Wednesday August 15 2012
English lessons

What have the Azzurri learned from their fourth consecutive friendly defeat? Quite a lot, argues David Swan.

Italy’s record in August friendlies is not the best – only three wins in 11 games since this fixture was introduced as a regular on the international calendar in 2002 – so the 2-1 defeat to England should not surprise anyone. Even more so when they are a week ahead in pre-season preparations.

So it becomes about performances and positives to take from the game. Coach Cesare Prandelli started with a 4-3-3 – a system he has been desperate to implement ever since he took charge, but that has not been possible given the players at his disposal.

The issue has always been the lack of wide players, but the new crop of Italians encouraged Prandelli to try it again. Stephan El Shaarawy is one of the new breed and he was given his chance in Switzerland on the left hand side, a position he took up for Padova during the second half of the 2010-11 Serie B season.

Unfortunately he was pretty anonymous throughout his time on the pitch, with Alessandro Diamanti, who was playing on the right, only marginally better. As a result quality attacking play from Italy was sporadic.

Neither offered a great deal of width – that the full-backs were the best source of wide options when the team was playing a 4-3-3 tells you all you need to know about their effectiveness at stretching England. They did not receive the ball to feet a great deal and were forced to cut in to look for it, getting lost in the process.

Prandelli recognised it was not working and wasted no time in switching back to the more familiar 4-3-1-2 for the second half. The group of players that started did not get much time to impose themselves post-switch before the standard flurry of changes halted progress somewhat.

It is not the first time Prandelli has tried to force the 4-3-3 through – it was only November last year when he was toying with the idea as first option after a reasonable 45-minute showing against Poland, before a much poorer effort in the second half against Uruguay a few days later convinced him otherwise.

If he wants it to work he must get a handle on the situation with the wide positions. The struggles against England can be put down to many reasons, with not much game time in 4-3-3 being one of them, but the lack of players is still a thorn that has not gone away.

The two options that can fill these places long-term, and fill them well – El Shaarawy and Lorenzo Insigne – are likely to be hampered by too many minutes on the bench at their respective clubs this season. Beyond that he is still waiting for others to develop and does not have a lot of choice. There are guys like Simone Pepe, but he is far too deficient in the requisite quality for international football. Mario Balotelli can do it, though he seems destined to play centrally and it would be silly to move him for the sake of filling a hole.

Thankfully Prandelli does not have the same problems in the centre of defence. It was only a couple of years ago that people were wondering where the next set of central defenders was coming from. With his display on Wednesday evening, Angelo Ogbonna cemented his name on the growing list.

Unfussy, dominant and with a superb individual piece of defending from a James Milner cutback towards the end of the game, his presence gives the Coach genuine depth in that area. Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Ranocchia were both missing from the squad – the other two outstanding young options – and that is ignoring Bonucci’s two Juventus teammates that bring the total up to five.

Davide Astori could make it six. He was not as good as Ogbonna – one or two mistimed tackles that probably would have led to cards in competitive games blotted his copybook, but the ability is clearly there. At 25, he now needs to push on, which means showing the Coach he is worth another shot.

If he is on the list of options for Prandelli, then he is probably sitting in sixth place right now due to superior performances from his competition. But talking about the future of the sixth best central defender for Italy is not a bad scenario given the situation two years ago. 

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Have your say...
Lets not forget Borini, he may be critical if Azzurri need to shift to 433.

With young players like Balotelli, Destro, Verratti, Insigne, Borini, Ogbonna, etc I think the Azzurri future looks brighter than usual.
on the 23rd August, 2012 at 4:38pm
I think Italy's Youth have a bright future but for them to improve we need our youth to be playing in our top teams. I think Verratti and Poli should of started and i hope they get more chances to prove themselves and i think players like Alberto Aquilani and Antonio Nocerino should step down and let our young have ago.
on the 20th August, 2012 at 4:40pm
Viviano - a decent keeper did ok against Northern Ireland in euro qualifier but nothing more. Abbiati - age is against him although a good goalkeeper in my opinion. De Sanctis - not up to the job and age isnt on his side either. So in my view Consigli and Leali are our best options for the future, but both have a lot to prove. We need Buffon at his best for at least the next 2 tournaments.
on the 18th August, 2012 at 3:13pm
Realistically I can see Buffon doing the next World Cup and Euro Championships at which point in 2016 he will be 38 years old. I hope as mentined previously Consigli gets the opportunity to prove himself, also I feel Nicola Leali could potentially turn out to be a future Italy number one. These 2 goalkeepers are our best hopes for the future. Looking at othe goalkeepers for a moment : Marchetti - very poor at World Cup 2010 , Sirigu - poor, makes errors not upto scratch, Amelia - much the same.
on the 18th August, 2012 at 3:08pm
In response to Jimi maybe I was a little harsh, to be fair you have to admire England having won nothing since 1966, 46 years of hurt, anyone who is optimistic after that deserves a medal. We are a tournament team that is why I believe we can win the World cup in 2014. Yes Brazil and Argentina will be difficult to beat, but both are beatable as both teams arent great defensively also as the World cup is in South America a huge weight of expectation will be on their shoulders.
on the 17th August, 2012 at 6:57pm
2 years ago after the 2010 world cup I predicted we would make the Euro 2012 final and everyone laughed. I'm not suggesting winning the 2014 world cup will be easy but I believe we can win it. As already mentioned I believe the Confederations cup can act as a platform for the younger players to further grow ready for a strong challenge in Brazil in 2014.
on the 17th August, 2012 at 6:38pm


