Friday June 1 2018
Azzurri growing pains

There are choppy seas ahead, but Italy should focus on the positives and move in the right direction after defeat to France, writes Giancarlo Rinaldi.

As challenges go, this was like graduating from dipping your toes in the kiddies’ pool to swimming with sharks. With the greatest of respect to Saudi Arabia, their ambitions at the upcoming World Cup are a lot less lofty than those of France. Yet the Azzurri went toe-to-toe with one of the would-be winners of that competition and just about came out alive.

Make no mistake, there was a gulf in class that was evident, but that was always likely with the young and inexperienced line-up Roberto Mancini selected. The power of Didier Deschamps’ side - particularly in their searing counter-attacks - was terrifying at times. But every judgment must be measured against the depths to which the Italian national team had sunk. Even one small step towards the level of their opponents would feel like a giant leap right now.

No defeat is ever pleasant, of course, but it is surely better to throw fresher faces into the mix right now and test their abilities. The new boss showed he was willing to take that risk and he got a mixed bag of answers. Some of the next generation looked ready for the fight, others perhaps need a few more rounds of sparring.

Firmly in the promoted section was Fiorentina’s Federico Chiesa. He crackled with energy and enterprise throughout the game and demonstrated that he was willing to show no respect for the reputations of his more illustrious opponents. It is an attitude that needs to be transmitted throughout the team if they hope to rise up the global game again, but the Viola man already possesses it in abundance. He might not have guaranteed himself a starting spot in this new Nazionale, but he certainly has to be one of the first names in the squad for the foreseeable future.

Mattia Caldara also seemed to confirm his good form with Atalanta in a decent pairing with skipper Leo Bonucci. With Alessio Romagnoli also coming along nicely - as he showed against Saudi Arabia - the central defensive positions look pretty well covered. It is a shame the same could not be said on the flanks.

That is where - to these weary old football-watcher’s eyes anyway - the biggest alarm bells have been ringing over the past few days. None of the options explored at right and left back looked particularly convincing. Be it Mattia De Sciglio, Davide Zappacosta, Mimmo Criscito or Danilo D’Ambrosio, they all showed their shortcomings. The first two, at least, have age on their side, but none looked all that promising as a long-term option. Some might be tempted to hurry Davide Calabria along at Milan or stick with the tried and tested Alessandro Florenzi going forward.

It was a tough shift on Friday night too for the other new boys. Domenico Berardi showed odd flashes while Rolando Mandragora drew the short straw of trying to handle one of the best midfields in the world right now. Along with the also relatively untested Lorenzo Pellegrini they got over-run at times, but stuck to their task. You got the feeling, at least, that their time might come - even if it might not be right now.

And what about the recently returned to the fold Super Mario? Well, he did play a part in the Italy goal with a powerful free-kick that Hugo Lloris could only parry out to the waiting Bonucci. If you combine that with the strike he delivered against Saudi Arabia, he has already more than justified his call-up from Mancini and made many question why he was left out in the cold quite so long.

It also sends a message out to the bozos with banners who seem to like to follow him around and question his credentials to play for his country. The Azzurri - like Les Bleus - should be an inclusive outfit, not throw up barriers through ignorance or prejudice.

Moral lessons aside, this was a steep learning curve for Italy which is likely to continue for some time to come. New faces will rise and fall and some more established performers will return. The new Coach said he did not have a magic wand to fix things overnight and that much was evident in his second outing in Nice.

The doubters can dwell in gloom and talk of terminal decline but - to my mind anyway - it is too early, and frankly unproductive, to go down that road. There were enough splinters of hope in this performance for us to cling on to and hope to survive and rebuild. There will be choppy seas ahead, for sure, but at least the sun is on the horizon and we appear to be heading in a better direction.

Have your say...
What about florenzi, chiellini, bernardsechi, gagliardini, eder? Any future? Should pelle be reconsidered? He was great in europe 2016.. giaccherini was impressive in Europe 16 but was unceremoniously ignored at napoli and is now aged and also out of big match practice. I think Insigne should still be in contention. He is a creative aggressive player.
on the 4th June, 2018 at 9:03pm
Incidentally, PIRLO was very well known worldwide since he was 18 and 19 years old playing "fantasista" with the N. 10 for the young Italy Under 21 side that ruled the roost, winning European Titles.

He was outstanding with assists and with his special goal bound freekicks.
on the 4th June, 2018 at 1:59pm
Yes yes well said, then all we need to do is change 'transfer deadline day' to 'transfer citizenship day' and boooom every national team can have a club team set up with no national players or players with actual links to a nation.
Future looks 'great' if we all employ that mentality.
on the 3rd June, 2018 at 6:41pm
Disappointed by the comments such as those by Tino Baggio and Doo-Wop, and it shows how backward and close-minded we still are in our thinking. Such views, in my opinion, have no place in 2018. If you think France is "cheating" because of their "non-French" players, you need to take a step back and look at yourselves. In my opinion, if you are an Italian citizen, you should be permitted to represent La Nazionale. That's all every national team should require: citizenship to the country.
on the 3rd June, 2018 at 4:46pm
Out of the 23 players squad, the 5 places usually reserved for the forwards should go to 3 out of 4 from Insigne, Chiesa, Giovinco and Rossi plus Balotelli and one from Belotti and Kean.
on the 3rd June, 2018 at 2:22pm
It's fair start by the Azzurri, just what all the pundits expected.

