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Wednesday July 2 2014
Assessing Prandelli’s Azzurri reign

Cesare Prandelli overhauled Italy after its shambolic 2010 World Cup, but left the Azzurri on a dismal note. Luca Cetta assesses his reign and legacy.

Cesare Prandelli travelled to Brazil safe in the knowledge two more years at the Azzurri helm lay ahead. By the time he returned home he was without a job, resigning after admitting the ‘technical project failed’. Prandelli copped the failure on the chin, but that it ended so abruptly was a shock. While not favourites to win the tournament, Italy had the goods to go far. Instead they were on the first flight home.

It ended at the same stage as in South Africa four years ago. The difference was Marcello Lippi’s disastrous second reign finished as expected. It was a crash that could be seen a mile away but with no desire to veer from its course. Prandelli’s was more of a sudden sideswipe, but just as brutal.

When the former Fiorentina boss took over from Lippi, the Nazionale was at its lowest ebb since the 1960s. And not since those dark days of rotten tomatoes had the public been so out of love with the Azzurri. Prandelli’s aim was to change this. It was to be a Nazionale the Italian public could admire. He introduced the ethical code and took the team to all regions of the country - it was after all for all Italians. This fact was made clearer by his open-door policy towards Oriundi, foreigners of Italian extraction.

In order to make people fall in love once more, Prandelli had much to do on the pitch. His Italy would be a proactive team, taking its cue from the all-conquering Spanish. It took greater risks and would not be the Azzurri of old. Andrea Pirlo, reborn at Juventus, was the focal point in midfield. Alongside him and other veterans such as Gianluigi Buffon and Daniele De Rossi, Prandelli nurtured talented youngsters coming through the ranks - from Mario Balotelli to Marco Verratti near the end. He put faith in Antonio Cassano and Giuseppe Rossi where Lippi had not.

It wouldn’t be all about results, but they were impressive nonetheless. In 56 games Italy won 23, drew on 20 occasions and lost 13, nine of which were friendly matches. Prandelli’s Italy were unbeaten in qualification for Euro 2012 and Brazil 2014. And when the question was asked of this new Italy ahead of the European Championships, they responded with gusto. This fresh brand was taken to the world, as Italy thrilled on the way to the final.

Prandelli said he dreamed of winning the World Cup with seven formations in seven games. Throughout his reign he was open to new ideas, adapting where he felt was needed, but keeping the same principles. This chameleon-like Azzurri nearly tasted victory in Poland and Ukraine, but Prandelli’s first glaring mistake came in the most important encounter, as he failed to use the same plan in the Final which had so successfully stifled Spain in the group encounter. The Azzurri paid dearly.

They had exceeded expectations in reaching Kiev. It also meant expectations rose for the World Cup. The Confederations Cup experience offered valuable insight on and off the pitch and the 2014 campaign started well enough with the win over England. Then the CT lost his nerve.

Where Italy had a chance to take command of Group D, they gave an old Italian showing. The Costa Rica reversal was the start of the downfall as Italy looked shorn of imagination and belief. His tinkering hindered the team and when the fine margins went against them versus Uruguay, Italy headed home following 180 minutes of un-Prandelli football.

It’s easy to look at its culmination and think the worst, but Prandelli deserves praise for his overall achievements the past four years. The Nazionale is at a healthier point now than in 2010, when he had to redesign Italy. The new tactician has the platform to build ahead of Euro 2016, with only tweaks required. Players given a chance by Prandelli are now better positioned to make their mark in France in two years time, then in Russia.

And that will be the legacy of Prandelli’s reign. The new Coach can continue down his path, one forged for four years.

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Have your say...
@ Aussie Bob If you want to talk about the morals of money in football that's a separate issue. Prandelli doesn't strike me as one of the more immoral people in football and has actually taken responsibility by resigning. My point is that the general attitude of some fans is not conducive to building a successful team. It's no coincidence we won world cups when there were distractions and scandals. The atmosphere before the Costa Rica game was horrible. There was so much negativity.
on the 3rd July, 2014 at 8:02am
Conte to manage both Italy and Juve.
To me this is the best choice I've read so far.

