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Wednesday May 30 2012
Can Prandelli emulate Vicini?

As Euro 2012 approaches, Luca Cetta compares the rebuilding phase under Cesare Prandelli with Azeglio Vicini’s transformation after the 1986 World Cup.

When Italy Under-21 Coach Azeglio Vicini inherited the top job from Enzo Bearzot after Mexico 1986, he took charge of an ageing squad in need of an overhaul. Just as Bearzot found when he took the role from Ferruccio Valcareggi following the 1974 World Cup, Italy had relied on its veteran stars one tournament too many.

Antonio Cabrini, Fulvio Collovati, Gaetano Scirea, Marco Tardelli, Bruno Conti and Paolo Rossi would not make it to West Germany. Experienced Alessandro Altobelli – a rare shining light in a disappointing Mexico campaign, scorer of four goals out of five as Italy scraped to the Second Round with just one win – remained in the Giro Azzurro, as did Giuseppe Bergomi, the new captain.

Along with Franco Baresi – never a favourite of Bearzot – were exciting talents Roberto Donadoni, Giuseppe Giannini, Paolo Maldini and Gianluca Vialli, all part of the Vicini revamp as only two players over 30 travelled to Euro ‘88.

Fast forward to the current era and Cesare Prandelli also inherited a squad desperate for rejuvenation. Marcello Lippi was also guilty of relying on his heroes of 2006 in South Africa and Italy paid the price, failing to win a match. Fabio Cannavaro, Gennaro Gattuso, Gianluca Zambrotta, Mauro Camoranesi and Vincenzo Iaquinta have been ousted by the new breed – Antonio Cassano, Mario Balotelli, Claudio Marchisio and Angelo Ogbonna amongst them.

Like Vicini, Prandelli has also worked extensively with youngsters, stemming from spells at Atalanta, Verona and Fiorentina as he aims to restore faith in the Azzurri. “We want to narrow the gap with the top teams, but it’s not easy. The key is to try and play quality football, football with imagination,” he noted early in his reign.

Vicini was able to build his team from one of the best generations of Italian defenders, fielding goalkeeper Walter Zenga, plus Baresi, Bergomi, Maldini and Riccardo Ferri. In reserve he could rely on Pietro Vierchowod and Ciro Ferrara, while Prandelli looks to centre his backline on the black and white wall which conceded just 20 goals in Serie A this term.

In midfield both seek the inspiration of their director. For Vicini, Giuseppe Giannini had a fine debut tournament and was instrumental in the 4-4-2 system. His 2012 equivalent is the mercurial Andrea Pirlo – back to his best this season – who is the base of the 4-3-1-2 midfield.

In 1988’s attack Vialli was the focal creative point as he sealed Italy’s place in the Championships by downing Sweden before netting once in four matches. Prandelli has pinned his hopes on Cassano, peerless during qualifying but recently returned from his medical problem. A force like the Cremona native, Cassano will be hoping his third European Championships can erase past disappointments.

Both tacticians were forced to mull over their strike partner. With Altobelli a super-sub, Roberto Mancini was given his chance following no international goal in 14 appearances and repaid the faith in the opening match against the hosts. After Giuseppe Rossi’s injury Prandelli may place his trust in Balotelli, who like his club Coach is temperamental and has only one international goal so far.

Vicini’s men reached the final four by following up their draw with West Germany with wins over Denmark and Spain. They were eliminated by the disciplined Soviet Union, who stifled Italy’s creativity. For the Azzurri it was a warm-up for two years later, when Italy hoped to win the World Cup on home soil. Prandelli is eager Poland and Ukraine will witness the growth of his squad as he casts one eye towards Brazil 2014. But he will be hoping his Italy – averaging around 26 years of age – can also make an impression, just as Vicini’s vibrant team did 24 years ago.

