Tuesday May 29 2018
No nuance for the Nazionale

Roberto Mancini won his debut and Mario Balotelli scored on his comeback, but Susy Campanale felt it just confirmed people are never happy with Italy.

As with most Italy games, Roberto Mancini’s debut was greeted with a mixture of over-excited mania and doom-laden despair, but very little in-between. It’s the first friendly match of a new era, at the end of a long season with no World Cup to look forward to and at a time when all the players just want to go on vacation. Don’t expect the moon.

Mario Balotelli returns after four years of being inexplicably not even called up and within 20 minutes has found the net. He works hard, has several more chances, provides a great through ball that Alessandro Florenzi fails to make the most of and even apologises when accidentally clattering an opponent. He goes off after an hour due to a muscular problem and the reaction to his performance is along the usual party lines.

Those who have been calling for Balo’s inclusion for months, even years, are shouting from the rooftops that Italy would’ve been packing their bags for Russia right now if they had only picked the Nice striker during qualifying. The usual gang who call him a disgrace to the Azzurri jersey view it as a lazy display, doing the bare minimum against a poor Saudi team, not celebrating and mumbling through the national anthem. Both are, in my humble view, wrong.

Balotelli is a very good striker, no doubt about it, but there were fundamental problems within Giampiero Ventura’s side that needed a lot more than a hitman to solve them. He did what he had to do against Saudi Arabia who, poor or not, are going to the World Cup while we’re trying to decide who to support or whether to even bother watching the tournament at all. I don’t really see what more he could’ve done in the time on the field.

While SuperMario is the lightning rod for the Azzurri, he’s not the only one who prompts this all or nothing response. Lorenzo Insigne is either hero or villain, the best player on the pitch or the most useless waste of space, and never the twain shall meet. Gianluigi Donnarumma is a victim of media bias or an hyped up child in over his head.

Somewhat inevitably, much of the adoration or criticism of these players is influenced by club allegiance and that is the main problem Italy face.

Right now, the Italian Government is non-existent after talks to form a coalition broke down. Again. And again. This is not a united country. People would rather argue and blame each other than try to find solutions to common goals, or God forbid acknowledge the other side had done something right. It’s no different in Italian football and the partisan nature of the analysis to any Azzurri match is frankly unhelpful.

Mancini had his first game in charge and actually won his debut, something that only Antonio Conte had managed out of the last eight Italy tacticians. He tried to spark a generational shift with the youngest starting XI since November 2010, coming in at an average age of 26 years and eight days. Still he is criticised in some quarters for a “disgraceful” 2-1 victory over Saudi Arabia, while others declare it the dawn of a new era just days before facing a far tougher test with France.

Unless we in the media, and the fans, find some semblance of balance and realism, we’ll never be happy with the Azzurri or help them to improve.

Have your say...
Great to have a matured Balo back. I for one will be swallowing my words of past and happy to have him in the squad. No celebrating or running, complaining the through ball wasnt perfect therefor didnt deserve his effort to run for? fair enough. I can compromise and keep my mouth re his character. As long as he scores goals.

But lets not make the mistake of assuming he will take la nationalize places on his own. Including Balo in the squad under Ventura would not have been enough to dent a WC18
on the 29th May, 2018 at 10:20am
While I agree that Ballotelli is vilified, its only because we know he has the quality to give more. Isnt that what wearing the Blue shirt is about? Giving your utmost.

I agree with Mancini...Balo can do better and im looking forward to seeing that.

A very average performance but Mancinis first game with a victory. All that I want to see next is how Mancini will prepare for a tougher opponent. I dont want a fluke 'thatll do' performance victory. I want to see direction!
on the 29th May, 2018 at 10:08am
There is little point lamenting the fact we didn't qualify for the World Cup. Even if we managed to get past Sweden and assuming we would've been placed in the Group they're in with Germany, Mexico and South Korea I can only imagine it would've been another first round exit. Ventura was the wrong choice and was clearly out of his depth. We have to be positive and hope Mancini can do something with what's available to him. Time will tell.
on the 29th May, 2018 at 9:37am
The NAZIONALE usually is never as good or as bad as the masses of supporters at large like to believe.

On paper, the NAZIONALE, with the right selection of players, and one of our best managers in charge, will always be able to give any other international side a good game.