I can't stop repeating that WE DO HAVE the players to carry on the tradition of Italy as a top side, and time will tell....
on the 3rd June, 2018 at 2:15pm
DooWop; your argument reveals its inherent racism when you start using the words "ethnic" and "pure blood".
You then pivot to making an argument about nationality and big teams poaching players from other nations like a game of recess kickball.
Which is it do you wish to preserve? Ethnicity? or Nationality?
I happen to prefer when players choose the nation of their birth, but it has nothing to do with their ethnicity or their mythological "pure blood".
on the 3rd June, 2018 at 10:59am
And after Grosso and Balzeratti, the struggle of finding an Italian left back continues. You can't face France with such line-up but I understand that Mancini didn't want to risk losing his first match and there is an upcoming game with NL, but even though Italy must give more attention to friendlies. Rest one max two important players but not more (Insigne,Romangioli,Donnarumma,Bonnaventura,Florenzi) and his subs were so late 65',74',78',86',88'
on the 3rd June, 2018 at 8:40am
we need a credible 10 for starters !!
Forza Azzurri
on the 3rd June, 2018 at 12:39am
>>>> thinking that’s ruining the rules of game. Look at France, that’s practically cheating since they have players born under 5 different French owned states or provinces...which are mostly African. Now the beauty of Italy was they were the last team other than Spain to be champs with only ethnic or pure blood players.
Not racist,just why bother having nationality rule in 1st place. Then Let’s just have nations each pick 1 player at a time from world pool like school recess kickball ?
on the 2nd June, 2018 at 11:28pm
@worthless your name fits perfect for your comments... anyway those players were Argentine Italians. If you know history Argentina had a large influx of Italian immigrants back then. still to this day there’s a kindred tie between both nationalities. and Brazilian players had Italian parents so there. They weren’t players from Africa Middle East or Asia. They also had rule which player could rep more than one country,which was done away with for a short time but came back. It’s typical SJW >>>>
on the 2nd June, 2018 at 11:17pm
It's too early to judge.In my opinion though, Italy need to play with two strikers. Balotelli is not a penalty box striker and having someone like Belotti or Immobile in there will draw defenders and give him more space. Insigne,Berardi,Chiesa,Verdi are all solid wide options and in midfield Italy have a good bunch in Jorginho,Veratti,Cristante,Gagliardini.The center backs are great.The ingredients are there but Mancini needs to find the right combination.
on the 2nd June, 2018 at 10:04pm
france have a relatively inexperienced young team as well, they do produce some of the best players in world football so it is unfair comparison in some ways.

Even so this italy side is mediocre in comparison to the teams pre 2006 what it has going for it is a improving generation of players over the generation which proceeded it. there are also players like verratti bernardeschi barella gagliardini emerson zaza conti who missed out on this particular game who can make a massive impact.
on the 2nd June, 2018 at 10:00pm
@ARD If Italy become like France, with no ethnic Italians on the National Team, we will cease to be Italy, and whatever happens, whether we win one world cup or 1000, will be meaningless.
on the 2nd June, 2018 at 7:47pm
With Europe getting flooded with all the immigrants from Africa and the middle east, and the Europeans population not having children to increase their numbers all of Europe will look like France eventually. Italian national team will look like that too, so get used to it. No hatting just the truth. The time of Italy being a world beater has passed. I see some good players but not enough to compete with the big teams at the moment. Maybe eventually when we turn like France well come back.
on the 2nd June, 2018 at 4:43pm
I really don't understand all these "lets keep the azzurri limited to only real italians" comments being posted on an English site... Also for all of those bragging about having four stars above our badge, don't forget we had five Oriundi players back in our 1934 world cup-winning squad...
on the 2nd June, 2018 at 4:36pm
2/2 On the basis of the last 2 games Sirigu should be the No 1. He is still relatively young and performed some excellent saves last night. He has played at the highest level and his experience will be a calming factor, a trait that I do not trust Bonucci or Donnarrumma to exhibit. If Perin joins Juve as back up then he should stopped being selected and his place go to either Consigli or Sportiello until Meret is ready.
on the 2nd June, 2018 at 3:42pm
GK: Sirigu (Donnarumma Perin)
DEF: Conti (Florenzi) Bonucci (Caldara) Romagnoli (Rugani) Calabria (Palmieri)
MID: Bernadeschi (Verratti) Jorginho (Gagliardini) Barella (Cristante)
FW: Verdi (Berardi) Balotelli (Belotti) Chiesa (SES)

