)
rossi, balotelli

insigne for giacch,
cerci/rossi
osvaldo/bal
on the 5th December, 2013 at 4:15pm
As an outsider but one who likes Italian culture & soccer flair, I see Italy as having a great chance in Brazil of reaching the latter stages. A great bet, given their odds, to go all the way.
I'd worry more about picking the right 11 players than systems. However systems tactics no doubt evolve when meeting different opponents with different tallents.
The positives for Italy is that they seem to be scoring more now than in previous years, but unfortunatley leaking too many goals in defence.
on the 5th December, 2013 at 3:48pm
Alternate line up

Buffon
Barzagli ( Sub Bonucci ) Abate, Chiellini
Holding MF De rossi (Sub Montolivo or Verratti or Motta)
DLPM - Pirlo ( sub Verratti )
Central MF Marchisio ( sub Verratti or montolivo ) Motta ( sub Diamanti )
Wings Candreva (sub Giaccherini), Insigne (sub cerci or Cassano)
2nd striker Giusseppe Rossi (sub Cerci or Cassano)
Forward Balotelli
on the 3rd December, 2013 at 10:36pm
Verratti is multi talented and can play various roles. Montolivo can push back a bit to team up with de rossi. If marchisio tires any of the versatile MF can step in as sub

Buffon
Barzagli ( Sub Bonucci ) Abate, Chiellini
Holding MF De rossi (Sub Montolivo or Verratti or Motta)
DLPM - Pirlo ( sub Verratti )
Central MF Marchisio ( sub Verratti or montolivo ) Motta ( sub Diamanti )
Wings Candreva (sub Giaccherini), Insigne
2nd striker Giusseppe Rossi (sub Cerci or Cassano)
Balotelli
on the 3rd December, 2013 at 10:32pm
It could finally look like :

GK : Buffon, Sirigu, Marchetti

Defence : Cheillini, Barzagli, Abate, Bonucci, Cricito, Maggio

Holding MF : De rossi, Montolivo, Marchisio

Central MF : Pirlo, Verratti, Motta

Wingers, attacking MF : Candreva, Giaccherini, Diamanti

Strikers : Insigne, Cerci, Cassano, Giuseppe Rossi, Balotelli
on the 3rd December, 2013 at 10:10pm
Italy 28 probables for FIFA 2014 : Brazil is hot n energy sapping so italy need fresh legs, extra reinforcements. 7 defenders, 5 strikers, 3 attacking MF wingers, 3 holding MF

Buffon, Sirigu, Marchetti
Cheillini, Barzagli, Abate, Bonucci, Cricito, Pasqual, Maggio, Rannochia, Ogbonna
Holding MF - De rossi, Montolivo, Marchisio
Central MF - Pirlo, Verratti, Motta
Wingers, attacking MF - Candreva, Giaccherini, Diamanti
Strikers - Insigne, Quagliarella, Cerci, di natale, Cassano, G Rossi, Balo
on the 3rd December, 2013 at 9:48pm
Italu squad of 23

Buffon, sirigu, marchetti,

cheillini,Barzagli, Abate, Bonucci, cricito, Pasqual

De rossi, Pirlo, Verratti, Motta, Candreva, Paloro or Giaccherini or Diamanti, Marchisio, Montolivo

Totti, Insigne, one from Di natale or Osvaldo, Cerci or Quagliarella, Giusspee Rossi, Balotelli
on the 12th November, 2013 at 11:02pm
Alternte line up for 3-5-2

Buffon
Defence Bazgagli Abate chiellini
Holding MF De rossi
Deep playmaker MF Pirlo
Central MF Motta (sub diamanti) Marchisio (sub Verratti) Montolivo (sub Giaccherini)
Attacking MF Insigne (Sub totti)
Second support striker G rossi
Forwarrd Balo

Team: buffon sirigu marchetti chiellini Barxgli Abate Bonnuci Pasqual Maggio (criscito) Pirlo De rossi Montolivo Marchisio Motta Verratti Diamanati Giccherini Candreva totti, dinatale ( (Cerci) Quag G Rossi Balo
on the 11th November, 2013 at 2:25am
Italy need aggression n options upfront, subs r critical as Brazil heat will sap energy

3-5-2

Buffon

Defence

Barzagli abate chiellini

Mid field

Holding MF De rossi
DLPM Pirlo
Central MF Verratti Motta
Attacking MF Insigne

Attack

2nd striker G rossi
Central forward Balo

Subs: totti cassano di natale giovinco quag verratti giaccherini pasqual rannochia bonnuci sirigu marchetti

