Sunday September 3 2017
Counter-intuitive Italy

Every single gamble Giampiero Ventura took back-fired at the Bernabeu, but Susy Campanale hopes Italy can at least learn from it.

Not a single thing worked for Italy at the Bernabeu, as gamble after gamble back-fired spectacularly on Giampiero Ventura. What is perhaps even more worrying than the 3-0 defeat and upcoming World Cup play-off is that the CT doesn’t seem to have learned any lessons from the present or past, so is doomed to repeat these mistakes in future as well. Everything the Azzurri did ran counter to received wisdom.

Spain have traditionally struggled against a three-man defence with packed midfield, everyone knows this, and even Ventura switched to that approach midway through last year’s 1-1 draw in Turin to great effect. So using a team with no midfield at all was just asking for trouble. Marco Verratti gets older, his price-tag gets higher, but he still makes the same stupid rash challenges and is shrugged off when he does attempt to stay on his feet. In some ways, he hasn’t progressed at all since moving to Paris Saint-Germain, and I’m starting to wonder if he ever will.

Ventura spent months complaining that this fixture was set for September 2, when only two Serie A rounds would be played, as he wanted a squad with better match fitness. So he picks Leonardo Spinazzola, who hasn’t managed a single minute of pre-season football with Atalanta due to a contract dispute, and barely-used Matteo Darmian on the other flank.

Lorenzo Insigne has been sensational so far this term and started training early for Napoli’s Champions League play-offs. He had to be the danger man we were all looking to in order to create problems for the fragile Spanish defence. So why did all the Italian moves go down the right, leaving Insigne totally isolated? It was the equivalent of bringing a soprano on to the stage and putting them on backing vocals.

Ventura continues to insist the 4-2-4 project must be worked on to grow, but there is such a thing as tactical nous in a big match and adjusting to counter your opponent’s strengths. The CT seems to believe sticking to your guns is more important than learning from mistakes, but that kind of tactical fundamentalism can only lead to disaster.

Having said all of that, let’s just confront some of the criticism too. Gigi Buffon’s positioning was poor on the free kick, but let’s not suddenly say he’s past it and should be replaced by Gianluigi Donnarumma. The man just received the award for Champions League Goalkeeper of the Season and Donnarumma was dismal at the European Under-21 Championship. It’s comical to see some complain about Buffon’s passing when the Milan teenager is far worse in that area.

Those who say Insigne chokes in big games – he scored against Spain last time out, he scored against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu, but he was simply given no service and played out of position. That is hardly his fault. Ventura is also perfectly right to point out only 24 hours ago everyone was protesting that a 3-4-1-2 system would mean dropping Insigne to the bench, then the same keyboard warriors complained at the 4-2-4. The CT had his bravery commended for playing four strikers in Spain, only to be called foolhardy 90 minutes later.

Giorgio Chiellini’s latest calf injury threw a massive spanner in the works, because until that point, Ventura had been using a three-man defence in training. He should’ve stuck to the plan, but Chiellini is not an easy man to replace and even Max Allegri doesn’t appear to have much faith in Daniele Rugani.

It should be the job of the national team boss to take the best from his league and help form a representative unit. Nobody plays 4-2-4 in Serie A, and even 4-4-2 is dying out. We see the 4-3-3 going from strength to strength, or variations of it, so why not move in that direction? On the other hand, do not call for Antonio Conte’s swift return and complain that Jorginho isn’t used, because Ventura is hardly the first Azzurri boss to ignore the Napoli midfielder. Suddenly people forget the problems of the Conte era – the negative defend and counter tactics, refusal to trust young players, focus on grit over quality. Don’t pretend it was some golden age of calcio, because it really wasn’t.

Hindsight is 20-20 and, ultimately, we knew it would come to this. The moment Italy drew Spain in the same World Cup qualifying group and realised only one could go through automatically, it felt inevitable. The Azzurri lost one match. The method of the defeat was painful, even embarrassing, but it will be worth it if Ventura and the Nazionale can learn from it. 

Have your say...
4-2-4 from Serie B. Gian Piero a Serie B coach.
on the 8th September, 2017 at 3:47am
Total value of the teams:

SPAIN £636.75m
ITALY £371.70m

others, i.e.:

GERMANY £508.05m
ARGENTINA £475.20m
BRASIL £467.10m
PORTUGAL £343.17m
POLAND £210.96m
GREECE £122.22m
ROMANIA £48.33m
on the 5th September, 2017 at 5:06pm
Whenever the national team has done well, it has when it has been relatively quiet pre-match, didn't act boastful and pretty much went into big matches as the underdog. I said on the 1st match blog that we'd pay for all this boastful and 'we're going to spain' to win talk. How many teams win in spain in qualifiers? A tough task even before their glorious period. We're just above a mediocre team, but talk like a world class team. As I said before, Verratti is overrated. awfully overrated.
on the 4th September, 2017 at 8:46pm
who would replace ventura? even worst
on the 4th September, 2017 at 4:18pm
Not only this but our back 3 are masters of playing a BACK 3. Conti played as a wingback for Atalanta and now Zappacosta is going to have a season of playing as a wingback under Conte, the man who knows this system inside and out. 352/3421 is what we should play, it suits our best players and that's what NT should aim to do.


