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Sunday June 15 2014
Adaptable Azzurri

Victory over England proved Italy can both flourish with best-laid plans and tear them up to start again, says Susy Campanale.

It was far from the ideal way to prepare for a World Cup opener. Losing Riccardo Montolivo and accepting Giuseppe Rossi’s lack of fitness. Days beforehand Mattia De Sciglio was ruled out, then with hours to spare legendary captain Gigi Buffon followed suit. Giorgio Chiellini had to brush the cobwebs off his left-back boots and Salvatore Sirigu make only his second competitive outing in an Azzurri jersey – the other being four years ago in Estonia. It’s enough to make a Coach like Cesare Prandelli tear his hair out.

England thought they had done everything right, taking advantage of Italy’s injury woes to field an all-attack side with the Raheem Sterling/Danny Welbeck question transformed into a Sterling+Welbeck equation. In theory, Roy Hodgson had the game in the palm of his hand. In theory.

Italians flourish when they are up against the odds, we all know that and this is also why friendly draws against Luxembourg aren’t particularly frightening. We don’t like it easy. Far too boring. Drop the Nazionale into a full-blown crisis and they are in Blue Heaven. Sirigu – thank goodness – is no Federico Marchetti, as we all feared a repeat of the South Africa debacle when Buffon was last injured in a World Cup. Paris Saint-Germain have a great goalkeeper and he showed an admirably cool head under immense pressure.

England changed some of their tactics at the last minute, but it was mainly the same approach promised by Hodgson: try to close down Andrea Pirlo and attack with pace. The problem here is that Prandelli saw old Roy coming a mile away and had plenty of time to undermine the whole affair. Run at Pirlo every time he is near the ball? Then he’ll sell you a dummy and create space for the other Italy players. It worked like a charm on Claudio Marchisio’s goal and on several occasions, suggesting this double playmaker system with Marco Verratti has real legs in future too.

Daniele De Rossi’s position is also crucial, providing the kind of coverage and security that for example Milan sorely needed in their final seasons with Pirlo. This quality of midfield is only sustainable thanks to the Roma man, who is effectively working as a sweeper. And, let’s face it, an extra sentinel was essential with Gabriel Paletta there...

Prandelli said tactics and line-ups could change at the last minute, but not fitness levels. He was proved so very right at the Arena Amazonia. Usually it’s Italy players gasping for air in the final minutes of games, but we were greeted to the unusual sight of Azzurri veterans like Chiellini helping young England starlets deal with cramp. It was a Twilight Zone moment, much like seeing the England physio stretchered off with a sprained ankle after over-celebrating.

The Nazionale experienced these conditions in the Confederations Cup last year and learned a great deal from it. Building the so-called ‘Casetta Manaus’ – basically a sauna – in Italy’s training camp was a masterstroke. England merely trained with several layers of clothing, but that cannot hope to replicate the humidity and stifling air of an Amazonian rainforest environment. It’s a completely different kettle of steamed fish. Prandelli’s staff deserve absolute praise for this performance and we can only hope the fitness levels are maintained during the tournament, especially in less challenging atmospheric conditions.

Another great piece of planning was Matteo Darmian. He can really be the Fabio Grosso of Brazil 2014, a full-back from a minor club who suddenly bursts on to the scene and proves decisive. The 24-year-old Torino talent was remarkable against England and it looks as if we’ve finally found the right player for that role after searching through so many dire options. Christian Maggio, goodbye and never come back. However, it now seems worrying that Prandelli doesn’t have a replacement left-back when De Sciglio has spent most of the season injured at Milan already.

Finally, a word of praise for Mario Balotelli. He worked hard, did not let frustration get the better of him and kept plugging away even after a spectacular Phil Jagielka goalline clearance denied him that long-awaited breakthrough. I am glad SuperMario silenced his critics, though I am confident this blog will still receive numerous comments insisting he should be dropped. Chatter away, because Balo is here to stay.

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Have your say...
How does somebody manage to turn it to an attack on juventus for the goal, it is Italy playing, and pirlo and marchisio scored the goal that put them ahead, pirlo played well, marchisio played well and only pauletta looked shaky at the back, season is over mate take a break, you can polish your daggers for august, in the mean time come on Italy,Balo is lazy, you cant deny that, he scored, but it was on a plate for him thanks to a great cross, he did nothing else creativ
on the 15th June, 2014 at 11:45am
@Jenkins and mm You are in the wrong forum/blog. Please stop posting. Anyways to better ppl, Darmian was excellent as were Pirlo and Sirigu sans his kicking. Chiellini is a bad left back while the subs baffled me. I just wish Italy do not go on defensive mode as it's not their forte. Balo played his role well & thats another goal
on the 15th June, 2014 at 11:39am
Insigne. Immobile. Cerci. These players have a relationship after their connections respectively at Pescara and Torino. It has the element of surprise as and they will bring enthusiasm with a point to prove.