Yes there would be problems.Would he pick more Milan and Napoli players for friendlies and rest Juve players.
On the other hand if he tried that he would be questioned straight away.

If a Milan or Napoli player got a serious injury in a game or training then again there would be problems/arguments.

Its still for me the best choice taking into account Ancelotti would almost for sure not even consider this.
on the 3rd July, 2014 at 7:29am
No point in talking about whether or not we should keep CP.I very much doubt he would return.

If Maldini becomes part of the set up then great.Throw in there Baggio and a couple of other italian legends.
Let them work together with a manager.

Lets take a look at the Dutch.How does a country with such a small population stay at the top of world football and consistently produces great players.

We need facilities,youth coaches etc.

Sadly Italy is a disorganised place so its an uphill struggle.
on the 3rd July, 2014 at 7:24am
The more we hear the more it seems CP let down by players but this does not let the coach off the hook. We won in '06 without Cassano and now we see why he wasn't there - include his health issues and taking him this time seems a crazy decision, and against the rebuilding (tactical and ethical) Prandelli started out with. Not sure who but Lippi again would be a step backwards, and Capello never wanted the job (figc don't pay enough?) and has done nothig with national sides to recommend him. Ancelotti obvious choice but can he leave Madrid yet? Too soon for Conte maybe so could take a risk with Spalletti, who maybe is like Prandelli (a nice guy) but has won stuff and pretty much invented the false 9 so is good tactically, whatever you think of that system. He would also be fresh - Ancelotti would probably stick with the 'old guard' longer.
on the 3rd July, 2014 at 7:16am
Cont.. Assess the events; Prandelli was given the job as Italy was in a transitional period and he had a great record, not in the sense of winning titles, but in getting the best out of the young and inexperienced. After 2012, which he alone botched the final, the FA should have brought in an new manager to get the best out of the Euro2012 finalists. I hope to god Conte or Capello is appointed because they will undoubtedly weed out anyone undeserving of that shirt.
on the 3rd July, 2014 at 6:54am
The reality is he put his faith in the wrong players. he used approx 30+ players in the qualifying campaign which went great, but his final 23 included far too many passengers. Abate over Maggio! Motta over any other player on Earth! Cassano and Balotelli? As top scorer Immobile should have been number 1, but in the event that the stage was too big for him, an experienced striker who wouldnt bottle it should have been picked. But someone seemed to think Toni and Rossi score too many goals
on the 3rd July, 2014 at 6:47am
I really liked Prandelli,both as a person and as a coach. For the life of me I don't understand why against Costa Rica the Azzurri didn't go balls out for the win and therefore secure progression from the group. Even against Uruguay,why the hell wouldn't you go hard to score first so they had to score two? I don't understand it and it is so frustrating,embarrassing,hurtful and disappointing.
on the 3rd July, 2014 at 2:48am
Let's stop making excuses for CP. The fact is that the expectations for an Italian team at a World Cup after 4 years of reshaping & preparing is not to exit in the opening round.

Ultimately, how can an experienced coach who has a wealth of knowledge, information & resources at his disposal not pick the correct players? How can we claim to be playing attractive attacking style football, when we scored 2 goals in 3 games and got what, 3 shots on goal? I'm not a hater, but he did the right thing.
on the 3rd July, 2014 at 1:51am
Modern football, stylish football, all the things many want to see.. not me! 2006 was a group, a collective group that were like gladiators; cannavaro cleared from everywhere, everytime that ball was cleared the players would scream at each other and show appreciation for another clearance, another chance, another shot! 2014, long ball to balo- nothing. Sirigu saved us against england- nothing. No fight, No grit nothing! n ppl wanna keep players that stroll about n CP who did nothing?
on the 2nd July, 2014 at 11:51pm
"Prandelli nurtured talented youngsters coming through the ranks ... to Marco Verratti near the end."

umm, nurtured verratti? is that what you call not seeing the field with pirlo until 2 weeks ago and reports suggesting he was at risk to be cut before monto's injury?

