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.

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Have your say...
Buffon was immense, although Marchetti should have played. Candreva not good enough, should have started diamanti. Needs to call Roncaglia to add some steel to our defense. Friendlies mean little, but Prandelli needs to start using them more effectively by playing diferent players and giving them more chances. How is calling gilardino looking forward. Brazil next then Malta. Malta away worries me, we need to go there and win well and play with confidence. Although I expect the usual struggle.
on the 7th February, 2013 at 12:09pm
I didn't really see any valid reasons to be negative. it was a friendly. yes the attack still lacks a cutting edge, but this has been italy's problem for a long time. full backs played ok and i thought the passing and pressing during the first half was promising. after a few substitutions, the game lost its spark but at least the team was still hungry until the end. Buffon was in great form and Abate showed just why Milan should never think about selling him. good test and an ok result
on the 7th February, 2013 at 12:04pm
Everytime I see Italy play I loose more faith in Prandelli. Lessons learned from yesterdaY: Italy can't play 4-3-3 and Buffon is indispensible. Furthermore, the Mid is Italy's weakest link. They can't defend and are too slow to launch a counter which nullifies having 2 fast and tricky forwards such as Balo and El.S in the team. Verratti should play with Pirlo not instead of him and he should be a starter. Gila is still the most experienced forward Italy has and should not be discared.
on the 7th February, 2013 at 11:28am
I agree Gio, 4 keepers?! 433 is fine when used with the right players & mentality. The 3 central midfielders failed to supply the front line, and Candreva is average at best. For 433 to work, the team has to press high up the pitch, and has to have at least one of the central midfielders bombing forward to support the cf. I still feel that a 352 would be best for this set of players, followed by a 4312, & then a 433.
on the 7th February, 2013 at 10:58am
A good result away to Holland regardless of the result. I'm sure Italy will keep continuing to do well and the fact that there are so many class forwards to pick from , is a good dilemma. Osvaldo, Gilardino, Rossi, Cassano etc...the list goes on.
on the 7th February, 2013 at 10:47am
Buffon was man of the match, a slow start, as we know didn’t find our feet until the last 20 minutes, overall pleased with what I saw and pleased that Verratti got his first of many….
on the 7th February, 2013 at 10:22am
Montolivo was spot on! Italy were too timid and laid back. I blame Prandelli for this because he should be instilling more hunger into the team. I don't care that it was a friendly. Everytime you wear the blue jersey, should give 100%: like Spain & develop a winning mentality. Also, I wish that the players would stop saying that "we had many youngsters in the side". Rubbish! That was mostly an experienced team. Holland had far more newcomers in their team.
on the 7th February, 2013 at 10:12am
Isnt this the reason we play friendlys to test things out cesare has tried 433 many times and it never works hopefully he wont be stubborn and admit its not the way!!!
The otherthing that annoys me is why 4 keepers everytime?
on the 7th February, 2013 at 10:12am
Italy used to have a great record in any friendly International, that record has been falling over the years.
Only because the team is still rebuilding and growing, so friendlies are the only real chance to try new and exciting players out, formations and tactical know how. Plus a lot of the players like Mario and Ses have only just got the begginings of a partnership going.

I do fear for Italy when they have to go away sometimes, gone are the days where Christian Vieri would bag us an away win
on the 7th February, 2013 at 10:05am

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