Sunday June 11 2017
Over-eager Azzurri

Italy are learning that frenetic football produces more frustration than flow, notes Giancarlo Rinaldi.

It felt a bit like warming up for an appearance on University Challenge with a humble pub quiz. Everyone knows that the real test comes in September when the Azzurri travel to Spain. But, if you wanted to look closely, there were still things to learn from the comfortable victory over Liechtenstein.

The first, perhaps, and most important, was the need for a clear head and a bit of patience when they head to Madrid for their World Cup qualification key clash. In the first half in Udine, Giampiero Ventura’s side played a frenetic football which produced more frustration than flow. It might have been different if an early Antonio Candreva wondergoal had not been incorrectly ruled out for offside, but nonetheless, it was only when Italy started to put a little more composure into their performance that they really put their opponents to the sword.

Architect in chief of that more clinical approach was Lorenzo Insigne, who is growing more into a classy international player with every game. He might well have added to his goal and assist, but much of the best that the boys in blue produced came through him. The Napoli man will find it harder to unlock the Spanish defence, for sure, but he has the spark of creativity that this side desperately needs.

There was also comfort in Ventura’s reading of a match when you think that all three of his substitutes produced a goal. Federico Bernardeschi, Eder and Manolo Gabbiadini all added something to the side, even if it was, undeniably, against a tiring opponent. It will take all his tactical insight, of course, to secure the victory needed in a few months’ time to knock the group leaders off their pedestal.

The newer faces, too, gave reason for comfort with Leonardo Spinazzola in particular confirming his promise on the left side of the defence. Some players look instantly at home for their country and he is one of them. When they were dishing out character, it appears, he went back for at least a second helping.

It was a little harder to assess Lorenzo Pellegrini, the latest debutant of the Ventura era. He did his job competently enough, but it was not the kind of display that really grabbed the attention. There will be time, however, for him to develop into the role.

Italy made some in-roads into Spain’s goal difference advantage, but it looks unlikely to be enough to get them to the top of the table via that route. It means that only a triumph when they visit the Santiago Bernabeu is likely to be enough to give them automatic qualification for Russia. And that, as we all know, is one of football’s taller orders.

The miserabilists will tell you that it is a task well beyond their means, and they may well be right. This is a side which has yet to entirely convince and no victory over a lowly-ranked outfit was ever going to change that. However, the Azzurri have a habit of producing their very best when the odds look stacked against them and there were a few hints here that they had some of the materials at their disposal to do so again when the occasion arises.

With a cool head, top performances from their most influential players and some astute analysis of their opponents, this team could produce another memorable result. It won’t be easy, of course, but since when have Italy ever liked it easy?

Have your say...
How can the writer say that Spain is better, they were lucky to have tied with us the first time as we gifted them a goal. They play the same style as always and do not have the depth that we have. This is a new team with explosive players. The fact that there is so little time for cohesion and that we are that good means much. Spain is a team with officiating always helping them and as for quality there is not much. We will be successful against Spain with Insigne as the coordinator.
on the 18th June, 2017 at 10:42pm
I'm happy to see Pellegrini getting some minutes for the national side, but the midfield choices are still pretty baffling. If you're missing Verratti (heck, even if you have him), how does a player like Jorginho not make your starting 11? Statistically, he's far superior to ANY of our starting midfielders, both in possession and defence (again, Verratti included).
on the 13th June, 2017 at 2:24pm
Even when CM, DDR, MV aren't fit, hopefully some younger guys like Pellegrini, Benassi, Baselli can improve over next year and give more options.

Other than 4-2-4 (or attacking 4-4-2), 4-3-3 and 3-4-3 should be only ones to use. the others like 3-4-1-2 are not much helpful. Italy doesn't have world class wing backs like Marcelo / Dani Alves. And even Bellotti needs someone creative to provide chances. They need the attacking wing forwards to succeed.
on the 12th June, 2017 at 6:11pm
As others said, 2 strikers isn't always best. 4-2-4 is probably good when going for goal and 20-30 mins per match.
Defense is good enough with 2 CB's. As Modric said, most of Juve's defense problem is when they lose possession in attack and other teams can kill on counterattack, like Madrid. When facing possession teams like Barca, defense is strong and keeps good shape.
The same faults were with Italy's defense in the last few years. With 3 strong and creative midfielders the counters can saved
on the 12th June, 2017 at 6:07pm
I agree that 4-3-3 may be best solution. Need more steel in midfield, and also need the attacking wingers. El Shaarawy, Bernardeschi, Insigne, Berardi should be way to go, possibly Bonaventura. Candreva has been solid for last 3 years, but there are better options now.
Marchisio-DeRossi-Verratti is the dream, but hope all are fit together.
After ditching the old 3-5-2, Ventura tried 4-2-4, 3-4-1-2 and 3-4-3, but hope the 4-3-3 is adopted.
on the 12th June, 2017 at 6:04pm
Bernardeschi was brilliant yesterday. Would love to see him start if we shift to 433. Spinazzola was impressive again.
on the 12th June, 2017 at 5:46pm
Agreed, Andrea. One lone striker is needed... Hopefully Ventura will recognize this because is was very apparent that they looked confused and out of sorts.. I've never been a fan of dual strikers.. It's overkill. Immobile to me is a sub. Basta.

Insigne is going to fed lots of good balls to Belotti. Keep Bernaldeshi there as a fulltime starter. Noticed how the game changed when he was inserted...

Eder and Immobilie are decent subs.. Belotti should be the lone stiker.

Balo? No thanks
on the 12th June, 2017 at 2:49pm
Yesterday's game only confirmed my impressions: the 4-2-4 overlaps Belotti and Immobile to no effect other than having them step on each other's toes. Take out the latter and put in a three-man midfield. In an ideal world, I see Insigne on the top left, Verratti as trequartista, and Bernardeschi on the top right. Tremendous creativity and outlets on all sides.
on the 12th June, 2017 at 1:29pm
@Sanrella, It should have been 6 (Candreva's was a goal) and probably 7 as penalty was required on another play. As for your inclusion of Immobile on the "excited list" boy, not so sure.. How many did he mess up yesterday. Effort is there but he's not a very good finisher....
on the 12th June, 2017 at 10:42am
If we make the World Cup then I'm excited that we have Belotti,Balotelli(surely?)Gabiadinni.Eder and Immobile.
on the 12th June, 2017 at 8:15am
It took us way too long to reach 5 and infact should have equalled Spain for 8.The reality is a draw in Spain now probably will not be a good result because we will probably end up second on goal difference.

We just don't do 6/7/8 nils.Never have,never will.

Anything can happen in the play-offs.
on the 12th June, 2017 at 8:14am
I have had a long standing belief that we will nick a win in Spain. Then again I thought Juve would beat Madrid ...
on the 12th June, 2017 at 7:45am

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