Thursday February 7 2013
Verratti lifts Azzurri gloom

Italy forgot to show up in Amsterdam last night, but a late goal at least saw them avoid defeat. Giancarlo Rinaldi wraps up the Holland friendly. 

Italy friendlies should come with a health warning because they can seriously damage your faith in the Azzurri. Even the most incorrigible optimist would find it hard to be upbeat after most of their international Amichevoli. And they left it until injury time to give fans anything to smile about in Amsterdam.

For about 80 minutes, the boys in blue were going through the motions. Lacklustre and lackadaisical were two of the kinder adjectives to describe their performance. It took a string of fine saves from Gigi Buffon to avoid slipping further than a single goal behind to a strike by Jeremain Lens which had more than a hint of handball in its build-up.

But that potential infringement felt like clutching at straws for most of the game. The Italians were second best for long spells and only the odd incursion by Ignazio Abate or flash of brilliance from Stephan El Shaarawy lit things up. Other than that, the match seemed to be sliding away from them on the slippery surface in the Amsterdam Arena.

The team looked hesitant and disinterested and struggled to come to terms with the 4-3-3 formation it attempted at the outset. Cesare Prandelli said it was a tactical approach they would need to work on. Some might prefer to see it consigned to history.

A quality midfield of Andrea Pirlo, Daniele De Rossi and Riccardo Montolivo never took off. That meant Il Faraone and Mario Balotelli had little service to feed off. It allowed Holland to prosper and, until the very closing stages, look more like extending their lead than conceding an equaliser.

But a late shuffle, and a switch to 4-3-1-2, provided 10 minutes of promise. Pablo Daniel Osvaldo and Alberto Gilardino – two men Prandelli worked with at club level at Fiorentina – produced more than the crest-sporting juniors they replaced. Alessandro Diamanti slotted in better behind that front two than he had playing wide on the right. They actually started creating chances.

It looked to have all been in vain until the very last moments of the match. Marco Verratti – who had come on to replace De Rossi – had got more and more into the game until he finally broke into the box. Feeding off a Gilardino knockdown, he held off his man to scoop home a sweet finish over Tim Krul.

The goal gave a better sheen to a performance which had been pretty miserable up to that point. It broke a rotten run of friendly defeats and, for that, it has to be welcomed. But the bright spots were few and far between.

They were the saves of Buffon, the character and determination shown to claw their way back into the game and Verratti’s beaming smile when he scored his goal. It’s not a lot, but Italy have never shown much in their friendlies and we should all be used to that by now. We can only hope that the last 10 minutes or so in Amsterdam were a taste of what we can expect to see when the chips are really down.

Have your say...
It's not in Azzurri's culture to employ wingers, so the coach needn't waste time on them anymore.

Stick with 4-3-1-2 never mind a lack of classic trequartistas. There are plenty of CAM to play that role.

As such:

Buffon, Sirigu, Viviano

Abate, Bonucci, Chiellini, Criscito
De Sciglio, Ranocchia, Ogbonna, Santon

De Rossi, Pirlo, Marchisio
Poli, Verratti, Florenzi

Montolivo, Aquilani

Balotelli, Cassano
Destro, El Shaarawy
on the 10th April, 2013 at 8:57am
Mikesaba, I am not sure that 442 really suits us. Where are all our wingers? Also, the player partnering Pirlo, would have an awful lot of work to do in midfield. Conte used to be a 424 man. When he joined Juve, he had to play Pirlo, but knew that his 424 would be vulnerable in defence; if Pirlo played as one of the two central midfielders. Having 3 central midfielders allows the likes of Pirlo & Verratti to express themselves, whilst providing cover.
on the 10th February, 2013 at 11:05am
i totally disagree with 4-3-3 & 3-5-2; both systems is not beautiful for azzurri. i must say that 4-4-2 is best for azzurri; why? because azzurri players can implement this system much better than any other. and i say prandelli must quit and bring capello instead to apply 442, providing totti & pirlo azzurri will be beautiful. history say that italy is good team with old players in the team, young players do not fit well. i like tony too, balotelli is no good. stephan is very young no good.
on the 9th February, 2013 at 7:52pm
SOS for Roncaglia, mark my words he would make a big difference to the team. Icardi needs to make a choice soon. I agree with Daniel, Pirlo playing in front of the defense isnt great at al and has made us look not secure. We are conceding too many goals, the last 10 or so games prove that. We need to play 352, to me that is very clear there is no question pirlo plays his best in that system. It surprises me few people seem to see that. De rossi in front of the defense for me is an option too
on the 9th February, 2013 at 3:43pm
Anonymous, from a defensive perspective, the team has looked far from "secure", when Pirlo plays in front of a back 4. Under Prandelli, we have shipped many goals, and conceded numerous chances. I don't blame Pirlo, I blame the coach. Even though we conceded 2 goals when using it, the 352 looked much more solid. Conte switched to a 352 primarily because of Pirlo, because he needed that extra man at the back to cover the bearded one. Abate just isn't a smart, technical footballer!
on the 9th February, 2013 at 10:38am
Life with Pirlo..