"He put faith in ... Giuseppe Rossi where Lippi had not."

right. except when it counted. considering lack of passion was an issue among youngsters, rewarding our best natural goalscorer for his fight to recover might be an idea
on the 2nd July, 2014 at 11:06pm
I hear Paolo Maldini will be on the Azzurri bench from now on. If this is true then it's definitely a step in the right direction in my eyes. After the defending in this WC who better to have as a defensive coach than the best left back to grace the game. It really upsets me if the likes of ancelotti do not want the job now, it would be a real test rather than just managing a Real side where money is no object. Or maybe the cash at Real wins over national loyalty if so who really wants Carlo.
on the 2nd July, 2014 at 10:31pm
Keep CP! He did a great job right to the end of the qualifiers! But yes it didn't work from then on! He had a project that didn't work, but you learn from your mistakes and move on! He was working with the best of a bad bad bunch! Ok I like Rossi, but I was there at Fulham and he wasn't fit and no way would of lasted in brazil! Until The Italian FA steps up and forces clubs to invest in Italian players any coach will struggle! Given his two more years by then ancelotti will be ready!
on the 2nd July, 2014 at 10:20pm
It is all about making brave decisions at the right time. Bearzot sticking by P. Rossi in 82 Sacchi taking off Baggio when we went down to 10 men in 94. Compare that to Vicini taking off Giannini against Argentina in Italia 90 thinking the game was won, bringing on Aldo Serena! The rest is history. CP bringing on Cassano when we needed an extra gear. Playing 2 attackers fighting for the same space in Balo & Immobile.See my point? It is the fine details that often makes the difference .
on the 2nd July, 2014 at 9:45pm
Maldini Heir are you saying we CP haters are being too hard on CP? If it is your dam right. If I paid someone millions to do a job I would expect the best possible outcome. CP should have been sacked & not allowed to resign. Capello also should be sacked. These coaches don't give the money back if they fail, its a no risk job for them. I would have expected Italy to make at worst the last 8. Capellos bank account is overflowing these past years & has achieved nothing for his employers.Disgusting
on the 2nd July, 2014 at 9:28pm
@aussie bob
Call it what you want, I just want us to defend well. Catenaccio was a relic of the 60's & 70's, full of cynicism that won us no friends and has no place in modern day football.1982 finally broke that mould but the label has stuck almost ever since,confusing it with great defending mainly due to stereotyping and poor lazy journalism.Scirea,Cabrini, Maldini, Baresi? Need I go on? Defending well is part of the game, just like attacking. If both are done badly it yields poor results!
on the 2nd July, 2014 at 9:23pm
2/2 "one of the tournaments best midfields", what we really needed is better coaching technically on how to defend & in particular from simple things e.g. Set plays, we were disgraceful at defending corners, when we have so many greats in our heritage why are we not introducing them into the coaching staff? Also on the issue of motta, he's poor but he breaks up play and after romolu's injury CP had no other choice, motta was de rossis deputy but unfortunately didn't do well filling in
on the 2nd July, 2014 at 9:07pm
I think CP deserves credit where due, last World Cup lippi was slated for not taking balo or cassano but this time around CP is being slated for taking them it's as if he can't win.
We would all love to see ancelotti on the Italy bench but fact of the matter is in previous interviews he has clearly stated he doesn't want the Italy job any time soon.
I do hope CP stays on as now he has developed a strength in midfield that after the England game was being called .1/2
on the 2nd July, 2014 at 9:02pm
Certainly this failure a reflection of a country where football is dead ...
Prandelli very tried but this was level of Italian football. in Europe italian clubs do not win anymore ...He how could the national team perform a miracle?
I will respect him for over ...
on the 2nd July, 2014 at 8:54pm
@mm you are so correct - Catenaccio has been played by all the so called minor teams in the WC for years Greece is the perfect example. Italy were under so much pressure to play "attacking" football for who? (Personally I don't know what they mean by attacking football) Long Live Catenaccio, I for one loved it.
on the 2nd July, 2014 at 8:44pm
@ CP critics. You lot are a lovely set of fans. Italy is so fortunate to have the likes of you and I hope you set yourselves the same high standards in your own professional lives. Next time you make a mistake in work I'm sure you'll resign.

