Wednesday June 25 2014
Prandelli’s technical failure?

Italy’s early exit came at the hands of some uncharacteristically poor decisions by Cesare Prandelli, explains Alasdair Mackenzie.

“The technical project failed and it’s only right I take responsibility.”

These may prove to be Cesare Prandelli’s last words as Italy boss, four years after taking the reins in the wake of the Azzurri’s capitulation at South Africa 2010. The simultaneous resignation of Giancarlo Abete, President of the Italian Football Federation, underlines just how damaging the defeat to Uruguay and subsequent elimination from the 2014 World Cup is for Italian football.

It is the first time in 48 years Italy have fallen in consecutive World Cup first-rounds. Gianluigi Buffon, the Azzurri’s talismanic captain, was fully aware of the scale of disappointment being felt at home” “It’s a very sad day for Italy as a nation. It’s a day of failure, there is no point denying it.”

Debate will rage as to whether or not Prandelli was right to resign in such a way, before the strong emotions of injustice over Claudio Marchisio’s expulsion and Luis Suarez’s cannibalistic attack on Giorgio Chiellini have subsided. When looking at the 56-year-old’s competitive record with the Azzurri before Brazil 2014 kicked off, it would have been hard not to be impressed - W20, D6, L3. Prandelli’s Italy never lost a qualification match and the only sides to beat his Azzurri in a competitive match were Spain and Brazil.

The run to the final of Euro 2012 will be considered Prandelli’s greatest achievement as Italy boss. The Azzurri entered the tournament unfancied, but the Andrea Pirlo-inspired side will be fondly remembered for Mario Balotelli’s blistering semi-final strike, and celebration, against Germany and Pirlo’s perfectly executed Panenka penalty against England.

With the backdrop of this surprising success, a third-place finish at last summer’s Confederations Cup and another unbeaten qualifying campaign, many fans of the Azzurri were quietly confident this summer, despite the difficult group they had been drawn in.

An opening day victory over England was the perfect start. Prandelli got his tactics spot on and Pirlo again ran the show as La Nazionale opened their account in style. With Costa Rica shocking the watching world with a 3-1 win over Uruguay, the odds seemed to be stacked in Italy’s favour not only to progress, but to win the group.

What happened next is harder to comprehend. Prandelli is known as a Coach who is very tactically astute and rarely gets things wrong, but his approach against Costa Rica left many observers scratching their heads.

Everybody agreed that Los Ticos should not be underestimated, but replacing Marco Verratti with Thiago Motta in the centre of midfield was a decision that in hindsight gave far too much respect to an opponent Italy should have dominated. Matteo Darmian and Antonio Candreva, so impressive against England, could not get into the game and Balotelli was left completely isolated. Prandelli did not have any answer to the defensive organisation of his opponents and resorted to throwing on all his attackers - Lorenzo Insigne, Alessio Cerci and Antonio Cassano - none of whom could even come close to altering the outcome.

After this defeat, though, Prandelli‘s team only needed a draw in order to progress. In Natal against Uruguay, he set the team out in a completely different shape, inspired by Juventus in a 3-5-2 formation that featured Bianconeri Buffon, Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini at the back. However, as predicted, Ciro Immobile and Balotelli looked utterly confused playing alongside each other and again the wide players struggled to make an impact. Although Prandelli will feel hard done by the Marchisio and Suarez controversies, he has looked in his resignation to shoulder the blame for fielding a team that had looked utterly impotent going forward prior to Marchisio’s expulsion in any case.

A feature of Prandelli’s Italy has been their comfort on the ball and ability to dictate the pace of a game. However, a constant criticism levelled at the Azzurri is that their possession does not lead to the creation of goalscoring opportunities regularly enough, all too often reliant upon the occasional brilliant pass from Pirlo releasing Balotelli.

The statistics back this up. Italy had more of the ball in all their World Cup games – 53 per cent against England, 55 per cent against Costa Rica and 52 per cent against Uruguay – yet in each of their games it was the opposition who had more shots on goal. The Azzurri managed 10 to England’s 16, eight to Costa Rica’s 10 and four to Uruguay’s 10. Two goals in three games is perhaps the most telling statistic of Italy’s problems as an international side.

Prandelli’s tactical tinkering may have also been unsettling for the team. As well as choosing a different shape to face Uruguay, the former Fiorentina boss used 21 of his 23 squad members in only three matches. It could be argued that this would benefit players struggling in challenging weather conditions, but it cannot have helped the team settle into a rhythm with the personnel changing so regularly. After such a promising start to the World Cup, Prandelli seemed to finally run out of ideas and, despite the injustice of Suarez staying on the pitch, Italy ultimately paid the price for not being good enough when it mattered most.

