Sunday March 24 2019
This Italy can be braver

The 2-0 victory over Finland showed Roberto Mancini's Italy are on the right path, but Elio Salerno's tactical analysis highlights the need to push it further.

Italy’s Euro 2020 qualifying campaign kicked off with an expected win over Finland. However, despite this being their third consecutive victory and fourth straight clean sheet, Roberto Mancini is still showing only glimpses of his Azzurri vision.

The game’s opening stages played out in familiar fashion, only an early Nicolò Barella goal providing a break from the norm. Finland set up in a 5-3-2 low block in an attempt to stifle and frustrate their hosts. Italy looked to counter this with an expansive set-up in possession, with Mancini asking his team to occupy as much of the pitch as possible.

With the ball, Italy’s shape resembled a 3-2-4-1. During the first 45 minutes, Giorgio Chiellini sat centrally with support from Leonardo Bonucci to his right and left-back Cristiano Biraghi in a slightly withdrawn role. In front of the back line were midfield controllers Jorginho and Marco Verratti who, as expected, were a key factor in the team’s build-up as they probed away at the Finnish block.

Federico Bernardeschi and Barella were tasked with overloading central spaces in the final third. This was done in an attempt to offer vertical passes in-between the opposition lines, with the aim to disrupt Finland’s defensive structure. However, due to Italy cycling play too slowly, they never got the ball into these areas with regularity, allowing the Nordics to shuffle over and keep spaces locked up.

The Italians struggling to develop the ball through the pitch has become something of a trend over the last couple of years. 

The exciting Moise Kean provided width on the left and looked menacing when he was isolated against defenders. On the occasions Kean drifted inside, he opened up space for Biraghi to venture forward, while on the opposite side Cristiano Piccini was a constant outlet with his high and wide positioning. Ciro Immobile again found life difficult, a striker that relies on the team to play for him is out of his depth in a system that requires him to play as more than a Number 9.

Without the ball, Italy looked to press Finland when play was deep in their half, but did so with little success. This is credit to the visitors, who were patient in possession and often found passes into their front players which then forced Italy to drop off. Markku Kanerva’s side recovered well from an early set-back, asking questions of Italy and ending the half very much in the game.

The second half saw Mancini make a change with Kean moving to the right and Bernardeschi shifting to the left. This swap meant Piccini was now playing slightly deeper, with Biraghi adopting a much higher start position on his side. The pattern of the match did not really alter that much, but Italy’s play did improve. The intensity lifted slightly, play was sharper and despite Finland carving out a fantastic opportunity to score, the Azzurri looked more fluid with Verratti taking a more commanding role in the game.

The crowd at the Stadio Friuli would have certainly been left impressed by 19-year-old Kean. Grabbing the decisive goal was reward for his promising display and vindication for Mancini’s selection. A clever run from outside saw the Juventus striker slipped in by Immobile and he dispatched confidently to top off a dream competitive debut.

Overall the positive upturn for the Nazionale continues, three points were fundamental and progressive steps – if small – are continuing. Creating chances and scoring goals are a well-documented problem, something witnessed again in this encounter. Italy scored more than once for just the second time in their last 17 outings. The boss is showing signs of bravery; he is providing talented youngsters the opportunity, but he must take this a step further.

The approach against Finland puts heavy emphasis on the full-backs to provide an extra layer to the attack and while both Biraghi and Piccini are reliable players, they lack variety going forward. Introducing the likes of Leonardo Spinazzola will undoubtedly help, while deploying Kean through the middle and flanking him with Bernardeschi, Nicolò Zaniolo or Matteo Politano will certainly supply Italy with a dynamic attack that can hurt the opposition in a number of ways.

Mancini has said he wants Italy to entertain, so he must add these additional dynamic elements to the XI. The team looks one-dimensional at times, players that can change the pace are needed in more areas. This is part of the reason why players like Kean and the unavailable Federico Chiesa have been welcomed with such positivity. Explosive players with technical quality that can change the game in a moment.

Opportunities to continue the improvement are coming around quickly, as this qualification process is packed into a tight schedule. Tuesday’s game against Liechtenstein is the perfect chance for Mancini to really let this team loose and play those can be that source of entertainment.

Have your say...
Yes Dami, well said, I speak and write in English and Italian, My mums italian, my dads italian, grand parents are Italian but I just became English apparently.
Your right. Keep it relevant. The game was rubbish had kean not scored the 2nd but someone else did we would be sat here talking about ITALY just about beating Finland! Instead we are now talking about Kean as if he led Italy to an amazing win, we were rubbish.
If Italy turn into Europes 2nd african nation then fine!!!
on the 26th March, 2019 at 4:34pm
"Please keep your comments clean and try to keep them relevant to the blog above"

