Tuesday March 20 2018
Di Biagio's Nazionale

The post-Gian Piero Ventura era begins under interim boss Gigi Di Biagio, who could lead a more progressive Azzurri, writes Matthew Santangelo.

The upcoming friendlies against Argentina and England could well decide if interim boss Gigi Di Biagio gets the job on a more permanent basis. What can we expect from Di Biagio’s Azzurri, and how may it differ to Gian Piero Ventura’s failed side?

Much has been made over long-time captain Gianluigi Buffon, and whether he should step aside to let his successor take over. Gianluigi Donnarumma and Mattia Perin both sit as worthy candidates for the number one spot, however it appears Di Biagio’s intentions in summoning the Juventus legend were to give him a proper send-off , unlike the tearful one last year at San Siro.

Buffon will likely play in one of the two friendlies, but it’s quite clear his call was more a sign of respect for the World Cup winner than to extend his international career.

In terms of the rest of the squad, Di Biagio appears to be undertaking a more progressive approach than Ventura. His call-ups suggest he will attempt to usher in a fresh batch of younger players, while also keeping a veteran guard intact to ensure the youth are properly moulded into long-term contributors.

Defensively, Italy begins life after BBC as a trio, with Andrea Barzagli having already hung up his international boots. Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini remain two key pillars in the back, not only as defensive stalwarts, but also leaders to guide youngsters. Di Biagio called up four central defenders including Gian Marco Ferrari (Sampdoria) and Daniele Rugani (Juventus), meaning it’s almost certain he will play four at the back, which had been his preferred shape throughout his tenure on the Azzurrini bench.

Transitioning towards the midfield absent of Roma’s gladiator Daniele De Rossi, there is Bryan Cristante, Roberto Gagliardini, Lorenzo Pellegrini - each of the youth mould and getting the opportunity to be prominent figures in the side for 2018 and beyond.

Unlike Ventura, it didn’t take much contemplating for Di Biagio to make Jorginho a pivotal piece to the midfield setup, but with Marco Verratti also in the mix, there is the idea of a 4-2-3-1 experiment. In any case, we could see Di Biagio conjure up quite a variety of formations as he tries to see what scheme fits his personnel.

Up top is where Italy see two prolific young stars get their maiden Azzurri calls. Federico Chiesa and Rossoneri star Patrick Cutrone join familiar faces in Ciro immobile and Andrea Belotti, while Simone Verdi and Lorenzo Insigne are the source of creativity on the wings. Eder’s exclusion, along with Mario Balotelli’s call that never came, suggests Di Biagio is ready for a clean slate and keen on handing over responsibilities to a more adolescent group.

There has been plenty of discussion surrounding Italy’s plans for restoring past glories. The likes of Germany and France should serve as templates in certain aspects on how to bring about sustainability in the National Team structure through a mixture of fledgling youth and a veterans’ presence. Di Biagio has not been confirmed as the full-time Coach, but we should see a vastly different looking Italy in these two friendlies – from both a tactical and personnel standpoint.

Di Biagio has been known to alter his formations, reverting between a modern 4-3-3 and a 4-4-2. The latter was used by Ventura and its midfield was heavily exposed and over-run by Spain during World Cup qualifying.

Look for Di Biagio to experiment a bit, while also keeping things simple. With that being said, there is plenty of intrigue around these friendlies and Italy cannot afford to take them lightly if they wish to avoid a repeat of Ventura’s past faults.

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Have your say...
People complaining about Di Biagio calling up Chiellini and Bonucci need to sit back down into their non manager arm chairs and shut up for a little while. You don't go into a game against Messi and another team that want nothing more than to beat us on their own home soil as their own World Cup victory with your U21 squad.
on the 23rd March, 2018 at 8:21am
These teams will be wanting to kick us while we're down, and to bolster their own ego's leading up to this summers tournament. No, you need those two who have European club competition experience against the world best to help bring the new players up to speed.
on the 23rd March, 2018 at 8:20am
Rugani could very well be one of the future CB’s for Italy, but he’s not even starting for Juve yet. He’s not ready to lead them, he’s not ready to lead the nazionale. End of. Di Biagio has called up others who deserve to be there and are in form, and young, so let him do his thing. He won’t be there for long, just let him try to make the team competitive enough for when Ancelotti takes them over.
on the 23rd March, 2018 at 8:19am
Anyway, Mil_Int, these are not only my observations. Numerous coaches, teammates, and fans have said the same thing. He has been his own worst enemy. I would love it if Mario's work ethic & professionalism matched his natural talent, because if it did, he would be one of the greatest strikers in the world.
on the 21st March, 2018 at 11:21pm
Mil_Int, I stand by my words. Totti & Del Piero never consistently showed their best for Italy. I look at a forwards overall contribution over the 90 minutes & in each game, (not just their goals), & also how the team functions with that player in it. Balotelli is a very lazy player & his body language is terrible. He may have a decent goal tally, but that means little if the team, as a whole, suffers because of his lack of graft, teamwork, mettle.
on the 21st March, 2018 at 11:17pm
Di Biagio - just another clown - why has he not picked Balotelli? Is he blind, deaf and dumb? I hope we lose these next two games - we need a big, experienced manager with a winning mentality and Italian passion - if Ancelotti doesn’t want it I’d go for Mancini
on the 21st March, 2018 at 8:30pm
Juvensia is right. Our managers who "dream" of the Nazionale are keeping their distance. They don't see the necessary changes within the FIGC and don't want to be made their scapegoat.