Squad break up : 3 keepers,6 defenders, 1 holding MF, 1 deep lying playmaker MF, 5 MF, 7 strikers
on the 10th November, 2013 at 10:40pm
Remember how tired all of the European players got at the confederations cup, and how much use you need from th whole squad not just the starting 11, giccherini was the best player for Italy at the tournament, but does not necessarily have the quality
4-3-2-1
Buff
Abate-barzagli-chellini-balzaretti (due to form or crisc/ogb)
Pirlo- de Rossi - marchisio (Giach both doing the running in middle)
Totti - insigne
Balloteli
Subs
Cassano ,veratti as totti may tire, di Nat,bonnuci, sirgu,maggio,montoli
on the 7th November, 2013 at 2:26pm
4-3-3
Buffon, Sirigu, Perin
Abate, Bonucci, Chiellini, Criscito
De Sciglio, Ranocchia, Ogbonna, Santon
De Rossi, Cigarini, Marchisio
Poli, Verratti, Florenzi
Cerci, Balotelli, Insigne
Candreva, Destro, El Shaarawy


4-3-1-2
Buffon, Sirigu, Perin
Abate, Bonucci, Chiellini, Criscito
De Sciglio, Ranocchia, Ogbonna, Santon
Candreva, De Rossi, Marchisio
Cerci, Poli, Florenzi
Cigarini
Verratti
Balotelli, Insigne
Destro, El Shaarawy
on the 5th November, 2013 at 6:52pm
Totti for experience, leadership, aggression, dynamism coming in as 60 min sub. giovinco is an impact player n cud come as a super sub depending on match situation. earlier I did not include cassano or di natale, I feel they cud b asset if they maintain form in serie a. They r full of class,tricks n bring dynamism Buffon, abate, barzagli, chiellini, de rossi, pirlo, motta, verratti, insigne, G rossi, Balo Subs monto, marchisio, diamanti, cassano, totti, giovinco, canderva, balzaretti, ogbonna, bonucci
on the 27th October, 2013 at 2:49am
3-2-3-2

Buffon

Barzagli-Bonucci-Chiellini

DeRossi - holding MF - Pirlo - central playmaker

verratti - Motta - insigne - Attacking MF wingers

Giuseppe rossi - second striker

Balotelli - forward

Subs : montolivo, marchisio, candreva, giaccherini, balzaretti, ogbonna, abate, totti,Osvaldo, giovinco
on the 27th October, 2013 at 2:23am
Tickets booked for Italy vs. Nigeria @ Fulham, Craven Cottage 18th November.

Forza Azzurri
on the 25th October, 2013 at 11:30pm
Alternatively

4-2-3-1

Buffon

DeSciglio-Bonucci-Chiellini-D'Ambrosio

De Rossi-Verratti(Pirlo)

Candreva-Rossi-Cerci(Insigne)

Balotelli
on the 25th October, 2013 at 5:31pm
3-2-4-1

Buffon

Barzagli-Bonucci-Chiellini

DeRossi-Verratti(Pirlo)

Candreva-Cerci-Rossi-Florenzi(Insigne)

Balotelli

De Rossi and Verratti almost aligned with defense (forming a flat 'M') when defending.
on the 25th October, 2013 at 5:29pm
Prandelli has the best team. He just needs to understand how to get a formation, that puts the best 11 players on the pitch, all at once, in the best possible way. So here are 2 formations that do that:

4-3-2-1 (From L to R)
Chellini,Bonucci, DeRossi, Abate
Veratti, Pirlo, Marchisio
Insigne, G. Rossi
Balotelli

3-1-4-2 (From L to R)
Chellini, DeRossi, Bonnucci
Pirlo
Insigne, Veratti, Marchisio, Florenzi
G. Rossi, Balotelli

Italia would be unbeatable, with either of these 2 lineups/formations
on the 25th October, 2013 at 6:34am
Italia has always been known for their defense and it needs alot of attention. I think Crisito, Ogbonna, Chielli and Barzagli would be a good choice.
Also, physical fitness is very important. Prandelli has to make sure the team is in top physical condition.
Having Totti, Buffon, Pirlo and DeRossi will bring alot of confidence and leadership to the team.
I believe Italia has what it takes to win WC 2014, Euro 2016 and Wc 2018.
Forza Azzurri!
Viva Italia!
on the 24th October, 2013 at 6:44pm

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