De Rossi

El Sharwaay

Life without Pirlo...



De Rossi/Marrone


El Sharwaay/Rossi/Cassano
on the 9th February, 2013 at 10:11am
It's interesting hearing the debate regarding Pirlo's role in the team. But Pirlo these days is more effective when protected in a 3-5-2 & while he's still in the set up that's what I think Italy should play as long as it's in the Juve style & not defensive. Most of the team is the Juve XI & know the system well, plus Abate/Santon/Criscito/Balzaretti would do well in the wing back positions. We would also have scope to expriment with the back & midfield 3 as well as the front tandem.
on the 9th February, 2013 at 9:59am
@daniel grambrone. That is complete utter nonsense. The team is perfectly stable with pirlo in front of the defence whther it be a back 4 or 3. Consider italys euro campaign, till prandelli loat the plot and fielded 2 injured players, or juventus' last 2 seasons. While at the same time, abate may as well have said, "here man, have a goal" and not a single sole made a mention about it. Even in his later year Zambrotta NEVER made an error like that. unforgivable from an italian defender
on the 8th February, 2013 at 11:59pm
Anonymous, no need to call people idiots because they highlight a weakness in Pirlo's game. He is an awesome player, but IMO, Prandelli is making a mistake by playing him in front of a back 4. Conte, wisely, switched to a 352 to get the best out of Pirlo. Using 3 CB's provide's Juve' with an insurance against Pirlo's defensive shortcomings, & provides Pirlo with a platform to express himself. We constantly get torn apart having Pirlo in front of a back 4.
on the 8th February, 2013 at 11:14am
Also Dino, in 2009, the Germany under 21's won the Euro under 21 trophy. One year later, Ozil, Khedira, Boateng, & Mueller etc, made it to the WC final. Another thing that really bugs me, is that Baggio was not an Italy regular until he was 23. During his time with the Viola he was clearly Italy's best and most gifted player; yet he was down in the pecking order because of his age. In the average workplace, are people hired because of their ability's or age?
on the 8th February, 2013 at 11:05am
Dino, I strongly disagree with you. So we should wait until a player is 25+, before giving a player a chance with the senior side?! No other country has this attitude. If a player is good enough, then they are old enough. Hachim Mastour is only 14, but Milan want to fast-track him to the first team. This, dated, mentality holds us back from doing even better on the International stage, & limits our options. Call-ups should be based on ability & form!
on the 8th February, 2013 at 10:50am
Prandelli is losing it!
Prandelli does not have that magic touch!
Prandelli not an Azzurri material!
Prandelli is not a strong character coach to guide players like Italian ego!
Prandelli is so much out of touch with the reality of tactical approach!
on the 8th February, 2013 at 9:18am
@ Dino

I agree with your vision. When I said revelation, I was not saying they will win the tournament. But I do believe they will do very well, and will give any team a tough game, playing a very good brand of football too.
on the 8th February, 2013 at 12:43am
How many times do we have to test 4-3-3 to know that it fails? An for thosr who are constantly critizing Pirlo, you make me sick. It was his second game back after time on the sidelines. He's the world best midfielder and we should be so lucky to have him in our side. Yet you same idiots make no mention about Abate. He is not a fullback, he's a winger who has only been employeed as a rightback cause milan never used wingers. The header was so simple to flick it over for a goalkick ir throw in.
on the 7th February, 2013 at 11:46pm
@Dan Giambrone