As for Buffon, I believe he was called up for a proper send off, which I think he's more than earned.
Perin and Donnarumma are great GKs, they'll definitely take over once a permanent CT is chosen.
on the 21st March, 2018 at 6:18pm
@Dan Balotelli has scored 13 goals in 33 international at a rate that was superior to Del Piero, Totti and every other striker after them. Of this 13 goals 11 were in competitive fixtures, that is, not friendlies.

If anything, @Anonymous21 was understating his contribution. As are you.
on the 21st March, 2018 at 5:31pm
The way things are going Buffon will be both Italy,so and Juventus, goalkeeper until 2022 when he hopefully wins the cl and beats the record of World Cup appearances. Like Totti at Roma he doesn’t want to come out definitely and retire making it hard for managers . He said he came back for Astori whatever that means. He might be the best ever but it’s wrong he is in this squad. It’s time for Perrin and Donnarumma. There must be a reason so many managers keep picking Parolo.
on the 21st March, 2018 at 1:07pm
Anonymous21, whilst I feel that Balotelli should have been called up, I do think that you're over exaggerating his contributions to the Azzurri. Yes, he was great against Germany, but that was one game. What did he do before & after that?The worlds best strikers have as much work ethic as they do talent. Balotelli plays in fits & starts. He is very lazy & when I see him play, it looks like his team is playing with 10 men.
on the 21st March, 2018 at 11:39am
Support Db FOR NOW - then Mancini. Still hungry (not sure Ancelotti really is?) and a winner at all his clubs.
on the 21st March, 2018 at 9:32am
I'm telling y'all, that if Ancelotti or Mancini or Capello chooses to stay where they are now, perhaps it bcoz they senses sumthin's wrong about current Italian football organization. They demand a revolutionary change. I personally don't want Di Biagio to be a permanent CT. We have enough great coach with greater experience for this gig. Just don't point a foreigner to do this job. A foreign coach would be another insult to our failed WC campaign. Enough is enough!
on the 21st March, 2018 at 3:02am coach Azzurri,then say oh I’m coaching a club,or waiting for other options,or not right now? Cmon, all proven winners,yet it’s like they don’t have faith in present generation,or lost the courage. God what’s next a foreign coach? anyway hope Gigi starts Ciro+Insigne together. Give Buffon his FINAL 45 minutes} stand ovation,put Donnarumma in from here on,with Sirigu as #2. sadly these 2 games are all we’ll see of Azzurri @WC.
Prediction: ARG 3-0 ITA ITA 1-1 ENG forza Italia
on the 21st March, 2018 at 1:16am
Well yes @baggio4 it seems like a wierd bad dream that Italy FAILED to qualify 4 this WC! The World Cup tournament as a whole is becoming more and more deluded,but this one is gonna be awful. just FF>> to semifinals. Germany,Brazil,Spain,Argentina. It’s so bad for Italy ya can see the damage it’s causing on how the league can’t get its act together,FIGC is in shambles,we haven’t even found a CT yet. honestly I don’t think anyone wants the job.Ancelotti,Mancini,Capello all said they’d love ...
on the 21st March, 2018 at 12:53am
I see people a lot of people calling for Conte’s return but I am not one of them as Conte tends to choose players based on a formation, the 3-5-2. What we need is a coach who will select the best players and then build a formation around them.