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Have your say...
Italy needs real players as before...Baresi, Gentile, Baggio, Conti, Maldini, Totti, Rossi, Tardelli, Cannavaro, Zola and currently Buffon. These guys come to play and to win. Guys like Balotelli just likes to use the field to draw attention to his persona. A real waste. We need stallions on the field and a flamboyant coach on the sidelines like Enzo Bearzot. Enzo with his white suit and fedora and his cigar...that is so classic. Let's go Italy. We're better than 2014. Just do it.
on the 1st July, 2014 at 2:50am
Keeping Prandelli is insane. Has not known his best squad or formation for a long time. The inclusion of Motta, Aquilani, Cassano is laughable at best. An Azzurri side with NO PACE at all, and then we get to Mario fannysmelly. Up the tempo of seria a or fail at club and country level and it's happening now. Juve walked the title again, ask yourself how juve get on in la liga or even pl. The champions league is a very clear example.
on the 30th June, 2014 at 11:08pm
Keep Prandelli. Madness, has not known best squad or formation for at least a year. Then there's Motta, Aquilani, Cassano, Parolo and more not to mention Balo. A new start is needed and the Azzuri must find pace which is where they fall badly short. The tempo of seria a must be picked up or Italy will fail at club and international level, which is evidently already in process. Just look at the way juve walked the title, ask yourself how juve would fair in la liga or even pl.
on the 30th June, 2014 at 10:47pm
What we need and I don't emphasize it so many times enough is, A stern and a disciplinarian tactical coach with the likes of CONTE....
on the 30th June, 2014 at 12:19am
What we need and I don't emphasize it so many times enough is, A stern and a disciplinarian tactical coach with the likes of CONTE....
on the 30th June, 2014 at 12:19am
the best option for now is the ZOLA, BAGGIO combination and nothing else. Let their be QUOTA for italian players in CLUBS. At least SIX italian per team.
on the 28th June, 2014 at 4:43pm
I think Mancini may be the best available for the job if he accepts. He's someone who has won in the past and that matters. Plus, he's a cup specialist and that's what you need for a national team. And from what you read about him he's got a strong personality and will definitely reign in troublemakers.
on the 28th June, 2014 at 3:44pm
donadoni anyone or montella.......also maldini just a thought and "oh" almost forgot ferrara.
on the 28th June, 2014 at 3:04am
Prandelli had to go. Look at his last 10 games.....ONE win. I know they were friendly's, but they are meant to win and tune up for the tournament. They are not meant to be struggles. Rossi was a big mistake, then bringing in Cassano at the end vs Uruguay was simply stupid. The team is tired, Parolo added no pace, you have Cerci, Insigne and Candreva guys who can run all day, and you bring in Cassano playing with 10 men?? Oh well, Russia 2018
on the 27th June, 2014 at 6:57pm
Leaving G.Rossi and even the warrior Destro out showed straight away what was in store. Cassano's days were over and the midfield was terrible. Prandelli the ex-Juve did the right thing to resign and hide himself. The players looked too tired with no fighting spirit and NOT motivated at all.
on the 27th June, 2014 at 8:29am
Great point TO.

The world cup has improved over the years with the standard of the teams which has resulted in fewer big scores.
What hasn't changed is the standard of the referees
because FIFA feel this need to give all continents a chance to be represented through their refs regardless of their experience hence some shocking decisions and refereeing we've seen.
on the 26th June, 2014 at 9:59pm
Cassano & Parolo came on because Prandelli lost faith with Insigne and Cerci - it was a mess in the end.
There are 2 ways to interpret De Rossi comments, firstly pot calling kettle black given his 2006 performances or a deep reservation in the attitude of the younger generation. We will find out soon enough but what's clear a squad needs to have harmony & unity. This squad sounds divided with little team spirit, I'm afraid that the damage done could cause a hangover into Euro qualifications.
on the 26th June, 2014 at 9:58pm
Luciano S - Roby is the only solution. We will turn into England if something is not done. Baggio had a plan and he wasn't allowed to implement it. I don't know if it is nostalgia, romanticism or what but think the Roby Baggio Italy Story needs a satisfactory conclusion.
on the 26th June, 2014 at 9:43pm
Also often overlooked is in the interest of feel-good, Kumbaya, United Nations 'fairness', the supposed most prestigious sporting event on earth is officiated by third world amateurs. It's a joke. Every other sport handpicks its best refs for playoffs and championships, FIFA purposefully chooses the runts of the litter with no high end experience for the WC. I would rather be reffed by an Englishman against ENG, than ever have a Mexican, Zambian, Bharainian ref preside over a critical ITA game
on the 26th June, 2014 at 9:21pm
Conte is great in the league hopeless in Europe.Ancellotti is great in Europe but average in the league.Neither one is available.Mancini needs 300m to win the league plus he doesn't get the players on his side.Zaccaroni no thanks.Same with Spalletti.Allegri,mmm,don't know.

Seems to me Prandelli may have to stay if his mind can be changed.He's been in the job 4 years,knows the national side,international football plus tournament football.Did well in Spain 2012 but then it's been downhill since.
on the 26th June, 2014 at 8:42pm
Maldini's Heir yes you're right it's not good that senior players criticised Prandelli but you have to ask yourself why they did that.I can't remember are senior players in the past doing so.Can you?Thats a worry.
Usually its Holland who do that.
You have to respect the opinions of the seniors.

