If you believe in football Voodoo, then you'll know that Italy will reach the Final of the next World Cup, and lose. This would match the pattern the Azzurri have set down since 1970, of reaching the Final once every 12 years, alternating one win and one loss.
Thus, Coach Giampiero Ventura has one devil of a tall order for his first international tournament. And yet some are expecting the opposite, considering his lack of experience (and that of his favourite players), with fears that he may repeat the embarrassing performances of 2010 and 2014.
Having had one year to assess his work, we can confirm the old adage that the truth falls somewhere in the middle. Ventura's tenure so far has been characterised on the one hand by an impressive development of the young horses, and on the other by a worrisome tactical indecisiveness.
Although both are staples of the 69-year-old's tenure so far, it seems that only the former has garnered some attention. This is understandable, especially since Azzurri fans have been starved of generational renewal for a very long time.
Some of it is just good luck. It is sufficient to look at the squad fielded by the Azzurrini for the last Under-21 Euros to see how many of them are established Serie A starters, already carrying a handsome price on the transfer market. But some of it must undeniably be credited to Ventura's foresight.
Drawing on his former Torino team as well as the phenomenal football schools represented by Sassuolo and Atalanta, Ventura has already called up the likes of Andrea Belotti, Roberto Gagliardini, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Federico Bernardeschi and Alessio Romagnoli, among others.
In combination with a bloom of players aged 24 to 28, like Marco Verratti and Lorenzo Insigne, and backed by a phalanx of veterans like Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini and Daniele De Rossi, the Azzurri have nothing if not great promise.
In fact, one of the best things about the story of this group is that it isn't going to end with the World Cup in 2018, but will continue, stronger each time, for at least another two major tournaments. The same could not be said about Antonio Conte's nevertheless remarkable run at Euro 2016.
There are, as always, doubts and questions about how these ragamuffins of the sport will perform on the big stage, but that's part of the beauty. Besides, the legitimate doubts surrounding this team come in a different form.
What worries me about Ventura's Azzurri is that they still seem to have little or no tactical identity. It's fine not to have settled on a formation, and it's just as well to have more than one tactical approach. It's something else entirely, particularly at this point time, to have no clue as to how your team will eventually be deployed.
The former Torino tactician started out using Conte's 3-5-2, then scrapped it and tried every formation in the book. He lately seems to have settled on the 4-2-4, but there are important reasons why that formation cannot work, at least not without some very major alterations.
In most cases, a year is enough for any CT to impress their tactical identity upon the Azzurri. It may not be complete, but it is there. In Ventura's case, I have absolutely no idea what shape Italy will take next summer, and if he does, then it's not shining through in his work. I haven't seen a comparable tactical parable since Roberto Donadoni, and we all know how that went.
I am not trying to be negative for negativity's sake. But as much as Italy's strength lies in the energy, the talent and the drive of its newcomers, likewise their weakness is in their lack of tactical resolution, at least for now.
The problem extends beyond a simple matter of formation and on to how these hyped young footballers can combine their styles of play. Take Verratti, for instance, who is arguably the most talented of the bunch. Under Ventura, he seemed most successful as the advanced part of a three-man midfield triangle, so essentially a trequartista.
The trouble is that fielding him up there seems to rule out utilising Bernardeschi, who usually starts out on the wing and drifts into trequartista positions himself, also taking up the job of ball-distribution. The Fiorentina youth is arguably second only to Verratti himself in terms of talent, so it would be a shame to have to bench one of them.
Insigne is another player who may have integration issues. He operates best as a wide, penetrative winger, backed by the safety net of a defensively able midfield. Yet this is certainly not the type of midfield we may expect from a 4-2-4 formation, nor does Verratti meet those specifications. Once again, though, the player's sheer skill means that he cannot be wasted on the bench.
Several other Azzurri present us with similar quandaries. Belotti doesn't work too well next to Ciro Immobile (though in this case there's a clear solution: just bench the Lazio striker). Stephan El Shaarawy has fine potential, but he is tactically very inflexible. Gagliardini hasn't done too well next to De Rossi, although they haven't been tested enough.
It's not enough to have a talented group of athletes, they must also play at their best together. As things stand, it seems almost inevitable that gathering all these players together on to the pitch at the same time will force several or even all of them to play out of position, or in roles that do not optimise their skill.
Ultimately, Ventura's first year served to unearth a very promising squad, which is nonetheless still a long way from knowing how to play together. If the Coach does not address these deficiencies quickly, Spain will make short work of his beautiful Azzurri(ni) in September. Still, if this comes as a wake-up call, it may be almost desirable.
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