Italy’s midweek friendly against America didn’t exactly capture the imagination. Less than 12,000 turned up at Marassi to watch the Azzurri lose their second consecutive home friendly 1-0. Yet, there would have been one very interested spectator at home – Juventus boss Antonio Conte.
Wednesday’s clash in Genoa was the closest thing you can get to a crystal ball for the tactician. It was a glimpse into the future, one without the need for a Flux Capacitor, as Italy CT Cesare Prandelli opted to start with Alessandro Matri and Sebastian Giovinco in attack.
Matri is currently Juventus’ most potent goal scoring threat amongst a bunch of misfiring forward players. His strike at Milan on Saturday was goal number 10 in Serie A this season – four more than if you combine the League goals of teammates Marco Borriello, Alex Del Piero, Fabio Quagliarella and Mirko Vucinic.
Giovinco, on the other hand, is the player who Juve will consider recalling at the end of the campaign to offer Conte something different next term. Co-owned between both outfits, the 25-year-old has scored nine goals in 22 ties for the Gialloblu this season – even if three of them have come via the penalty spot.
Both Prandelli and Conte would have learned little about the pair last night, they certainly didn’t look like the potential answer to either of the Coaches’ varying problems in attack. Prandelli will probably be without Antonio Cassano and Giuseppe Rossi for Euro 2012, while Juve have scored 12 Serie A goals less than Milan this season. They’ve also failed to score more than one goal in half of their 24 matches.
While Giovinco was one of the Italy’s most lively elements on the night, he made no telling contribution which backs up the theory that, at this moment in time, he’s a squad player at best for his country. Matri, meanwhile, was poorly served and kept quiet by a surprisingly organised and defensive Jurgen Klinsmann side.
While Italy’s front two struggled to get past the Hummer which the Americans had parked at Marassi, the more notable partnership on the night actually turned out to be centre-backs Andrea Barzagli of Juventus and Torino’s Angelo Ogbonna.
Neither put a foot wrong before the break, with the Serie B defender looking particularly composed and assured during his first start for his country. Admittedly the USA didn’t pose too many problems in the opening 45 minutes, but his serenity and touch on the ball were the early signs of a future regular Italian international. It was a disappointment when Prandelli switched him to left-back after the half-time oranges.
Conte, and a few more Serie A Coaches, would no doubt have been impressed by the 23-year-old. In a country currently deprived of its once trademarked quality centre-backs, Ogbonna offers a small flicker of light given the worrying lack of development shown by Leonardo Bonucci at Juventus and Inter’s Andrea Ranocchia.
While it would be hard to imagine Toro chief Urbano Cairo selling Ogbonna to city rivals Juventus in the summer, it would be even more improbable that Italy could win Euro 2012 with an attacking tandem consisting of Giovinco and Matri.