Then you can have TOPPISSIMI in the side but Blatter against you and you end up losing in a painful, but very farcical way, against South Korea.......

With Del Piero, Vieri and Totti in the side.....
on the 29th May, 2018 at 9:34am
I was encouraged by what I saw, especially in the first half. You cannot expect a team that has so many new elements to perform like a high class orchestra when they have only been together for a week, under a new coach. So what if we only had 48% possession! How many chances did we create? How many corners did we earn? What was the final score? Using possession as a performance metric is an incredibly simple way of analyzing a match, when there are so many variables to consider.
on the 29th May, 2018 at 8:57am
The problem is Serie A has mid-table or lower Italian players to offer the national team now. Cheer Italy as a whole all you want, but Italy has little individual talent. The talents of Serie A belong to other countries, one of which will win the World Cup.
on the 29th May, 2018 at 8:28am
Yes 2-1 against SA but we always play at our best against the top sides.I am more worried about how we will play when the real games start in September and not these totally meaningless friendlies.Our aren't just already on the beach,they have been tanned for weeks.
on the 29th May, 2018 at 8:17am
Don't have much of an appetite for the Azzurri at the moment however it was always obvious we should have had Balo in the squad from way back.He could have got us to the world cup but we will never know.
on the 29th May, 2018 at 8:15am
Please leave politics out of football, it has no place. What goes on within government should not taint the passion football.
on the 29th May, 2018 at 8:13am
"while we’re trying to decide who to support or whether to even bother watching the tournament at all."

I believe in Roberto Mancini.

But Perin REALLY deserves a chance now.
on the 29th May, 2018 at 7:42am
Yippee we beat Saudi Arabia! Oh ya we're not going to the world cup. Great step forward but too late. Hard to care until it counts. It is too bad we did not do this 2 years ago with Mancini.
on the 29th May, 2018 at 2:20am
Well, leaving politics aside, I realized that we're starting from scratch. Not a great performance with some positives and negatives. I'm not sold on Donnarumma. I think Perin would be an ideal choice. We need to rethink the central defender positions as well as the right and left backs. Start from there and build a competitive team for the euros....Good luck to Mancini and hopefully he will steer them in the right direction. We need patience and definitely loyalty to this team. Forza Azzuri...
on the 29th May, 2018 at 2:10am
Italian tifosi are still frustrated by what Ventura did and it will take Mancini some time to formulate a winning strategy. When you look at the depths Italian football has sank these past ten years, it will take a rebirth as Mancini claims, but with some positive tactics and players respecting the jersey again, then we could achieve good results again. We need a little bit of faith moving forward, but Mancini picked the best squad currently at his disposal. This is a positive first step for now
on the 29th May, 2018 at 1:52am
Team selection seems ok but we'll see if Mancini ends up playing favorites like every other manager.There's a severe lack of quality and players like Bernadeschi and Verratti must walk straight in when fit. I don't want to hear this stupidity about Verratti and Jorginho not able to play together.
Also i've seen this 4-3-3 episode before. Every manager tries it, then realizes we don't have the players/mentality for that formation. 4 mids is the way to go please.
on the 29th May, 2018 at 1:42am
Susy you have nailed it on the head. When will Italians learn to put their own silly agendas aside for the better good. As individuals they are fantastic at what they do, but put them together to foster a common cause and all that engrained prejudice rises to the surface. Too bad really as they could be leaders in many areas.
on the 29th May, 2018 at 1:30am
52 percent possession to 48 against Saudi Arabia!!!!! Say no more!!!!! Very painful dark days ahead!!!!
on the 29th May, 2018 at 12:36am
It must be clear to any neutral football fan, with no axe to grind, that if Italy had relied o Balotelli/Pelle' and Insigne/Giovinco in the World Cup campaign, then the Azzurri would have had a very realistic chance of qualifying.

And once in Russia, the team would have had a traditional top role to play, assuming Antonio Conte was in charge.
Quarter finalists material if compared to the nations taking part.

More if the Dea Bendata had smiled on them, as She does occasionally......
on the 29th May, 2018 at 12:31am
I like what I saw with the exception of politano... he is not ready to start for the national team... When will Balo complete the maturation process and get a proper haircut?!?

Can't wait to see them against tougher opposition (France)
on the 29th May, 2018 at 12:21am

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