We need Ancelotti. I am sure he also chooses Balotelli.
on the 21st March, 2018 at 12:45am
I am still fond of the squad that has been selected, I think it is definitely a step in the right direction. Romagnoli and Caldara to join the fray when they are fit will be beautiful.
We won't really know what these players are made of until we see them in a competitive fixture, I daresay most Serie A players will take it a little easier coming into the business end of the club season.
We just need the right coach for Euro2020, this squad has plenty of talent
on the 20th March, 2018 at 11:42pm
I still can't believe Balotelli is still being discussed at this time - if you actually watch Nice games, he does ZERO running, has ZERO desire and only scores goals when they fall to him on a plate or penalties. He has lost the hunger and love of football it seems. I wouldn't take him back until he has proven a lot more in a better league.
Serie A is 10x tougher than Ligue 1, so the people trashing Belotti for not having as good scoring record this season are a little delusional.
on the 20th March, 2018 at 11:37pm
ciao amici!
Buffon is still a great goalie no one can deny that and there
might not be another one like him either!
there are a big difference between us and other countries!!we only see the player's age not how he would perform!
Germany played Klose in 2014 world cup and won it!
we should never overlook talent like BALOTELLI!! for those who don't like him i only say friends:just remember his 2 fantastic goals against Germany and took us to Euro final 2012!
on the 20th March, 2018 at 10:13pm
@Baggio4ever You and I both have not gotten over this. What a devastating experience to not see the Azzurri at the World Cup. I don't mind the squad but our problem was never the players. We need a more experienced CT to help us get back to where we belong.
on the 20th March, 2018 at 9:51pm
Di Biagio is not up to the task.. just look at the U21 tournament recently he proved his worth which is not much.
Conte over everyone else to inject some steel, guts and a fight to the death attitude!
on the 20th March, 2018 at 9:40pm
My ideal squad when everyone is fit:

I think this is a good squad moving forward and should be able to compete with the right CT. No more Darmian, Parolo, Montolivo, Candreva and Eder please.
on the 20th March, 2018 at 6:02pm
I like the squad. Good choices all round.
on the 20th March, 2018 at 4:35pm
My ideal group to move forward with:
Conti, Bonucci, Romagnoli, Spina?
Verratti, Jorginho, Cristante
Chiesa/Berna, Immobile?, Insigne

Belotti, Cutrone, Verdi, El Sharaawy, Pellegrini, Bonaventura, Gagliardini, Benassi, Florenzi, Calabria, Emerson, Caldara, Rugani, Ferrari, Meret... and yes, I'd even give Balotelli his 476th chance.
Italia's worst problem position - LB. Haven't produced a worthy LB since Grosso.
on the 20th March, 2018 at 4:24pm
@Anonymous Romagnoli is injured atm.
on the 20th March, 2018 at 3:43pm
The FIGC is ridiculous. WE WANT CHANGE.
Di Biagio better not be made CT, not that I have anything against him, but if Italy's response to total failure at all levels is to hire the u21 coach, then we are thoroughly boned.

Is Bernardeschi injured? He should be in the squad. Caldara?
on the 20th March, 2018 at 3:41pm
I still can't believe we're not going to be playing to the World Cup...I haven't gotten over this. Regardless, I think we need a long term coach along with dedicated players who will be proud to wear the shirt and give it their all. Its going to take time but I think I can speak for everyone, hopefully this will never happen again and I hope the FIGC will be careful how the pick as a president and a coach as well...Enjoy the pick is Brazil.
on the 20th March, 2018 at 3:26pm
2/2: euro 2020 qualifiers. No surprises last minute inclusions like Ventura (less said about him the better) including Jorgingo so late on. Develop the younger players, get them exposed to international competition and ready for the big games. These players are our future and I believe are good enough. Forza Italia!
on the 20th March, 2018 at 1:30pm
1/2: Surprise there's no comments on this yet. Obviously Ancelotti is my preferred choice and if rumours of him reconsidering and warming to the idea of becoming CT are true, then all good. However, until if/when we get him, or someone like Sarri, then I back LDB. Interesting squad selection, I wouldn't have chosen Parolo though. Buffon should maybe get 45 mins in one game, or start and if we're winning take him off. Onwards and upwards and from now on only select players who we want to use for
on the 20th March, 2018 at 1:28pm
i can't see di biago staying on the FIGC need a make a statement that thing are changing for the better and for me need a top coach to signify this change.

still if it was me as italy national coach i would have a 433 with buffon florenzi bonucci ferrari spinazzola jorginho verratti pellegrini insigne belotti verdi

it is a shame that so many key players are unavailable through injury still it is a competitive group of players i expect a positive result.
on the 20th March, 2018 at 1:24pm
Hope it turns out well, only mistake made was leaving out Alessio Romagnoli and Mario Balotelli
on the 20th March, 2018 at 11:01am

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