Sunday June 3 2018
Azzurri and Oranje rebuild

Italy and the Netherlands are the notable absentees from this summer’s World Cup and both must now look to the future, writes Nick Valerio.

Superpowers Italy and Holland go head-to-head on Monday in a World Cup warm-up friendly. Except neither of them are going to the tournament in Russia.

For Ronald Koeman’s men, the pain of missing out on a major competition dates back to Euro 2016 when the Oranje failed to even get a play-off berth in qualifying. Meanwhile, opponents on the night Italy will hope their embarrassing and well documented failure to reach Russia is a one-off, as life under new Coach Roberto Mancini begins to take shape.

Of course, 1988 European Championship winners Holland have had a two-year head start and the early signs are positive for one of the continent’s footballing heavyweights. Depending on your stance on international friendlies, whether you considered a non-competitive match a hindrance or a worthwhile run-out, the Netherlands did convincingly dismantle a Cristiano Ronaldo-led Portugal at the end of March, a feat not to be downplayed. The Seleção continue, and quite rightly, to ride the wave of their 2016 exploits and rarely get beaten so handsomely.

Central to the new Oranje side is the defensive bedrock. In £75m Virgil van Dijk, new Inter acquisition Stefan de Vrij and in-demand Matthijs de Ligt, the Netherlands have a backline that could play together for the next decade. Van Dijk is arguably world class, De Vrij offers a sound and consistent presence, but in De Ligt, Holland have a talent that is going to be around for the best part of 20 years. The Ajax starlet will learn besides his two defensive colleagues and is almost certain to become an Oranje captain one day.

Further forward, Gini Wijnaldum and Roma’s Kevin Strootman provide the experience to allow Justin Kluivert to focus on attack, while Memphis Depay is a player reborn with Lyon in France. The Netherlands have some way to go to reach the sides of former glories, but there is talent in the ranks. Under an advocate for youth in Koeman, there is certainly cause for optimism and Euro 2020 should be a realistic target.

Elsewhere, Mancini’s reign got off to a steady start, beating Saudi Arabia 2-1 and then falling 3-1 to a star-studded France. The main talking point of the former Inter man’s opening few weeks as CT was the inclusion of Nice frontman Mario Balotelli. The striker instantly made his mark after nearly four years away from the national side and the Azzurri would probably be looking forward to an opening group clash with South Korea had the 27-year-old been selected.

The inexplicable decision to ignore his talents while Manolo Gabbiadini and Ciro immobile, for all his league credentials, toiled against a below average Sweden side continues to cause mass uproar in the country and it’s imperative as the standout striker in the national set-up, the Number 9 shirt should be Balotelli’s for the foreseeable future.

Promisingly, Mancini has opted for a similarly youthful first squad and the excitement is beginning to return in Italy. In Jorginho, Lorenzo Pellegrini and Marco Verratti, the Azzurri have three outstanding technicians and it’s down to the Manchester City title winning Manager to mould them in to a compatible trio.

On the wings, Mancini is spoiled for choice, and will enjoy watching Federico Bernardeschi, Lorenzo Insigne, Federico Chiesa and Matteo Politano tussle it out for the two berths either side of Balotelli. Defensively, new skipper Leonardo Bonucci must usher in Alessio Romagnoli, Mattia Caldara and Daniele Rugani as his successors.

Italy will struggle without legendary quartet Gianluigi Buffon, Daniele De Rossi, Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini, but the outlook appears bright. The key, now, is to ensure each friendly is approached in the correct manner, as the Azzurri have long discredited the ties, and this was the beginning of their downfall.

The glitz and glamour may be missing, but the Netherlands and Italy both owe it to their proud nations and the footballing world to ensure they bounce back as swiftly as possible.

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Have your say...
At Verona he was just about box-to-box. Pirlo was a classic 10 who was slow, with build-up, long-range passing, etc. Not even a classic registra but an inverted #10. Jorginho is more the number on his back. I think it's a mistake to think you can just transfer him directly and expect the same thing. Where are the dynamics in place to utilize him like that? He'll still be a good player but will he be the guy he's been at Napoli? Italy also have Verratti. There are solutions to be sorted.
on the 14th June, 2018 at 10:32pm
Also, regarding Jorginho...

He's not really a deep-lying playmaker. Remember, he was used a certain way by Sarri. The B2B DM (Allan) was pushed higher up (a la Gattuso in the diamond) and Jorginho moved deeper (similar to a certain someone). Allan has technique, speed and athleticism, and can attack. Jorginho has more energy than Pirlo, and you see it when he played last week. He runs a lot looking for the ball, rather than providing the Pirlo-like old man classy option. He's a true CM.
on the 14th June, 2018 at 10:29pm

You literally have no business in talking, because there isn't a thing you know. And I'm telling you, here or anywhere else.