Guys, I guess Italy is having a team for 2014. Virtuosity upfront, experience, stamina and passing skills in the middle and a Nesta-Canna-like defense. Probably not a world cup winner with Brazil, Argentina, Spain and Germany being the other credible contenders, but the Seminfinal is well within reach
on the 17th August, 2012 at 4:39pm
Earth calling Sam De Martino...

Italy winning 2014 world cup ??? The WC to be hosted in Brazil ??? LoL isn't that a little far fetched...

Don't get me wrong, I'm an Azzurri supporter but I know where to draw the line and between reality and delusional.

Italy will do well but I can't see them winning in 2014, nope I'm sorry...
on the 17th August, 2012 at 2:09pm
Verratti, if he is given some playing time for psg (a big if), should begin to get caps for the national team. It is the only way for prandelli and the azzurri to wean themselves from pirlo dependence. I think its unlikely that Pirlo will be as on form in two years as he was in poland and ukraine.
on the 17th August, 2012 at 9:32am
@ Sam de Martino, 'the way the English talk you'd think they had won the World Cup'; if you are going to make sweeping generalisations then back it up with evidence. Just before the Euros, Italy were demolished by Russia. Suddenly they reach the final, and you think that the World Cup is possible in 2014? With an amped -up Brazil, Uruguay or Argentina? What an irony. The English's bulldog optimism is mistaken for arrogance -- yet you are doing exactly the same. Pot kettle black is chiming loud.
on the 16th August, 2012 at 11:06pm
who was talking to you Sarcasam? i didnt hide, am always here, wheni find an intersting blog, i write on it, i didnt badmouth any team, just stating simple facts, and we are proud of the azzuri even after the euro final, if we had a couplemore days rest and actually played with 11 players the whole game, it wouoldnt haven ended the way it did, anyways, still proud. FORZA AZZURRI
on the 16th August, 2012 at 9:55pm
Whatever happened to Criscito? Why has he gotten no call up? He's clear of charges. I prefer Criscito or Santon over Balzaretti anyday.
on the 16th August, 2012 at 4:56pm
I hope Prandelli uses the Confederation cup next year to try out different players and to experiment a bit. The confederation cup in my view is the perfect opportunity for us to do this before Brazil 2014 where it counts. Prandelli has transformed our national team from the realms of despair in 2010 to a euro final in 2012 and I hope and pray a 5th star in 2014. He deserves a lot of credit, we couldnt have done anymore fate turned against us with huge fatigue and Motta leaving us with 10 men.
on the 16th August, 2012 at 4:44pm
The future is bright. I truely believe we can win the world cup in 2014. We have the quality and Prandelli has given the players real self belief. I am confident we can start with a positive win in Bulgaria and then go from there. We are Italy and we are second to no one thats the mentality and thats the way it should be. I hope also Prandelli gives De Ceglie a chance this season provided he performs well.
on the 16th August, 2012 at 4:35pm
I thought Verratti was bright when he came on, although I would have liked to have seen him earlier. For us last night was about experimenting and trying out new players, I feel Prandelli will have learnt a lot from last night. Aquiliani i felt was poor and I question where his place is in the team. The way the English talk you would have thought they d won the world cup after beating our experimental team. Thats England for you always the bridesmaid never the bride.
on the 16th August, 2012 at 4:26pm
Is Prandelli trying to break a record of most friendlies lost for an Italian coach? Italy have lost friendlies to Russia, Uruguay, USA and now England!