Barzagli/Romag Bonucci Chiellini

Conti Marchisio Jorginho Verratti Zappacosta

Belotti Insigne

This would free Verratti and Insigne to play THEIR games.
on the 4th September, 2017 at 1:40pm
Who in their right mind plays a 2 man midfield of Verratti and DE ROSSI against Spain's effective 6. De Rossi isn't mobile anymore so it was effectively Verrati v 6 men in the middle.

Verratti and Insigne are our ONLY 2 near World Class flair players who can unlcok defences, the team should be based around them. 433 or 352 would suit us. Insigne as a second striker in 352 with Belotti would be like Euro 2012 Cassano. Jorginho and Marchisio in the middle with Verratti would give us energy.
on the 4th September, 2017 at 1:37pm
We cannot seem to win. Conte: great tactician & motivator, but averse to young/flair players, preferring industry. Ventura is almost the complete opposite, he calls up the younger players, likes a bit of flair, but is abject when it comes to game-plans, identifying problems & rectifying them, & logic - starting with players that are not match fit. He also seems incapable of instilling some fire into the players. I don't think that I've ever seen such an insipid display.
on the 4th September, 2017 at 12:46pm
And I will say that Conte would be throwing water bottles to the players for this performance while Giam Piero is a cuckoldo and say he cheer Isco for the nut meg he does. What a sciemo!
on the 4th September, 2017 at 11:13am
@Boh! Italy play with 4 forwards to try and go for win, not to to not to lose. This beliefs from you are in the reverse. Instead, Spain use the tactics to wait and disrupt in the small centro camp of the Italy team and caused many sufferings for De Rossi and Verratti. This is not the Italy way. This is the way of suicide bombers with no bomb.
on the 4th September, 2017 at 11:10am
Ventura needs to be replaced now - If he remains we will not qualify for the World Cup. Away to a very good Spanish side he plays a suicidal 4-2-4 formation, picks an ancient Daniel De Rossi in midfield, as well as two full backs, neither of which have played a single minute of competitive football - plays Insigne out of position and then takes Candreva and Belotti off, the only two players who looked like they could make a difference. Clearly out of his depth - SACK HIM NOW BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE
on the 4th September, 2017 at 11:03am