@ Balo's critics. Just stop. It's boring. We get you don't like and never will but just stop talking about him.

As for CP I rate him 8/10 up until 20 June 2014. I rate him 4/10 since then. What a difference a week makes.
on the 2nd July, 2014 at 8:17pm
The writing was on the wall for the teams failure. People chose to ignore it. 1 win in the last 10 doesn't mean that your team is playing nice attractive soccer. It means that your losers. The ethics/behaviour code was flawed to begin with. Chiellini getting a red at the end of season and then Prandelli makes excuses for selceting him. Not selecting Rossi cause of injury but bringing unfit Motta and Barzagli to name a few. Turned out to be a hypocrite.
on the 2nd July, 2014 at 8:11pm
Only Italian managers that fit the bill of being champions, winning leagues titles in Italy and different countries, champions league titles is Ancelotti or dare I say it Lippi.

FIGC need to break the bank and get Ancelotti, he's managed top players, and coached young players, he played in the 1990 WC and part of the '86 squad. And committed to attacking football. And he has been quoted as saying he wants to be the Italian Manager one day for me that day is now.

Forza Azzurri
on the 2nd July, 2014 at 7:47pm
Dare I suggest Di Matteo? Seemed to have done a decent job at Chelsea during his brief tenure.
on the 2nd July, 2014 at 7:36pm
A, you say no-one has mentioned Montella but someone has.
I'd be interested in him.

I also wonder about Lippi.Yes he screwed up 2010 which was a worse world cup then 2014.He also has been away from top level football for while but he did win us the world cup.

Not only do we have a problem due to lack of world class players but I fear we will also settle for a manager no better than Prandelli.
on the 2nd July, 2014 at 7:18pm
I'd score Prandelli 7/10.

Yes 1 win in the last 10 but we don't care if we don't win friendlies so long as we win the big games.We didn't.

Getting to the 2012 final pushes his score from 5/10 to 7/10.We played well.Should have beaten Spain in the first game and killed off Germany.

His stance on behaviour and not picking those who got a red was ridiculous.Stupid.

As a man there aren't many better.I remember his first game back after the death of his wife and always wished him well.
on the 2nd July, 2014 at 7:14pm
Prandelli mistake was to take Cassano, Motta, Aqualani, over Fiorenzi, Destro G.Rossi.
on the 2nd July, 2014 at 7:07pm
@ Alexander, i agree with you, apart from the becoming invincible bit because that wont happen as we havent got the players,as before anybody trotts out the names of all the young players, ask yourselt this, do they play in a decent league seria a is currently micky mouse and when did they play in the later stages of champions league. Ancellotti/Conte and anyone else cant do any better. At least CP was tring a different approach.
on the 2nd July, 2014 at 6:41pm
League titles! Not guaranteed success but you've got a much better chance! My top three choices in order would be Ancelotti/Mancini/Conte!
on the 2nd July, 2014 at 6:38pm
When push came to shove the right decisions were made and they didn't buckle under pressure! Lippi messed up in 2010 but he did win us the Wc in 2006 and do you honestly think in the euro 2012 final he would've changed tactics against the worlds best team after those tactics served him so well in the group stage? Of course he wouldn't! The long and short of it is that we'll never win another tournament unless we appoint a manager who's actually won top division titles and cups or champions
on the 2nd July, 2014 at 6:36pm
where he took an average mid-table team and helped them qualify for the champions league and this is where his main strengths as a coach lie, taking under performing teams and turning them around. But what we needed at this Wc was a coach to take make sure his players play to their full potential and ensure that the right tactics were employed in the crunch games! If we look at the last 2 managers to get us to Wc finals Sacchi/Lippi, they were both coaches who had won just about everything so FA
on the 2nd July, 2014 at 6:32pm

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