Those are part of the rules when posting right? So why do our words get filtered for foul language but when trolls with nothing relevant to add post about race and nationality you don't filter? Why? Those posts cause the blog to descend into nonsense and bickering and often ruin it. If you're going to filter, start filtering for ignorance instead of stupid common every day language.
on the 26th March, 2019 at 2:52am
he is ITALIAN. Jorginho albeit moved to Italy as a teen is still classified as Italian as he both spent over 10 years living there and has Italian blood. Camoranesi wasnt born in Italy yet people wont complain about him playing for us as he was part of the 06 squad. Its 2019 people stop commenting as though its 1940 as this is half of Italian footballs problem, too many morons stuck in the past. Support tour players and lets not scapegoat Kean like people did Balotelli just because hes black.
on the 25th March, 2019 at 9:11pm
I find it quite disgusting that people sit here commenting on this site that they dont want full Italians, or black players like Kean or Balotelli playing for Italy. Its also quite ironic considering the fact that they are commenting it on an ENGLISH SPEAKING SITE so clearly ARE NOT FULLY ITALIAN THEMSELVES. Kean was born in Italy, lives in italy and is ITALIAN. Just because he has african heritage makes him no less Italian than anyone else in the Azzurri side. Balotelli was born in Italy.
on the 25th March, 2019 at 9:07pm
No way should Balotelli be anywhere near this squad, especially to influence Kean in a negative way. We don't need Mario.... I would take Quag any day over him. He had his chances, arriverderci Mario !!!
on the 25th March, 2019 at 7:24pm
Is there something I missed during this match? Italy looked bad going forward and only created 1-2 decent chances. First goal only went in because of a deflection. No imagination up front and for me Immobile shouldnt see the field again for italy. He has had way too many chances to try and prove himself but all he does is run around the field like a chicken with no head. If they had played this same game against Spain and won, I would be impressed, but Finland is not even moderately good.
on the 25th March, 2019 at 1:13pm
I was fairly happy with their performance.I agree with most comments that Quagliarella and Spinazzola should have played.Lets not forget that this was the first game after a fairly long wait.I am and always be optimistic.Some negatives to be ironed out.RC is on the right track.I am very impressed with him.Forza Azzurri.
on the 25th March, 2019 at 12:36pm
@Marco Cimmarusti
O no you done it now!!! Won't be long you will be being called racist!
There are plenty more Keans on their way up so either accept or start watching a new sport.
By 2022 we too can be like the French and Enter an African team into the Euros (if we can actually qualify that is)!!!
on the 25th March, 2019 at 12:08pm
Overall good performance. Moving forward, Immobile should be nowhere near this team! He has proved time and again that he is useless.
The trio of Barella -Jorginho - Verratti is perfect. Upfront should be Mean, Balotelli and Insigne/ Chiesa.
on the 25th March, 2019 at 9:37am
Correct. That's how you pick a national team 3-4 years from a World Cup. Maybe it's not a 'golden generation' in that i don't see many 'legends' but i do see a quality batch of players to keep the level high.
If another great CB can emerge, i'd be very confident overall.
on the 25th March, 2019 at 8:32am
No non Italians should be allowed to play for Italy no matter what. That means kean and Jorginho.
on the 25th March, 2019 at 7:11am
>>> going to progress and have an identity if he keeps tinkering. By now he should have constant formula. He’s had enough time.
Everyone on here has their opinions on who should be called,but it’s too many players, and cmon we know some should not even be mentioned. We’re playing favorites.
Only use players playing well, dump Insigne,try Chiesa Kean etc.
on the 24th March, 2019 at 3:47pm
Ok so we got 3 pts. But look be happy we’re inthe easiest group. Berna looked like he was drunk. Please start him on bench Tues. Quag needs to start / play a half.
Ciro ? This has to be last chance. If he doesn’t score brace v Lichtenstein then he’s done. Btw anything less than 4-0 win Tues. means there’s still major issues.
And what’s with all these injuries? Doesn’t help when team/strategy keeps getting reshuffled. Mr. must stop calling up 30 players,and pick solid 16 to work with. We’re never
on the 24th March, 2019 at 2:59pm
And Lazzarri as a wingback JUVEFAN no?
on the 24th March, 2019 at 1:53pm
Donnarumma 20; Meret 22; Spinazzola 25; Romagnoli 24; Calabria 22; Conti 25; Caldara 24; Verratti 26; Barella 22; Zaniolo 19; Tonali 18; Bernardeschi 25; Kean 19; Cutrone 21; Chiesa 21; Belotti 25; Pellegrini 20

The next generation looks promising.
on the 24th March, 2019 at 1:32pm
Bernardeschi had a poor game yesterday but he is only going to get better, with Chiesa, Insigne and Politano aswell we have a lot of options out wide. Overall we are in good shape and on the up, Ciro needs to go though he is useless for the national team.
on the 24th March, 2019 at 1:22pm
We looked good at times yesterday, starting to see an identity and the side taking shape under mancini. Fullbacks should be Calabria and Spinazzola going forward, Romagnoli is also ready to take over for Chiellini, who I hope makes the Euros. The midfield looks excellent already and we still have Zaniolo and Tonali coming through. I think Kean is the long term option at CF but hopefully Quags makes the Euros, if he can he should be our 9 as he looked incredibly dangerous yesterday.
on the 24th March, 2019 at 1:20pm
Chiesa 21 Kean 19 Zaniolo 19 all have potential to make a future world 11