Anyway, useless person aside (don't respond because I've moved on), Italy have a lot of talent. Their defense is a long way. I don't like Mancini, but he does have some qualities and he could do well for Italy. People need to stay away from complaining about 3-5-2 or anything else.

Make something that works for your best players. That's how you go far.
on the 14th June, 2018 at 10:22pm
Van Dijk arguably world-class and De Ligt the star...but while Van Dijk is arguable, De Vrij is not. De Vrij is world-class and absolutely the best Dutch CB.

With Italy, I'm not sure if Barzagli qualifies as a legend. World-class late in his career (still looks it when he's able to play), but not sure if legend. Now I'm being punctilious.

But, do not forget Berardi. He's the best Italian talent in some time. No reason to give up on him.
on the 14th June, 2018 at 10:14pm
Jorginho is qualty end of.. or else why the hell would Pep/Man City want him???
Veratti is quality no doubt about it. just needs to pull his head in and move to a better league.
Bernardeschi will be back soon.
Not convinced with Belotti atm his form and near misses are atrocious ...Italy can ill afford to have a CF that continuously sh!ts himself in front of goal.. at least Immobile is consistently scoring for Lazio... Belotti ain't even doing that atm!!!
Thank god for Balo!!
on the 5th June, 2018 at 8:59am
I think Mancini will do well...he's leaving no stones unturned, trying many new young players and combinations and soon will have other quality players come back from injury or poor form.
Andrea Conti (when fit) will solve right-back(wingback) position...Florenzi on the left... problem solved.
Both are quality, quick, dynamic players that can also score.
There are many options in midfield just have to settle with what works best for the team.....
on the 5th June, 2018 at 8:47am
Regarding today's low level of football ligue in the Netherlands, they have astonishing national team. Actually I'm happy enough to remember great Ajax ;-) TBH Celtic was also big once upon a time, while Scotland never was.rET5
on the 5th June, 2018 at 7:35am
FYI... Italy HAD they qualified would be in group D. Italy would of been in 2nd pot. When they failed to qualify Croatia took their spot, from pot 3. ...and Sweden took Croatia spot in pot 3. because of FIFAs stupid ranking system. So we were denied seeing.... ITA v Nigeria ITA v Argentina ITA v Iceland Very entertaining games imo,considering what selected 23,and would FIGC fired Ventura and replaced him with Ancelotti or Mancini,or someone else had they beat Sweden? We’ll never know.
on the 4th June, 2018 at 11:57pm
Of course in Serie A, all these players should get more games and be regular starters, only that will help Azzurri.
on the 4th June, 2018 at 7:43pm
I was skeptical about Mancini, but he has experience. Selections are good, and now its about developing team chemistry, and also improving being clinical with the chances. That is crucial. Pellegrini missed chances in Saudi game.

As bad as Ventura was, if Italy took their chances, they could have won playoff with Sweden 3-1. Both Immobile and a semi-fit Belotti missed chances.

Hoping for improvement and a win today.
on the 4th June, 2018 at 7:42pm
With this technical midfield, they can mix it with long and short passes.

Also enough of Chiellini and Buffon. They were great but time's up now. next major tournament is 2 years away and world cup 4 years. So it would be better to have players between 18-25 start now and gain experience and chemistry to be a more stronger team with time.

The selections are good. I would only add El Shaarawy as he seemed to end season strongly. He is highly technical player but needs more confidence.
on the 4th June, 2018 at 7:38pm
I think 4-3-3 is a good formation. It could be alternated with 5-2-3 when need to go defensive by adding another CB.
I like Mancini's selections. I thought Balo was disappointing in 2014, and did not want him but time has passed and he is now scoring more regularly so his callup is deserved. Him and Belotti should get chances.
Also those that criticize Jorginho, I think he's an intelligent player, but he needs support alongside.
A technical midfield of Verratti - Jorginho - Pellegrini seems good
on the 4th June, 2018 at 7:33pm

I think you confuse Dutch with Holland! Dutch is just the general term for people from the Netherlands, like Italian is for Italians. Holland is only a small part of the Netherlands, that some people from the Netherlands indeed (me excluded) find offensive.
on the 4th June, 2018 at 6:59pm
Totally agree with @Julian Critelli ....

Crucial season for many coming up. Hopefully Chiesa,Cristante,Caldara and some other young talents move to bigger clubs and play regularly.

Perin on bench at Juve won't be good. Hope Verrati can get his head straight else forget the Azzurri jersey.

on the 4th June, 2018 at 5:50pm
Buffon, Barzagli and Chiellini are good enough ow to lead the charge to the qualifying games.

At least for ONE season......
on the 4th June, 2018 at 3:57pm
Question mark..........