Anyway as for the game, I thought Aquilani was very poor and I dont even see him in the top 10 best italian midfielders at the moment. Destro impressed me alot and I liked Diamanti. Sirigu made an absolute howler for the winning goal and its a shame to see another Italian goalkeeper fail to reach their potential(Amelia).
on the 16th August, 2012 at 4:26pm
Insigne and Immobile where fantastic last night in the under 21 match and I am sure their chance will come. Insigne has huge potential. Despite the huge attacking options we have ie balotelli, cassano, borini, destro , di natale, rossi when fit, giovinco, insigne etc we need to be more clinical in front of goal. In the euros we scored 6 goals but created so many chances that we failed to take, this is frustrating because we have the quality to really punish teams.
on the 16th August, 2012 at 4:19pm
Prandelli should have played Consigli he deserves a chance after a great season at Atalanta instead of Sirigu. Sirigu is a liability he should have saved Defoes shot. The few times he has played he has made mistakes as he did in the qualifier in Estonia before the Euros. It worries me greatly that after Buffon we have no world class goalkeepers. On the positives I believe the future is very bright. I thought Ogbonna, Peluso and Destro where great all can play a big role in the future.
on the 16th August, 2012 at 4:12pm
Not too concerned with the loss, but I don't understand why Prandelli is trying to force through a 4-3-3. For 40 years Italy have developed excellent terzini that cover the wide areas all the way up and down the pitch, and now in 2012 we have Balzaretti, Criscito, Abate and Maggio, who aren't Facchetti or Maldini to be certain but are more than capable. Italy doesn't produce attacking wingers because they're redundant, and I think they still are, better to play a diamond midfield.
on the 16th August, 2012 at 3:18pm
Italy without Juve is nothing.
on the 16th August, 2012 at 2:15pm
Unless Mazzarri is stupid, then Insigne will surely feature regularly for Napoli. My personal preference is a 352 for Italy-our full-backs are really wing-backs, and are not good enough defensively; so you need the insurance of a 3rd centre-back. El Shaarawy isn't ready. If Prandelli persists with a 433, then he should give both Insigne and Cerci an opportunity. Ogbonna did impress, as did Destro. Aquillani has to be axed, just what do does he bring to the team, other than a whimper?
on the 16th August, 2012 at 1:17pm
It was a very good showing, despite the defeat it was experimenting with uncapped youngsters with potential (on both sides). I'll have a bit of fun now and make a prediction of Italy's World Cup 2014 squad; mine is;
GK = Buffon, Sirigu, Viviano
DF = Peluso, Chiellini, Ogbonna, Balzaretti, Ranocchia, Bonucci, Abate
MF = Diamanti, Marchisio, Verratti, De Rossi, Montolivo, Nocerino (maybe Pirlo?)
FW = Balotelli, Insigne, Destro, Immobile, Giovinco (and maybe Rossi?)
on the 16th August, 2012 at 1:10pm
pato lover, im surprised you have emerged from your rock, i thought u were still in hiding after what spain did to your country in front of the world.

You would do well not to badmouth other teams, after your team was bent over a barrel
on the 16th August, 2012 at 12:52pm
england only won because they fielded a team to win, im EXCITED about the new talent coming up hopfully eacthesnew players that played last night get regular play for there clubs to build on what they have already devleoped the only worry i have is whos the next buffon
on the 16th August, 2012 at 12:25pm
in short, italy,germany,brazil,argentina and possibly other nations have way better youngsters and a national team than england. In short, england wont stand a chance in a real game
on the 16th August, 2012 at 8:48am
It was a great show from italy youngsters, back in 2008 when the Azzurri exited Euro2008, i thought we will not go back on the big stage for a long time, 4 years later and am proved wrong.A euro 2012 performance that we italians knew prandelli can do but the ignorant outside world didnt. Now we have destro,borini,insignie,immobile,shaarawy,ogbonna,astori,abate,verrati,pelusso let alone de rossi,montolivo,nocerino,chiellini,bonnuci,balotelli,diamanti.Play consigli instead os sirigu, hes overrated
on the 16th August, 2012 at 8:35am
I am not too considered as Italy don't win friendlies. It was a decent showing. Since there has not been a Milan blog for a while I am going to use this opportunity to moan. Astori had a more than decent game. He used to be in Milan's youth team. We let him go and now can't afford to re-sign him. Incompetence is not the word. Galliani has to go.
on the 16th August, 2012 at 8:09am
take it easy David, your post as if it is a Euro / WC game! it was just a friendly. however, i agree with you about 4-3-3 system; it could work with azzurri but it needs the right talented players and time.
i watched the game and all i cared is to see fresh healthy legs not shaky ones, and from what i saw, Italia has promising excellent team, providing them youngsters play regular football.
on the 16th August, 2012 at 7:50am
With the qualifiers only 3 weeks away, this friendly match was worth playing, even with this experimental side there was quality coming through, Ogbonna Astori Destro all look ready to step in if needed, others need more playing time. Let's not forget the english league kicks off in 48 hours so in terms of fitness sharpness and preparation they are ahead of the Italians, less then 2 months ago we showed a footballing lesson to england when it really mattered, the future is bright for the Azzurri
on the 16th August, 2012 at 7:14am
My only worry real for the Azzurri is a replacement eventually for Buffon.Sirigu just didn't look confident last night and has never impressed me that much (now also been dropped for PSG).De Sanctis looked very poor in the euro friendlies and never convinces me for Napoli and Marchetti who played in the WC in South Africa never impressed.It's the only position that really concerns me.I have faith in all other positions on the field and we have some very good young players coming through.
on the 16th August, 2012 at 5:44am

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