Tuesday June 5 2012
Injury, scandal, infighting and more scandal

Scott Fleming shifts through the detritus of a disastrous seven days for Italy and tries to find reasons for optimism.

The corridors of Coverciano must be littered with broken mirrors and black cats.

A police raid and Domenico Criscito's exclusion from the squad last Monday, Leonardo Bonucci being placed under suspicion of similar Calcioscommesse misdeeds last Tuesday, a friendly against Luxembourg cancelled on Wednesday, a friendly against Russia they were left wishing had been cancelled on Friday, and last night, news of an injury which could see Andrea Barzagli miss Italy's Euro 2012 campaign in its entirety.

It's been a catastrophic seven days for La Nazionale all told.

What next? Andrea Pirlo to do his metatarsal in a collision with the drinks trolley on the flight to Poland? Mario Balotelli to suffer an injury on the escalator at Krakow airport? Antonio Cassano to bankrupt the team with his room service bill?

Each individual setback has been met with the same response. It’s Italy, adversity is their middle name, they eat scandal for breakfast. But as blow after blow rains down, the twin forces of despair and panic become harder to resist. “Italy against everything,” reads the front page of today's Gazzetta dello Sport. More misery can be found in the sub headline “Criscito: 'That place is mine, the Coach made a promise.' Albertini: 'That's not true.'”

Yes, we can add internal dispute to injury, scandal and poor friendly performances in the list of problems the Azzurri could really do without. Whether or not Criscito's claims are credible, he has stirred up a broth which was already threatening to boil over. Criscito's contention is that Prandelli informed him: “He would call me up if anyone had to leave the squad because of injury. He said it didn't matter what role they played in, even if they were an attacker. [FIGC Vice President Demetrio] Albertini was there too.”

Instead though, Prandelli appears to have earmarked Cagliari's Davide Astori as Barzagli's replacement, if the latter fails to recover from his left soleus injury, otherwise known as a calf strain.

The fact Prandelli is even contemplating keeping a player in his squad who will in all likelihood miss the group stage is an indication both of the lack of central defensive talent on the peninsula and of the dramatic career renaissance Barzagli has undergone with Juventus, going from three years without a international call up to becoming one of the players the Commissario Tecnico can least afford to do without.

His absence not only deprives Italy of a first-choice centre-back but of an important tactical alternative. The 3-5-2 which Prandelli had hinted he would introduce for the Spain showdown this Sunday now looks less viable, even if it was trialled in training this morning, with Daniele De Rossi stepping into the back three.

At this point it’s futile to trail out the old lines about Italy thriving in adversity, but at the risk of exceeding acceptable levels of optimism and contradicting the preceding 400 words I say this: it’s not all doom and gloom.

Astori is young, inexperienced internationally and playing for a provincial club, but so was Barzagli when he stepped in and did such an admirable job after Marco Materazzi's sending off against Australia at the 2006 World Cup. Barzagli, Criscito and Beppe Rossi are big misses but Italy's personnel problems are nowhere near as severe as those of other contenders such as England. And no matter how many injuries happen, at least now, unlike at the 2010 World Cup, we know that whoever steps into the side is going to be someone who is there on merit.

This tournament was never about winning, it was about showing the world the new Italy, a younger, more stylish Azzurri that is proactive not reactive. And that - black cats and broken mirrors permitting - is what they remain on course to do.

Keep up to date with the latest news and action from Spain's Primera Division with Football Espana - from the team behind Football Italia.

Have your say...
I am only wearing blue and white, the Italian flag is in the lucky spot. I am calling on all the lucky omens to see Italia win!
on the 7th June, 2012 at 7:37pm
Forza Italia, Forza Azzurri
on the 6th June, 2012 at 4:19pm
if i were spain i'd feel a great pressure. nobody's expecting anything of italy, now. perfect recipe for an upset.
on the 6th June, 2012 at 4:05pm
I think Italia are due this championship and an opposing team will be on the end of a severe thrashing. Balotelli to be the top boy. FORZA ITALIA!!!!!
on the 6th June, 2012 at 11:48am
Im not sure about all this optimism regarding scandals & injuries. Back in 2006 despite what was going on, the Azzurri looked like a solid unit. This time, its really affecting the team, point in case the 3 - 0 defeat to Russia.

Surely after what has happened lately, nobody expects the Azzurri to win, the best they can do is qualify for the quarter finals.

The opponents? Rep of Ireland beat us recently in a friendly, Croatia tought us a lesson at WC 2002 & Spain, they World & European Champs
on the 6th June, 2012 at 5:47am
Key thing is the mentality. If prandelli can get them motivated and up for the battle, and get them to gel as a group we may just be ok. What worries me is the lack of options in defence, we just don't have the quality there anymore in numbers.
on the 5th June, 2012 at 8:12pm
Though it would be great for the Azzurri to win Euro 12 are we really expecting them to win. They dont have the best defence, They dont have a turn of pace and they dont have technically gifted players at the moment. We are a good side but not Euro Winners. Having said all that Negativity neither were the 2006 Winners and they pulled it off yet the Best Azzurri side 1990 failed at the last hurdle FORZA ITALIA
on the 5th June, 2012 at 7:39pm
Come on nothing like a betting scandal and some chaos to focus the group! '82 Betting scandal = won the world cup, '06 Calcio scandal, Juve relagated = won the world cup. 2012 Calcio scandal still trying to bear fruit, good player sent home, injuries, rows, bad press = cup win is nailed on isn't it? This team is good enough to trounce anyone if they get together and hit a bit of form there is no one to fear in the euros so come on FORZA ITALIA!!!!!!!!!!
on the 5th June, 2012 at 3:15pm
Scandal and corruption has always been part and parcel of the italian game. I was more worried 2 years ago when lippi was extremely over reliant on th old guard. At least this italy is more younger, pacey and unpredictable than lippi's team . Our bad run of luck will end. . .sooner hopefully than later. The key is midfield pirlo motta etc esp against spain. Forza italia
on the 5th June, 2012 at 2:56pm
Lack of centre backs is a problem for any nation in the world. These days you dont see anymore Nestas Cannavaros Thurams and Maldinis. That being said I think Italy have a strong group of central defenders and I would have no problems seeing Astori Bochetti Ranocchia in there to replace Barzagli. Also P Cannavaro would have been nice since Prandelli is considering a 3 man defence. Also Acerbi Andreolli and Silvestre are all very good centre backs Plus some interesting prospects like Camporese
on the 5th June, 2012 at 2:51pm
Here is a short psychoanalysis of the big contenders for the Euros:

Spain: self-promote (we are the best)
Germany: self-sabotage (we miss sitters)
Holland: self-defence (destroy the opposition)
France/Portugal: self-obsess (need I say more)
England: self-adhesive (stick to your guns, even when firing blanks)
Italy: self-destruct (need I say more)
on the 5th June, 2012 at 1:59pm

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