A solid win last night. Compliments to England they actually defended as a cohesive unit and looked inventive.

I think our fitness will start to show for the good when we are not trapped in the jungle.
on the 15th June, 2014 at 11:36am
My, Paletta was bad!
on the 15th June, 2014 at 11:30am
Great win last night, only negtive i would say is LB, Chiellini did a good job but hes better at as CB hopfully we'll have De Sciglio back for the next game and i still think Balo needs some with him apart from that great win
on the 15th June, 2014 at 11:21am
@ Tardelli '82 you're exactly right the main area of criticism is the left back area. This is starting to look like a more risky decision than leaving out Rossi. Chiellini cannot play at left back. Darmian might be moved across but is not a left back. This is not looking good. We need De Sciglio back asap. At this rate hopefully we can beat a decent Costa Rica team and qualify and get De Sciglio back for the knock outs.
on the 15th June, 2014 at 10:44am
Quite impressed with Darmian, but he's still has to improve defensively. Although, his positioning is remarkably better than the two stooges, Abate & De Sciglio. The latter injury actually did us a favor, but Chiellini is missed at the center back as Palletta looked lost in the sea. I'd like to see Bonucci instead, or rather go to three at the back. Defense looks a little bit shaky and tired.
on the 15th June, 2014 at 10:42am
Great article. I agree 100%. I think Candreva was worth a mention as for me he was man of the match. You have to hand it to Prandelli. I think best ignore the comments about Balo at this stage as there's not much point in engaging with people who'll never accept him. Interesting comments however coming from Prandelli and De Rossi. They want more from him! I agree. Lets see where he can take us.
on the 15th June, 2014 at 10:39am
Great to get the win over the English as usual. It keeps their journalists quite for a while. Well, for a few days, anyway!

Italy are in a great position to qualify now. Costa Rica can't be taken for granted after their fine win, but Italy should beat them.

A more attacking line-up against Costa Rica could work with Insigne up with Balotelli perhaps.
on the 15th June, 2014 at 10:32am
@mm yeah I know I was being harsh but he has to do better than that if he thinks his going to walk into the BD starting lineup! Maybe if they had a support striker he would have had an option! Keeping balo on and added cassano would have been my option, best form of defense is attack and all that!

But we played very well as a unit again the best England team I've seen for a long time!
on the 15th June, 2014 at 10:29am
The players that make me worry was Paletta. Why Prandelli opted Paletta instead of Leo Bonnuci. Palleta look nerves during the game.
on the 15th June, 2014 at 10:26am
Forza Italia.... A great game of football. Italy's class shone in the end.
on the 15th June, 2014 at 10:13am
Ballo is the best we have up front and he was clinical ! I agree with de Rossi that if he ran into spaces there would be more threats on goal . Spot on for Prandelli and candreva is fantastic ! The shackles are of nerve wise . It will get better from here on !!!! Forza Italia
on the 15th June, 2014 at 10:04am
Proud of Prandelli's tactics yesterday. Had they faced any team other than Italy, England would have scored more for sure.
I hope it was the last game for Chiellini as a left back. And Buffon may well take his time to recover as Super Siri was doing the job excellently.

Hope to keep the form like this and perhaps better , Forza Azzurri!
on the 15th June, 2014 at 10:01am
What a great match. Gli Azzurri looked like they could step up a gear when required Balo off the ball movement may not be as good as it could be but play the ball to his feet he brings others into the match. CP got the formation & personnel correct. Chillini did a job at LB. Many players deserved a MOTM mention but I thought Dermian was superb for the first 60 minutes and Pirlo for a 35year old was most consistent till the end. Wow what a free kick deserved to go under bar. FORZA GLI AZZURRI
on the 15th June, 2014 at 9:56am
Putting aside 5-3 against the club side our previous 7 games were draws including the recent 1-1 against Luxumbourg.

Only an idiot would have made anything of this and it seems there were plenty of idiots in the english press.

When push comes to shove the Azzurri deliver the goods because its in their DNA.
on the 15th June, 2014 at 9:31am
@Jenkins, please stop whining, it's boring. Balo might not make the best mover off the ball, but he worked hard and scored the winner. Prandelli wants Italia to be adaptable, so dont be surprised to see Immobile and Insigne start against Costa Rica.
on the 15th June, 2014 at 9:28am
again england we cannot use 2 striker, it is because with 5 m.field we can close space for very fast england player who are very good at counter attack..good game plan by CP..i hope next game darmain will play as a left back and abate at right..
on the 15th June, 2014 at 9:26am
Balo proved he is the man for the big occasion.
He was totally isolated and we struggled to get the ball to him.Despite that he scored the winner and almost scored an all time classic when he chipped Hart so he can't be criticised.It seems to me he is up for the World Cup and his tweet before the game showed that.