Agreed. Managers can be overcriticised but this is one time where it's well justified. With qualification on the line and limited options, Ventura has to go for Italy to stand a chance anymore.
on the 4th September, 2017 at 9:30am
Ventura's only answer was to bang his head against the dugout after the 3rd goal, this shows how clueless he is. Tactically inept. Old legs De Rossi was crucified by having 4 Spaniards pass around him & Veratti was running on fumes when he finally got the ball. He needed to change the formation and tired players at half-time. When you're down 2-0 & need to score 3 you don't wait until 66 minutes. 4-2-4 might work against Israel, but Spain with a false #9?? Stack the mid & press ala Conte.
on the 4th September, 2017 at 8:28am
@TOTO that's where ALBERTINI COME'S IN. HE would shake thing's up and get thing's going from the youth squad's and the club youth squad's too. "OH BTW" THE FORMATION'S YOU MENTIONED 343 and 442 is very good CHOICE but the way the team is structured right now at this state, 3421 or 352 would be a safe sure bet.
on the 4th September, 2017 at 4:52am
with so many talented players bernardeschi/beloti/....
we played very poor it wasn't because we couldn't play better it simply the matter of having no game plan to penetrate strongly enough&not feeding the strikers properly ITALIA played as we were ahead by 2
goals no actual hunger and desire seen!!
Ventura is not up for the task! we did beat Spain under conte because he is AMAZING!
but we should not write us off yet ITALY is a football
nation we will go through!!
on the 4th September, 2017 at 3:39am
Ventura should have changed formation after the first 30 minutes. Italy's midfield were not capable of playing long balls (which is what needed to happen because 2 midfielders of Italy weren't going to play through the 5 midfielders of Spain). Italy's 4 at the front weren't stretching the defense because the service wasn't there. Candreva was playing short passes when there was no midfield support. Why stick with the formation when the players were incapable of executing?
on the 4th September, 2017 at 3:04am
If there was an obvious replacement I'd say get rid of Ventura now.Not just because of yesterday but because generally overall for Italy he has failed to impress.Whilst he will probably qualify us for the World Cup we will never win it with him.He just doesn't have the tactical ability.
on the 3rd September, 2017 at 10:51pm
Ventura and the FIGC are the real problem. Italy has not invested in youth, stadiums, social media, etc. They take their history for granted, but the game has changed and other nations that were once minnows are growing in the sport. Without action, we will fall too far behind and never catch up. Yesterday, Ventura showed his limited range as coach, he is totally inept. We have players capable of winning - just not Legends like we were used to. We must play a system that works like 343 433 442.
on the 3rd September, 2017 at 10:46pm
Getting things wrong from the start is acceptable, all managers do from time to time. But to not be able to read the situation and realise the necessary changes is a red flag. A manager is supposed to set his team up to put them in the best position to get a result. Ventura failed at that embarrassingly against Spain.
on the 3rd September, 2017 at 10:22pm
The most upsetting thing, and what makes me question Ventura, is that when things were clearly going wrong, he made no attempt to change things. Italy were being swarmed in midfield, and rather than change and bring on someone else in the middle, he stuck with the same system and formation. It was a 2-man midfield against 6 from Spain!
on the 3rd September, 2017 at 10:19pm
HaHaHa @Baggio-4-Ever.Thanks for the match update, wasn't following it.
on the 3rd September, 2017 at 10:08pm
Luxembourg 0 - France 0. Catenaccio LIVES
on the 3rd September, 2017 at 9:41pm
Word cant describe how PATHETIC that showing was from everyone associated with this team. Especially Ventura the clueless hump. What the heck was he thinking with those tactics and formation?
on the 3rd September, 2017 at 8:27pm
@Anonymous is my name Thanks bud — We could do a better job than old boy Ventura! I have to disagree about Balotelli though. He single handedly got us to the final of Euro 2012 and who cares about discipline when he can literally make or break our chances of winning something again. He should be given some chance to show us all. As for Kean — he's 19 — give the land a chance. Why is Jorghino constantly blanked as well? Diawara is an exciting prospect too. We need way more balls and invention!
on the 3rd September, 2017 at 7:30pm
One minute he's being used as static central midfielder, the next a box to box player, and recently as an attacking midfielder. I don't know how anyone could question his quality. His temperament perhaps, but not his talent. He was the best player on the pitch, over two legs vs Barca in 2015. That's why the likes of Iniesta sings his praises and why Barca are keen to sign him. IMO he is Italy's best player and if he plays in a 3-man midfield he would have a better opportunity showcase this.
on the 3rd September, 2017 at 7:15pm
There are mitigating reasons for Verratti's average Azzurri career so far. Injuries at key moments certainly haven't helped. Neither has the fact that Prandelli & Conte took an age to make him first choice, instead opting to stick with Pirlo and the old guard. Then we have his position on the pitch. He has been exceptional for PSG (particularly under Ancelotti & Blanc) playing in front of the defence. For Italy he has never had a defined role, not consistently.
on the 3rd September, 2017 at 7:07pm
Great squad until Balotelli! Kean has just been dismissed from the U19 for disciplinary issues. I am not surprised as this very promising young man lost all my respect the day he said Balotelli was his idol!
Back to the drawing board. We would be better off going to the world cup (which based on yesterdays performance isn't exactly guaranteed) a couple of men down than running the risk of playing with 10 on match day.
Yesterday was a wake up call.
on the 3rd September, 2017 at 7:02pm
Ventura proved exactly why he isn't the man for the job. In a crucial game like last night the simple proven systems and formations would have been enough instead he chose to try and defy simplicity and start doing ridiculous things like changing the only formation that has worked against spain! The guys a absolute salami! We made an average spain look great. Buffon needs to go because the 1st and 2nd goal were weak. We then have to address why on earth he would play 4 upfront!?
on the 3rd September, 2017 at 6:43pm
As much as we all love Buffon it is not a sin to point out that he is past due . He is slow to react and his positioning were off on both goals. 100 million for Belotti? There is no creativity in the middle the back line look like they just got picked up from different bars they had no clue how to defend as a unit . I hate it when people still claim that Italy is too defensive minded , you cant be defensive minded and allow 3 goals . Insert the youth Giovinco, donaruma and al shawary
on the 3rd September, 2017 at 6:26pm
We won the world cup in 2006 and in 2017 we have players still in the team. drop buffon a legend but useless now. drop de rossi. sack ventura. he is clueless. playing players that havent played a game all season. immobile is useless. balotelli is trouble but he can finish chances. both strikers we used are the same. prefer gabi to start upfront. giovinco should of been given a chance. spain didnt embarrass us. the manager and the team selection embarrassed themselves.
on the 3rd September, 2017 at 6:13pm
I read some comments to replace Ventura, well folks FIGC President will need to listen to calls and sack the CT. The WC is serious stuff and it was quite embarrassing for the Azzurri to be knocked out in previous 2 WC's from first stage. Please FIGC please Ventura I ask you "if you are not up to the task" just leave in honor, let someone else take the responsibility coz Italy has history a rich history that is in WC's, so either shape up to rise to the occassion or just leave.
on the 3rd September, 2017 at 6:11pm

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