Good shout from Babu suggesting Vincenzo Montella for manager.
on the 26th June, 2014 at 8:13pm
There is only one person who can unite the new Italy. He's been there and done it as a player and would inspire every single player and every single supporter. His name is Roberto Baggio.
on the 26th June, 2014 at 7:08pm
The blame lies squarely on Prandelli's and his associates he had all the time in the world to try out the different player formations. Balotelli is what he is but he was left alone to attack? There are enough players in the Italian team. It's easy to quit there is nothing honourable in any of this, Italy did not attack how the hell do you go to a World Cup and not play or attack. Wake up Italy!
on the 26th June, 2014 at 6:46pm
List of potential candidates for Italy job :

Max Allegri

Antonio Conte

Edy Reja

Francesco Guidolin

Giampiero Ventura

Vincenzo Montella

Fabio Capello is still the best, no doubt about it ! He knows what he is doing !
on the 26th June, 2014 at 6:41pm
Prandelli, Roy Hogson & Vicente Del Bosque, all need to go, none of them change their tactic at all, stick to the same game plan throughout thus now on the way flying back ! Serve you right ! Really I've got a lot of respect for Cesare Prandelli but he really disappoint me !

Talking about Carlos Ancelotti, I too respect him when he was with AC Milan but after watching the games in La Liga & against Atletico, I doubt Ancelotti is a good tactician to lead Italy.

Max Allegri is still the man !!!!
on the 26th June, 2014 at 6:31pm
@ sanrella it's not good that senior players who did perform seemingly pushed out the manager or criticise other junior members of the squad. That would be my bigger concern.
on the 26th June, 2014 at 6:09pm
Pirlo says he has retired from international duty yet he would be available for the next manager.

Errr in other words he hasn't retired.

As for Prandelli,it's not good that some senior players questioned his tactics/methods etc.That makes you think more that he should be gone rather than the federation try to keep him.

I think Prandelli is a man of honour and a genuine person so I don't see him changing his mind.
on the 26th June, 2014 at 5:28pm
And his formations are so rigid. The 4-3-3 he played which eventually got us to third place was so rigid it creaked. The players never changed positions and the only innovations were moving Monty in front of the back four (after he'd given away Pirlo) and getting Flamini to run past Niang occasionally down the right. It was pretty bad. I'd like to see him redeem himself with another club side before he takes charge of Italy.
on the 26th June, 2014 at 4:36pm
@ Jake I've so many mixed feelings about Allegri. I supported him through 2 and a bit years but was calling for him to be sacked after the disastrous start to the 2012/2013 season. Then he turned it around and I was back on side and then he lost it again at the beginning of last season and finally I lost my patience. I also cannot forgive him for getting rid of Pirlo. I think that decision alone (I know I always bang on about hindsight blah blah) but seriously that decision was shocking.
on the 26th June, 2014 at 4:33pm
I think Italian football in general has a problem. Italy does not seem to be producing good players like it once used to. Looking at the Italian forwards, I dont see anyone with the quality of Baggio, Signori, Zola, etc.. We no longer have the likes od Nesta, Cannavaro, Costacurta, Baresi, Maldini etc. Its inevitable that the national team will suffer at some point. No to mention hortage of good coaches. Other than Conte and Ancelotti, I cant see any other coach who can kick things ino shape.
on the 26th June, 2014 at 3:47pm
And BTW, if it were up to me, I would give the job to Allegri. I believe he would do well with the national team.
on the 26th June, 2014 at 3:46pm
Prandelli had to go and no doubt he is part of the failure, but I think the players themselves are more to blame. How can you loose to Costa Rica and to a garbage Uruguay team? They should have won all 3 games. They had an easy path until the quarters.

Prandelli and all the players need to apologize to the Italian people for this failure. Simply unacceptable.
on the 26th June, 2014 at 3:42pm
Also it is not encouraging reading that Pirlo is stating that he would be at the disposal of the next manager. Surely not! Pirlo, you have a world cup medal, you have nothing else to prove. Besides its time Italy learnt to play without you as it will give others the chance to step up and not play at your pace all the time. No dude it is time for Pirlo and Buffon to pack it in and be only available for emergencies.
on the 26th June, 2014 at 3:39pm
I didnt believe in a lot of players in this squad as I cannot for the life of me think how you could go to a tournament without a left back. Destro, Rossi and Pasqual should have been there. Not gonna blame any player but if there is 1 i would like never to see in an Italy shirt ever again then its Chiellini. For me he is an utter waste of space, diving, play acting and no ability at all. He spends too much time irking players than defending xs. Not to mention going off injured when needed
on the 26th June, 2014 at 3:36pm
Poor choices by CP as subs against Uruguay. Cassano should have come on for Balo and not when Italy were down to 10 men. You need some1 with pace n energy in those cases not Cassano. Not sure Parolo n Motta were needed against Uruguay but all these stemmed from pre world cup. Myself and some questioned their preparation and I was really irate they could only draw 1-1 with Luxembourg but some kept saying its Italy as if its their birthright to do well at the wc but not be serious in other games
on the 26th June, 2014 at 3:31pm

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