Have your say...
The Italy side of 1990 was a great side, and as mentioned here dropping Baggio for the semi-final costed us the final... I think we could win 2012,
on the 1st June, 2012 at 3:01pm
I see alot of ppl speaking about the Balotelli-Giovinco-Cassano trident attack,and it do seems promising on paper.However,the reality is.
Cassano just recovered from a serious illness,clearly lacking both match fitness and the physical shape to start every matches.
Balotelli is a risky bet,he can be a savior in 1 match,but can loss his temper in another.
Gio is good,but might not be experienced enough in the international level.
but if they all perform great,then Italy can achieve everything!
on the 1st June, 2012 at 5:17am
Great blog Luca. I think everyone has made some valid points. The circumstances are similar to Euro 88 but Prandelli does have a dilemma with strikers. I don't believe that Vicini had that issue, even if Mancini didn't play that well. Form was more of a concern then. In 2012, out of form players have been dropped but the strikers we have now aren't superstars. As everyone has said, Vicini should have won at Italia 90 but he had too much faith in an unfit Vialli.
on the 31st May, 2012 at 11:01am
This squad is fine, and the attack has terrific potential. I'm not a fan of big, mostly static forwards. Vieri was good 1998, but after that, like Luca Toni shot a lot of blanks. Remember Brazil in 94'?! Romario & Bebeto, two small, skillful, and mobile forwards. Di Natale is fantastic, as is Cassano. With a supporting cast of the exciting Giovinco, mercurial Balotelli, and promising Borini; I am quietly confident about this Italian side. Quality, variety, & a nice blend of youth & experience.
on the 31st May, 2012 at 9:40am
The Italia 90' team was the best Italian side that I have ever seen! They played beautiful, attacking football, whilst remaining remaining rock solid at the back. I remember Jimmy Greaves comparing this side to the Brazilian side of 1970-they were that good. Sadly, Vicini took on a cautious approach against a terrible Argentina side, and dropped the amazing Baggio, who was getting better by the game. It is a travesty that this squad didn't win the World Cup!
on the 31st May, 2012 at 9:30am
I agree with going for a 3-5-2, this has always been the best formation for Italy and the most suitable for the current choice of players.
on the 31st May, 2012 at 8:44am
nice blog, yes we could say there is comparison at least from the perspective of both coaches like to play challenging football and focus on youth in mixture with experienced players. hopefully azzurri could lift the cup, but if they reached the semi-finals that is fine in order to build a strong squad for WC 2014 where the Azzurri is much focused on, and most of all to erase the most humilating international participation of all time WC2010.
on the 31st May, 2012 at 7:27am
I think this team is waaayy better than the 88 team. Im just glad that negative defensive minded old timer lippi is finished and we finally got a modern coach that is willing to inject youth and tallent in the team instead of living in the past. forza Mr prandelli
on the 31st May, 2012 at 5:34am
I think gli Azzurri will be fine in 4-3-1-2 system. Two great playmakers in Pirlo (best midfielder) in the world) and Cassano. If the forwards can establish a good understanding with Pirlo and Cassano, all the Azzurri need are two goals per game. The balance of the game they can manage comfortably as they have traditional strengths in defence and at goal. They will surprise at Euro 2012.
on the 31st May, 2012 at 4:32am
I just cant see Italy doing too well. Yes- they have the Juventus back line who will be solid, but the attack just looks too weak and predictable. Even with Pirlo playing well, I can't see Italy scoring many goals. They dont have a big striker like Vieri or even Luca Toni. Balotelli is an accident waiting to happen, Cassano is recovering from a serious illness, and Rossi is out. The exciting days of Del Piero, Totti, Baggio are in the past.
on the 31st May, 2012 at 2:06am
hmmm... balo did pretty well in eng setting up beautifully at the death.

cassano was a monster until he took sick.

giaccherini's been on fire.

di natale's a god.

i think it'll be pretty hard for other teams to shut these guys down and see no issue, donal.

and their defense shed two goals.

just like wc 06, wasn't it? and one was an own goal.
on the 31st May, 2012 at 1:14am
I don't understand how people find the attack so worrisome. How is Balotelli-Giovinco-Cassano weak in any way? Giovinco is especially underrated. He can end up being the surprise of the tournament, given his great form. And having Di Natale and Borini as subs is pretty good. This is a great team.
on the 31st May, 2012 at 12:33am
Of course there are comparisons between Vicini's rejuvenation of Italy squad and that of Parandelli. So we hope wining the championship will be the diffrent.
on the 30th May, 2012 at 6:33pm
The lack of quality forwards is not necessarily a problem. In 2006 Italy lifted the WC with goalscorers in several positions. The midfield is capable of scoring goals as are the strikers. Without world class forwards the rest of the team has to deliver and this is good for the Italian footballing mentality that needs to abandon catenaccio.
on the 30th May, 2012 at 4:57pm
Vicini's Italy was well crafted and by 1990 was probably the best Italian side ever...unfortunately, at that point I think he began to outcoach himself, settling on a system that was far too defensive...donadoni, denapoli, deagositini, gianini dominated games and the back was inpenetrable but italy would go a goal up then he would drop into a heavy cattannaccio...
on the 30th May, 2012 at 2:38pm
i think the fact remains that no matter how strong Italy are in defence this summer the attack has to worry you, Di Natale and Cassano have been here before but failed to make any impact while the rest of the frontline a fairly inexperienced.
it such a pity that the likes of Gildardino and Pazzini's from has dipped so badly, Gilda still only turing 30 this summer and already having won the world cup 6 years ago should have been in his prime going into these Euros, sadly that is not the case.
on the 30th May, 2012 at 2:32pm
I can see your comparison to that 1988 team, but lets not get ahead of ourselves - that group of players from 1988-90 were a different/master class (Zenga, Baresi, Ferrara, Bergomi, Feri, Maldini, Vierchowod, Ancelotti, Giannini, Donadoni, De Napoli, De Agostini, Mancini, Vialli, Altobelli, Baggio & Schillaci).

I don't think this current drop are as good, however the class of 2006 were not as good as that team either yet they won the ultimate prize.

Speriamo, Forza Italia
on the 30th May, 2012 at 2:17pm
Vicini's Italy was by far & away the most exciting Italy I have ever seen - I have followed the Azzurri since 1982. I hope Prandelli can emmulate AV in terms of the brand of football Italy will play. Una bella figura would be nice.
on the 30th May, 2012 at 1:58pm
nice article.
i will advice Mr P base his system on the 3-5-2 rather than his prefered 4-3-1-2.
this system protects the mercurial PIRLO while utilizing the wings with MAGGIO and BALZARETTI
on the 30th May, 2012 at 1:58pm

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