According to pundits Jorginho was the worst player on the pitch against France, yet he'll be the only player to play in all of the 3 outings!
on the 4th June, 2018 at 2:36pm
I say that we should just give Mancini time to find his feet, get to know his best starting 11 and build the team around the absolutely pivotal players for the team (Balotelli, Bonucci, Verratti and Jorginho). We didn't have a very strong team in Euro 2016, yet we beat Spain and Belgium and only missed out on penalties to Germany. Everyone knows that Ventura was a stubborn old man who didn't want to be told what to do and couldn't see the right players/tactics to use! We have the quality...!
on the 4th June, 2018 at 2:22pm
“Mancini? We’ve seen that he has great experience and was a great player because he speaks the same language as the players. He helps us a lot and gives us lots of advice.

“He’s a great Coach and he’ll give a lot to the national team."

Federico Chiesa

I agree with this. I think Mancio will do well as a National team CT. All the negative folks have to give the man a chance. Anyhow, the real problem in Italy is the lack of talented players coming through the pipe.
on the 4th June, 2018 at 1:32pm
Paratici will be at the match, running the rule over De Ligt, Romagnoli and obviously over Perin.
on the 4th June, 2018 at 12:34pm
@Juve Fan - Beradi was the most ineffective player all night against France.. looks like a match stick out there agains the bigger french players... to me he's useless.. does little in an offensive role and is a liability elsewhere
on the 4th June, 2018 at 11:40am
Pinturicchio - don't quite get your critical comments... Darmian and Spinazzola didn't see the pitch in either of the last two games.. Mancini needs to be given a chance. So far, i see some positive decsions.. at least he's experimenting with more youthful players. And the Balo decision was excellent. Anyone who thinks the man should be left off the team is either blind or racist - I see no other reason not to give Balo another chance. He )and Chisea) was the best player both games.
on the 4th June, 2018 at 11:37am

You call them old tactics because the world of football pundits call them that, and because of the enamor with a 4-3-3 which is as shapeless as possible, but these tactics are anything but archaic. It's a winning formation. It doesn't lose often to a 4-3-3. Italy was anything but boring in 2016 and with this formation we would be competing now.
4-3-3 is all hype, exposes midfield and leads to garbage goals being scored due to a lack of defensive coverage. Only good for weak goals
on the 4th June, 2018 at 8:23am
People are either massively stupid, and can't think for themselves, or are just brainwashed by the media to believe Insigne is an international player, the guy is desperately bad in every department, he made us lose at least 3 titles, and the mantra is still going on about the supposed "Il magnifico", Oh Raiola, please dump him as quickly as possible to anyone, please...,trouble is that no one wants such a liability.
on the 4th June, 2018 at 1:01am
@stef are you really from holland most people i know who are from holland find being called dutch a insult as it is representative of a small part of holland.
on the 3rd June, 2018 at 9:05pm
I think the same more or less goes for Italy. Some good talents, but some very weak spots as well. Not that much choice when it comes to the full backs (even though I like Criscito as as Genoa tifoso), a lack of high quality strikers. We'll both just have to deal with the fact that the current generation isn't as good as the former generation. Let's just hope that both Italy and the Netherlands will qualify for EC2020.
on the 3rd June, 2018 at 7:06pm
As a Dutch guy, it is very sad to see two great nations in such decline lately. I think it will take some generations before both nations will be on their old level again. The Netherlands has some great talents (like de Ligt) and a very solid defense (de Vrij-Van Dijk-De Ligt are three great center backs), but lack quality attack and midfield players (Wijnaldum and Strootman are garbage in the Dutch team). Kluivert is very overrated, not Roma material whatsoever.
on the 3rd June, 2018 at 7:01pm
Best Italy eleven. Maybe Im forgetting someone.


Conte, Caldara, Romagnioli, Calabria.

Chiesa, Veratti, Florenzi, Bernarderchi

Balotelli, Belloti.

Bench. Donnaruma, Chiellini, Rugani, Darmian Pellegri, Berardi, Zaza, Immobile and so on. But this is the be best Italy got. I think Caldara and Romagnioli have potential to become great. The CF position is the issue with italy not maby opbtions other than Balotelli.
on the 3rd June, 2018 at 6:13pm
Caldara, chiellini, rugani, romagnoli.
on the 3rd June, 2018 at 4:26pm
bring Conte back and with or without talent although there is young talent the cup will be ours in 2022
on the 3rd June, 2018 at 12:24pm
Nick... Politano over Berardi?

On form our best 4 wingers - Chiesa - Insigne - Bernardeschi - Berardi

After that 5. El Shaarawy. Politano is a hardworking winger but is overrated he has no flair he's just a bomber like Pepe and he is a year older than Berardi.

Berardi stats 58 goals in 178 = 1 in 3

Pescara 11 goals -73 = 1 in 6.6
Sassulo 21 goals - 95 = 1 in 4.5

Berardi is a classy player he has just been injury prone this season.
on the 3rd June, 2018 at 10:43am

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