On the other hand you could have a striker who runs around like crazy and always has the ball but never scores.

Loved the shot of Hart saying 'Wow' to Pirlo.What a free kick
on the 15th June, 2014 at 9:23am
Great result. Performance was professional and composed. I do really fail to see what some many of you seem to regarding balo. 'Vinny' I think your words about immobile are unjust, by the time he was brought on italy were pinned so far back, he was only brought on to keep englands defence back. Balotelli goal was well taken BUT he did little else, and he has to stop moaning at team mates, someone has to tell him: he doesnt move, its shocking what little he does! We r stuck with him now!
on the 15th June, 2014 at 9:21am
Great performance from Italy.Had that been England they would be drooling over it for years.I'm over the moon.
Always so good to beat England.It was agony watching.


Stirling was the one that worried me before the game and it was mainly him who caused problems.Lets remember we were missing FOUR starters.We also had to re-shuffle our defence because of DeSceglio.Paletta was a problem and at fault for the first goal.With Buffon and DeSceglio back it will be a different story.
on the 15th June, 2014 at 9:18am
You have to hand it to CP. tactically he got it spot on. I was unsure about Candreva; and Balo playing on his own but Candreva was amongst our best performers. We have limited options at the back so did well to thwart a busy but naive ENG front line. (we were hardly run ragged). Error on not bringing a proper LB as Chiellini is a much better CB. Glad we got off to a winning start and decent performance by the majority. Fratelli D'Italia
on the 15th June, 2014 at 9:12am
What a performance last night! Composed, cool and calculated. Italy looked slick. I agree, Balo worked tirelessly and deserved his goal. I am sure CP will change his formation and style to suit Costa Rica ... he's all about the tactics after all, one of the best. Overall, I wouldn't change anything and even Candreva played well..Only criticism is that Balo was isolated at times up front and the midfield were too far away from him...I'd like to see Cassano up there with him doing some one, twos.
on the 15th June, 2014 at 8:23am
@gaja Balo was also caught offside a lot because he couldn't be bothered to walk back to help his team mates. Saying that he did score a good goal. Would start with Immobile and Insigne next game to give Balo a rest! Sirigu has to play next game too.
on the 15th June, 2014 at 7:59am
@Jenkins. I cannot believe you are knocking Balotelli when he won the game for Italy. A mark of a really good player is that when he has to be clinical he scored! But I guess from the time of your blog you probably need your sleep. Whilst I agree Italy do have options with Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne, however please give him some credit, otherwise the keep quiet sign from Balotelli was exactly aimed at you!
on the 15th June, 2014 at 7:03am
Jenkins: Do nothing with the ball? Balotelli has remarkable pace, strength and technical ability; he's also a dead ball specialist and considered one of the best penalty kick takers in world football. Statistically he's the national team's [current] leading scorer...and he's only 23. There's no denying he's a gifted player. So because he doesn't dribble the ball like Messi he's no good? That's like saying Sidney Crosby is not a good player cuz he's not Gretzky...give your head a shake.
on the 15th June, 2014 at 5:47am
gaja i agree with you 150%. i thought i was watching inzaghi when immobile came on... and that chance he had when he was in the clear, granted it was a lot of space to cover... i am sure balo would have put that in or at least force the keeper into a save...
on the 15th June, 2014 at 5:18am
win is important.but some concerns too.spcialy in left.hope de sciglio back soon.must do balo with cassano.cassano to take verratti's place.to change system too
4:1;3:2 is better
on the 15th June, 2014 at 4:07am
I thought Balotelli would be 2 isolated when i saw the line-up.Italians r so good at tactics.Also was it just me or did Henry seem a bit anti-italian.I know he had more success with Arsenal than Juve but he seemed very biased.I am an England fan but have liked Italy since Italia 90 n i still rate serie a as Candreva once again proved that a player from not one of top clubs n with not too much international experience can still be world class.Thought Italy would win after national anthems.
on the 15th June, 2014 at 3:57am
Any England journalist/tv pundit sayin GERREARD is Englands Pirlo is ridiculous n sayin,that u can just man-mark him is also overestimated as it creates space 4 other great midfielders Italy have n Pirlo will do spmething extraordinairy anyway even when under pressure like tonight.Good at end when Harte shook his hand n said wow,glad he hit bar for Hartes sake,bet he has nightmares over Andrea.Chuffed England had a go n it was closer this time but well-done Italy,espec after all injuries.
on the 15th June, 2014 at 3:48am

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