This is the team i’d Like to see when all are fit and on form. No room for guys like Insigne and Immobile who are horrid at this level. Others to consider will be Cutrone, Bonaventura, Pellegrini, Politano, Benassi. 1/2
on the 2nd June, 2018 at 3:32pm
...defenders that never gave up more than 2 goals against anyone,and shut out most teams. I like Sirigu,and hopefully Gigi and Perin fight for pecking order. Midfield needs to attack and defend at same time.2 counter attack players and 2 defensive players. days of Fiore and Pirlo, and Gattuso and Zanetti in mid. hopefully Balo can keep his head straight, Immobile rise up and Berardi Chiesa can bloom.
on the 2nd June, 2018 at 3:29pm
Agree with let’s keep Azzurri Italian as possible. No more let’s take foreign players who may be in good form,but not selected for country of birth team,then we say ok,we’ll take you,cuz we’re desperate and form just drops. It’s happened in the past, Eder being latest.To early yet but Jorginho will prolly go down this way,specially if he moves to ManCity. Let the youth players fight with country passion to be selected,and earn the shirt.
Need to be rebuild from back to mid. Get that backline of
on the 2nd June, 2018 at 3:19pm
Those who feel time is needed are correct, about 15 years after reform and a change in mentality from Serie A on how many foreign players each team can have and how we actually treat Italian youngsters. Harsh reality I'm afraid. Anyone how thinks losing 3-1 is acceptable is the reason the national side is in this mess, i don't care if its his 2nd game or 20th nothing will change with this group of players because each and everyone of them is sub-standard and overrated.
Pain ahead people!
on the 2nd June, 2018 at 3:18pm
Juve Fan
You don't agree with the lack of talent?? What are you watching??? The fact you have picked about 5 GKs to make the numbers up tells its own story.
Name a player in that team that could become a pirlo or totti... none.. most of the team dont even get first team football. I mean the fact we are once again holding Balotelli up as flag ship world class talent says it all. He failed in Serie A the somehow got worse in premiership the only place a failed striker can score is in France.
on the 2nd June, 2018 at 3:09pm
Tino Baggio
100000% agree. If Italy ever become like France I'll stop watching international football.
Watchng France is like watching the African nations XL. Unfortunately that maybe our only path, with Serie A only playing Brazilians, argentians and africans our only hopeis to turn those players into Italians which in itself will fail as most of those we have in italy are rubbish anyway. I mean Jorgihno is average at best and there are some who hold him as the star, says it all really!!!
on the 2nd June, 2018 at 3:04pm
Luciano S
Want entertainment go to a concert. I want us to win and based on the 2 perfomaces i have seen so far and the fact people actually believe Balotelli will be the one to change everything i see a long and painful road to more failure!
on the 2nd June, 2018 at 2:53pm
Lack of talent is simply just a lazy excuse, we have plenty of good youngsters, look at the amount of individual talent Belgium have yet they have won a total of 0 trophies together. Mancini is the right man to take us forward and its good that the kids are starting to play together now. Who knows just how good some of thee guys could be in 2 years, 2 seasons is a huge amount of time in football. We're on the right path.
on the 2nd June, 2018 at 2:13pm
Anyone that does not agree with this is approach should give up being a fan. Mancini I see practically starting over from scratch and all Italian fans should support this project not bash it, that the Italian MO. He is going against the grain and all in all Italy shook France. The figc need to allow Italy to train more during the down time because with this process of rotation we can find the next group of stars and once we do there will be no stopping Italy.
on the 2nd June, 2018 at 1:34pm
Obviously Azzurri needs more time. As the National team is in build up stage, and I like Mancini’s approach; give youngsters the chance to be bold & learn from mistakes, encouraging the talent to move forward. Never mind that Azzurri loses now by 2,3,4 goals even though it is painful to watch that, however, should the CT continues the good work he is starting then my projection for Azzurri that they will be superior and easily beat Germany, France, Spain, Argentina & Brazil, 100% sure of that.
on the 2nd June, 2018 at 12:06pm
And I dont agree with the lack of talent comments - Totti came good at 23 in Euro 2000. Likewise De Rossi at 21 made his name at the WC 06. No one knew Pirlo until he was 26 at 2005 CL final. Talent gets recognised when its unleashed, no manager since Prandelli was interested in youth. This is arguably the most talented pool of players we've had since WC02, all we have lacked is a talented manager and more importantly one that is open to pick the young talented players (Conte / Ventura were not)
on the 2nd June, 2018 at 10:07am
For points about barriers and being inclusive. yes and no. Ignorants and prejudice are not welcome. But I dont think im ready for an Italian side with names that are not Italian. I may still be a dinosaur on the subject but are national sides becoming like club teams. draft in, fast track anyone who is good rather than seeing the growth and development of young Italians coming through. Umtiti my only example of non French birth but many non French names. Ill catch up with the times eventually
on the 2nd June, 2018 at 10:01am
I thought italy played quiet decent at times... even energized. The defenders made some critical errors though and France was clinical on their counters.. I thought that Italy gave up too much on those counters. Balo is a protagonist! He is a difference-maker out there..even made a good defensively play deep in their box. Chiesa is clearry the best young Italian.. I am surprised Siragu is back. He played pretty well. It was a positive result even if the score wasn't.
on the 2nd June, 2018 at 9:59am

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