Tuesday September 5 2017
Little Italy

The Azzurri stuttering their way to qualification for a major tournament is no reason to panic, says Giancarlo Rinaldi, but business as usual.

If Italian fans were hoping for a big reaction after the misery they endured in Spain, they will have been sorely disappointed. Even against more humble opposition, the much-criticised 4-2-4 formation failed to deliver the tonic the tifosi craved after a performance which had left them feeling distinctly queasy. And yet, somehow or another, by the end of the night against Israel, they were a shaky step closer to the World Cup next summer.

For those of us who have followed Azzurri qualification campaigns for any length of time, this stuttering sort of progress is really no surprise. Over the years we have got used to watching them stumble across the finish line like Dorando Pietri at the London Olympics in 1908. If it is thorough thrashings and comfortable conquests you crave, you really should be looking elsewhere.

But where did this double-header really leave us, other than one point away from a play-off place? The bubbly enthusiasm of a run of good results seems to have fizzled out quicker than cheap prosecco. Has Giampiero Ventura gone from being the right man to bring through young stars to a Coach way out of his depth? Have his tactics hamstrung his best performers or have they let him down on the big stage? Or is the inconvenient truth that this Italy side is simply not good enough?

Some people will tell you any or possibly all of the above and - quite probably - most vociferously. Then they will pick out their least favourite performer - usually according to their club allegiances - and have a go at them too. These are the pastimes Italian fans and pundits have been indulging in since the game began. Some things, like Gigi Buffon’s passion for the national anthem, will never change.

Yet there were some lessons to be learned in the evidence before our eyes if we care to make a more measured judgment. The formation used singularly failed to get the best out of a squad which is surely capable of better than it delivered against Spain and, for the first 45 minutes at least, against Israel. The only options are for the players to adjust, the personnel to change or the Coach to show greater flexibility. You will hear plenty of loud shouts for each and every option.

Personally, I would not hit the outright panic button just yet. Just as Italy did not look like future World Cup winners to me during their more convincing displays, I am not sure they are quite the no-hopers some have branded them after recent performances. I could make the same argument for Ventura. Haven’t we been here before quite a few times, after all?

History has taught us that, with the Azzurri more than most teams, it doesn’t matter how they get to a major competition - simply that they manage to get there. Often their most limp and lifeless qualification campaigns can be the precursor to wonderful tilts at major titles. They have made a habit of confounding those who have written them off in quite spectacular fashion.

Italian Federation president Carlo Tavecchio described it as an apocalyptic event if Italy were to fail to qualify and, although it was a little over-dramatic, he had a point. The play-offs are where this team - and Ventura - should finally be judged.

Winning a group with Spain in it was always likely to be no more than a 50-50 bet at best, but failure to beat one of the other group runners-up would be truly disastrous. There will be those who can tell you with certainty already that this Coach or these players are not good enough to achieve that goal and make any impact in Russia, but I am not one of them. Time has taught me that such absolutes can often leave you with a significant slice of frittata on your face. And, just as often, their purveyors are willing to switch opinion swiftly if events begin to make them look foolish.

Beating Israel was never going to dispel the doubts which brewed up in Spain, but at least, in their usual half-baked way, Italy got the job done. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t emphatic but - with Albania failing to beat Macedonia - it was just about enough.

The law of minimo sforzo - minimum effort - was more or less observed. And, if these latest displays are anything to go by, don’t expect the play-off games to be anything other than close. This is the Italian way, folks, and it has taken them an awful long way an awful lot of times before.