You are right, even though i know we used the 3-5-2 formation at the beginning and switched to the 4-3-1-2 in the other games, for some reason i thought we played the final against Spain with a 4-3-3 formation. thanks for correcting me! Still i feel the 4-3-3 is a horrible idea for the Azzurri and we should work on either using a 3-5-2 formation or test other options because there aren't enough friendlies to keep testing something we all know won't work.
on the 7th February, 2013 at 10:29pm
Its a dilemma, but friendlies should be about experimenting and building a winning mentality. Candreva, Diamanti, Montolivo, Gilardinoall dead wood. I'm sure Lippi was guilty if forcing the 433. Game by game Pirlo is getting slower and slower. Sublime pass one minute then a liability loosing the ball in a dangerous area the next. We lacked grit and pace in the middle. Verratti and Florenzi needed to be on from the start. Chielini must not be injured! Not seen enough of Roncalia to judge.
on the 7th February, 2013 at 9:58pm
You dont seriously think these young kids (under 21 squad members) will actually make a big difference in WC 2014???
Those guys will make a big impact in 2018 and 2022.
i think you're expecting too much too early.
on the 7th February, 2013 at 9:42pm
I agree with SJ.. I'd rather lose friendlies and win when it counts. Italy did poorly up to the Euros and look what happened when they needed it. They nearly won the whole thing!
on the 7th February, 2013 at 9:31pm
Result would have been meaningless had Prandelli done more experimenting. Buffon, Barzagli, Pirlo, De Rossi & Montolivio should have made way for younger & untested players.

I don't see why Gilardino was called up when there's other young strikers to consider like Immobile, etc....
on the 7th February, 2013 at 7:13pm
I can't wait for the U21 Euro Championships to be over because the National team is going to benefit big time from the influx of starlets being promoted to the full team... I truly believe Italy will be a revelation in Brazil next Summer.
on the 7th February, 2013 at 5:16pm
It was a friendly - get a grip!!!
Friendlies are used to try things out!!!
I'd rather win a match that mattered.
on the 7th February, 2013 at 4:11pm
Can someone explain to me why Gilardino is playing and not Cassano - who would be very good at setting up these great young strikers?

I am baffled.
on the 7th February, 2013 at 3:41pm

Abate - Barzagli - Chiellini

Cigarini (Verratti) - De Rossi (Monty)

Insinge Marchisio


on the 7th February, 2013 at 3:12pm
I agree Chris you hit it right on with the midfield play. Obvious friendly matches are important cause it shows overtime who has the quality to be in the squad and it gives the players a chance to form a consistent chemistry. Prandelli has not learned yet from them, We need some fresh talented faces.Daniel I agree with the 352 and the mentality aspect. Abate was superb and Santon impressed. Candreva said it right away wont cut it. Tactical Midfield will be the key to are success going forward.
on the 7th February, 2013 at 2:20pm
Juvefanatico, Prandelli didn't use 433 at the Euro's. He started with a 352 and switched to 4312 for the last 4 games. He has started to use a 433 so that he can accomodate SES, but, IMO, he is not using the system properly. He is wary of playing 3 forwards and so makes his midfielders sit in the middle, not really supporting the frontmen. The forwards become isolated, and the opposition seize the initiative. The switch to a 4312 improved matters because it provided a link from the mid to att.
on the 7th February, 2013 at 2:09pm
We should all be use to this, but i agree with a lot of you. If were going to use these games to simply try things than rest the seniors. As far as Im concerned, Gilardino, diamanti, De rossi, Motolivo, Candreva just dont cut it anymore. I would like to see the team play 3-4-1-2. I would like to See Giovinco play behind mario And El Shaarway. A midfield with Pirlo, Marchiso, Veratti and rotate another player in. We have players that we can hold the ball and dictate the game!!
on the 7th February, 2013 at 1:47pm
Time & again i have been left frustrated with the Azzurri & last night was no better. We were clearly the overall better team so why we let Holland dominate and control the game until the last 10mins is beyond me. Friendlies one should test different things the 4-3-3 formation was a flop at the Euro's why keep pushing it when we can test out different formations. No reason to play senior players either. 4 Gks is also stupid when there are other players we could have brought to this friendly.
on the 7th February, 2013 at 1:14pm
I do think a lot of people forget Holland was playing with a players an average age of 24. It was a disgrace what italy showed. And a big compliment to the young dutch.
on the 7th February, 2013 at 1:04pm
I would like someone to explin what is to be gained playing pirlo, montolivio& rossi, we ALL know what they can do why not start with verrati and florenzi both play for their club sides so im sure that they can cope with the pressure, verrati should be in from the start every game he is the future,ammazing balanace, skill and calmness!! pirlo is starting to struggle and was non-existent during the 1st halg - candreva,diamanti both average, shouldnt be allowed in the national team
on the 7th February, 2013 at 12:27pm
Friendlies although meaningless are useful for building momentum as you are winning, by not winning friendlies we arent building momentum. Everyone raves about our forward options, yet the same frustrations are we arent clinical enough and arent able to put teams to the sword. Spot on Monty we where way to passive last night, this shouldnt be the case. Spot on Daniel, every player should sweat blood for italy regardless of the match or importance.
on the 7th February, 2013 at 12:13pm

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