Tonali 18 can reach Veratti's level

Pietro Pellegri 18 has huge potential

Romagnoli is as good as any CB in world football - his stats are the best alongside Van Dijk

Donarumma 20 & Meret 21 are the best two young u21 keepers in the world & at big clubs, both have potential to be in a future world 11

With players like Barella 22 Bernadeschi 24 plus Veratti capable of playing 4 more tournaments we have a bright future
on the 24th March, 2019 at 12:56pm
Lots of positives - team starters if the euro was tomorrow based on form would likely include 4 players under 22 - Kean 19, Donnarumma 20, Chiesa 21 Barella 22

Zaniolo 19 should replace Jorghino soon (then Tonali 18 when he's performing a big club with Zaniolo moving into an attacking trident - Chiesa Kean Zaniolo.

Juve fan but Romagnoli should be starting, Chellini's a much better defender than Bonucci its shame he's older

Definitely a golden generation coming through headed by Veratti at 26
on the 24th March, 2019 at 12:35pm
Gilespe - Spain took a penalty to beat norway... we hit the bar and should've had 2 penalties, it could've been 5-0 without us playing 100%. What more do you want in terms of result?

Immobile needs to go... Kean, Balotelli, Belotti, Pellegri, Cutrone are the forwards to pick from.

Wingbacks from Spinazzola, Calabria, Conte, Emerson, De Sciglio, Luca Pellegrini, Di Marco, Adjapong. But Briaghi and Piccini not worthy, nor Florenzi who has become way to clumsy.
on the 24th March, 2019 at 12:26pm
Kean and Balotelli together would be at the least worth experimenting on at some stage. Would like to see Romagnoli play the next game he should be playing more. Regarding who wasn't picked I would like to see Caldara (when fit), Conti, Calabria, Tonali, Bonaventura, Cutrone, Balotelli and Meret. Rugani needs to leave Juve to play more, he isn't developing at all at Juve. Looking forward to Tuesday, hoping for lots of goals.
on the 24th March, 2019 at 11:46am
....I have only seen match highlights and can't comment on individual performances. Yet if posters on here think some players are not suited or are under performing, then maybe Mancini could consider fielding more of Moise Kean's teammates from last year's u19 Azzurri. A team who bravely finished runners up in Europe i.e. Scamacca, Zaniolo, etc. Maybe also a defensive plan B for BC who are approaching their International shelf life.
on the 24th March, 2019 at 10:13am
3 points is all that matters .
Let’s just focus on qualifying and getting to the Euros, once we get there it’s a different ball game !! Forza Azzurri!
on the 24th March, 2019 at 10:13am
We haven't seen "..third consecutive victory and fourth straight clean sheet.." in a long time, so this is a definite positive! I agree that this Azzurri side is a work in progress and should be more brave, bold and ruthless with killing off the opposition.....
on the 24th March, 2019 at 9:50am
A work in progress, but happy with a 2_0 win. Also should have had 2 clear penalties and quagliarella very unlucky not to score at least 1 goal. The problem is the intensity is to slow, we scored early and should have really put the pressure on Finland to kill the game early instead we let Finland grow into the game. We need to be more clinical we all know this. Immobile should be nowhere near the team.
on the 24th March, 2019 at 7:59am
What's with all the positivity? Italy's performance against a pedestrian Finland was disjointed and unimaginative, it didn't feel like the Azzurri.

Mancini's team selection was perplexing to say the least.

Why did he start with the out of form Immobile instead of the on fire Quagliarella?

Why play Kean on the left wing when there were 3 better options on the bench?

And why can't he see that Jorginho is so ineffective he might as well go home. Only Bernardeschi was worse.
on the 24th March, 2019 at 7:37am
It's good they got the points and it's great for Kean, but let's not pretend Italy played phenomenal or something. Against any mid rank team, Italy would have struggled.
on the 24th March, 2019 at 4:55am
the fullbacks were horrible and at times held the attack back. I also thought that jorginho at times held unto the ball too long and stopped a lot of Italy's counter attacks in the process. quagliarella looks so sharp and must be a consideration to start over immobile. but really and truly kean is a cf, he was played out of position for this game. for me the front 3 should be Chiesa-kean-bernadeshi. insigne is one of the worst Italy number 10 I have ever saw.
on the 24th March, 2019 at 1:44am
Biraghi shouldn't be in this lineup... Spinazola should have started this game... I'd also Quagliarella next game... and is there something wrong with Bernie's brain?? And Ciro, te ne vai o no, te ne vai si o no? Although he did make that nice little pass to Kean.. first good thing he's done for italy
on the 24th March, 2019 at 1:40am
Get Jorginho out of this side. He's useless.
on the 24th March, 2019 at 12:44am

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