Have your say...
Immobile is not an international player regardless of his goal against Margate last night.As for Veratti,I watched him closely last night and most of his play is to play meaningless passes to anyone.When he did try to be clever and set up a striker with an intricate pass he usually messed up.I still don't know why he is highly rated.
on the 6th September, 2017 at 8:16am
realistically the result against Israel has proved 424 formation is only good against teams such Macedonia, Bulgaria, Estonia etc... but a big failure against Germany, France, Spain & England, which gives clearly the level status of Ventura & proves once more he is not for damn sure a WC coach. Azzurri is in trouble, the FIGC should analyze this situation and further take it in to consideration a smart plan to move forward positive. This is not the Azzurri that I know.
on the 6th September, 2017 at 8:14am
Whilst we struggle 1-0 at home against a Serie C side,Spain go and destroy a team 8-0 away who we could only beat 4-0 at home.As bad as we are,we have countless poor results in qualifiers where we have struggled to bear Serie C sides.I don't know if we just have a poor manager or if we have poor players only.Is Belotti really worth £100m?Really?I still say lets bring back Balotelli just for something different.
on the 6th September, 2017 at 8:13am
for those of you who are wondering why VENTURA is the coach let me tell you is not his TALENT he has non it is not his TROPHIES he has non it is simply his SALARY he is used to coach serie B teams the best he did was the runner up!
he has turned AZZURRI to a serie B team with a lot of mistakes /uncommunicative /unbalanced squad!
4-2-4 such huge technical bad choice!
Astori/Montolivo don't belong there!
the team could do very well under some body like Ranieri/Conte!
on the 6th September, 2017 at 7:41am
Gian Piero, please for love of La Nazionale, please quit now.
on the 6th September, 2017 at 7:06am
It's time to get rid of the old dogs/ farts in charge of Italian football, they're ruining it. Tavecchio,Ventura, etc. The old days of doing things in today's world is different, especially in football. That's why serie a is suffering. On top of that why is Ventura our coach? He ruined Bari from serie a and didn't do much with Torino. Pathetic coach!
on the 6th September, 2017 at 7:00am
Ventura out. Please. Buffon can f-off too. Disgusting display. Standing by performances like these are one of the reasons we are in this mess. Who in their right mind plays a 2 man midfield!?
The guys gotta go simple as that. Take buffon and Barzagli with him.
Serie A needs an overhaul and complete re-think on its foreign transfer policy and limiting the numbers in each team.
The next 5 years are going to be painful but if we change things now we have hope. But things need to change now!
on the 6th September, 2017 at 6:29am
Baggio, that's a good lineup/formation. I also like this one bc it's more offensive.

Play a high defensive line a la Conte w/ this lineup would free Verratti to push higher bc Bonnuci and Marchisio could be deep registas. I want Balotelli back, too. 3-4-3.


Rugani, Bonucci, Chiellini

Conti(Candreva), Marchisio(regista), Verratti, Spinazzola

Bernardeschi, Belotti(Balotelli), Insigne
on the 6th September, 2017 at 2:28am
Btw i like baggio-4-ever's team sounds too good to be true
on the 6th September, 2017 at 2:14am
Dan - well said.

Theo - holy cow.

Let's hope they can pull something out, but Ventura seems to be handing them a huge handicap in all of his decisions.
on the 6th September, 2017 at 2:05am
Agree Dan. I'm hardly one to criticize Buffon, but his possession comment was a bit silly. The crowd applauds Spain for dominating possession against WORLD CLASS teams. No WC winning nation deserves applause for dominating possession against ISRAEL whilst failing to create anything of note. Maybe if Italy passed circles around Brazil, France, Chile, Spain, Germany, hell even Portugal, we'd be impressed. But instead the Azzurri cower in fear against these sides and claim there are positives.
on the 6th September, 2017 at 1:36am
Stars are born based on youth and the right platform to shine. Totti became a star at 23 in Euro 2000. Baggio 23 WC90. Vieri 24 WC98. Why wasn't Berardi getting picked at 19 after scoring 4 against Milan? Yet we wanted Icardi for doing the same against Juve? England's best player last night - Rashford 19, Wales Woodbury 17. I can understand if we had team of star veteran's but we don't. Apart from Chellini and Bonucci our best players are young but not picked or played. We are too sentimental.
on the 6th September, 2017 at 1:20am
Buffon is a legend but I can't wait to stop listening to his negative observations and inferiority complex towards top teams because it rubs off on others i.e. Veratti - who actually has a fearless mentality. Who cares about possession when it is away from goal / De Rossi playing 1-2's with Israel Players as he did all night. With the talent we have and based on the poor performances in the last 2 WC excuses no longer cut it. Wrong personnel, wrong tactics, and too many old selfish players.
on the 6th September, 2017 at 1:00am
@ Admin

This 'Theo' is clearly rascist are his comments not being moderated???
on the 6th September, 2017 at 12:55am
I agree with the comments. Too many issues. Astori over Rugani? Montolivo comes on at 87mins - he is injury prone and average - wouldn't Pelegrini be better? We wait 4 years for this moment and since 2010 its the same story and as passionate fans we deserve better. Ventura does not take responsibility - rather than saying the formation doesn't work he pretends we are on the right path. Conte beat Spain with weaker players - that says it all. Tavecchio isn't cut out for his role either.
on the 6th September, 2017 at 12:47am
@ Theo

Troll ???

With your comment below you certainly are one helluva LOSER
on the 6th September, 2017 at 12:46am
I like going back in history as Giancarlo has done but there is a difference with this team. We don't have the stars to be sure we will pull through. In 1998, when we last were in the playoffs we had a Vieri or ADP or Ravanelli to bring comfort and these players had won something. Now we have an aging defence and goalie, a midfield led by an inexperienced prospect, and strikers who have not won anything. Finally we have a coach who has never coached a champion team.
on the 6th September, 2017 at 12:29am
Our coach/players appear deluded: Candreva "positive performance", Ventura "steps forward". As for Buffon's "Italian's hate possession" - no we don't! Not if it yields numerous openings & goals, which is what Spain do. We are impotent in comparison, slow & predictable. Spain come at you from all areas, with invention, flair, & penetration. Sounds sexual eh? And thinking along those lines, one has to sympathize for the Italian players WAG's.
on the 6th September, 2017 at 12:10am
My starting team against Macedonia in October


Rugani/Romag/Bonucci/ Chiellini

Conti/ Marchisio/ Jorginho/ Verratti/ Zappacosta

Belotti Balotelli ( Giovinco)

can anyone do better than this??????
on the 5th September, 2017 at 11:47pm this is a better summary. If my kids played like that in Sunday league I would relegate them to bread and water for a week and think about divorcing them cos I know I have taught them the subtle phases of what do u do in this position in this part of the game with or without possession! Come would not have allowed this shambles and I am embarrassed.
on the 5th September, 2017 at 11:42pm
I expected nothing less from a nazionale forced to carry the corpse of the dead league known as Serie A along with it. The putrid Italian "talent" the putrid state of the league, the nation, the stadia, the corruption giving the dead league Serie A 4 CL places is humiliating. It is truly right and just that Italy is humiliated again and again, maybe try a humble heart. Success is earned through toil and blood and sweat and struggle. Not entitlement, greed, corruption, and arrogance. Oh but our t
on the 5th September, 2017 at 11:39pm
So, big WoW...we beat an under-achieving Israeli team who, if had a bit more talent, could tied the game. I detest this 424. It doesn't function with these players and Italy need to bring some quality players for midfield. I'm not crazy about our forwards either long with Bernadeshi. Shuffle some players and keep Zappacosta on the team. I think he solidified that position today......He was quality. We shouldn't have a hard time beating Macedonia at home......Issues still need to be addressed....
on the 5th September, 2017 at 11:38pm
This match absolutely 100% confirmed clueless and incompetent Ventura needs to be replaced.
Over the past 40 yrs of supporting the Azzurri I have never witnessed anything quite like this.
Both Ventura and Tavecchio need to be sacked.
Bring in Ranieri or Capello as care-taker coach because as it stands we are surely doomed.
Israel were close to causing a major upset tonite and they were missing 3 of their better players!
This match was even worse than the loss to Spain!!!!!
on the 5th September, 2017 at 11:36pm
Well that was naff. Although they started getting crosses in which should have been the plan against spain. They were far too hasty and should have done the slower more possession based football here that they thought would work against spain. WHAT IS GOING ON. where are the simple tactics and game plan?????. This is the first time I have ever said this. England are playing far better football, and they have an actual idea that they are trying to complete. Us??? Who knows cos I don't!!!!!!!
on the 5th September, 2017 at 11:33pm
Ventura clearly out of his depth No identity, wrong tactics, wrong player selection and most impressively even worst substitutions. But that's what you get when you place your faith in someone who's never managed a big club. And basta with barzagil he's was good for us 10-12 years ago but now he's just too old to be competing at this, not playing rugani is ridiculous he's gonna be our future why not start playing him now so that when the WC comes around he won't look like a deer in the headlight
on the 5th September, 2017 at 11:21pm
Business as usual is not good enough anymore. Both WC campaigns that preceded this one were embarrassments. Sure glad the team manages to wake up long for Euros in between but facts are facts: they're underperforming now and will not do much better if they even qualify.

With so many visible faults, we can't forget Ventura's. He went with 424, stuck with it against Spain after proving ineffective and still did for Israel barely escaping. Get rid of him NOW if you want a stronger Italy.
on the 5th September, 2017 at 11:03pm

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