Saturday June 15 2013
Azzurri style and substance

Italy reached the Under-21 Euro Final and the senior side faces Mexico tonight, so Susy Campanale expects both style and substance.

It is wonderful to see Italy in another European Championship Final against Spain, the Under-21 sides mirroring the Euro 2012 tournament, though hopefully without the same end result. Marco Verratti, Alessandro Florenzi and Manolo Gabbiadini have great quality, while Lorenzo Insigne proved once again he deserved more starting spots for Napoli. This evening Cesare Prandelli’s Azzurri begin the Confederations Cup campaign with Mexico and hope to continue where the Euros left off, at least up to the semi-final. However, I have some concerns.

There is this tendency in Italy with both club and country to regress when facing a tough challenge. Attacking tactics, flair players and imposing performances seem to disappear once they progress past a certain stage, as if they were too risky in the knock-outs. The Azzurrini were fantastic against England and deserved far more than a 1-0 victory, while they brushed Israel aside 4-0 and fielded a second-string side in the draw with Norway. Devis Mangia is a devotee of Arrigo Sacchi, so it was rather sad to hear him say he “couldn’t care less” about being called a catenaccio tactician after the semi-final. Leaving Manolo Gabbiadini on the bench felt like a step backwards, one made out of fear, and it filtered through the whole performance. They allowed Holland possession from the start and only showed what they could do in short bursts, usually inspired by Insigne.

If Italy play like this against Spain, they are likely to get torn apart. It may well happen anyway, though Norway could’ve caused some serious problems in the other semi-final with some better finishing, so La Roja are not quite so unbeatable as they may seem. When taking on such strong opposition in a game with everything at stake, why not go for it with the same attacking verve shown in the earlier rounds? If the team goes down, at least do it in a blaze of glory that silences the old clichés about defensive Italians. We know that’s the image the Dutch and Spanish will be lambasting in today’s papers.

The Confederations Cup is a practice session for the World Cup and a media affair, nothing more. The trophy is worth next to nothing and some teams even see it as an inconvenience. In Italy’s case, it is impossible to do worse than in 2009, when Marcello Lippi’s men failed to progress from a group with Brazil, the United States and Egypt. So Prandelli may as well embrace the situation and go out there to improve Italy’s global reputation with style. That was the remit he grasped when starting this Azzurri adventure and I hope he will continue to show Italian football is anything but dull and defensive. 

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Have your say...
all my life i've never seen a team that has maturity like the Azzurri team. If they win, the win. & if they loose, then they loose. But as far i'm concern, if i were prandelli, i'll build my team from defends to attack. If i can have a playmaking with two strikers, i belive the job is done. All my midfielder plays also like defenders; my first rule is marking ability, good defensive work & finally forbiza. Forza Azzurri.
on the 23rd September, 2013 at 3:57am
It was men against boys tonight. Azzurrini battled to the end but Spain way superior. As for those criticizing Prandelli - Verratti and Insigne are no where near the full team. They were completely outplayed and struggled against Holland. Prandelli is right we cannot go back to the old defensive style. We got away with one against Holland. Let these boys develop playing football in the right way. Someone states lets see first team against Azzurrini.The full Azzurri would batter them.
on the 18th June, 2013 at 7:14pm
I don't think the cause of the Euro 12 final was tactics but a team that was exhausted and injured. We proved in the first game of euro 12 we could play with Spain. I am curious to see the same team play Spain in this shorter tournament.

As for the azzurrini i was frankly disappointed in their tactics with Holland. I hope they play better against Spain.
on the 17th June, 2013 at 11:41pm
@suffolkeyt I loved the Italy90 team and I just meant starting with Vialli over Baggio like Mangia did with Borini is falling to same old trappings. In my lifetime Brazil82 is the best team never to win wc but that is another issue. @DG Trapatoni has always relied on 1 creative outlet, Platini and Baggio for Juve & Totti with Italy & that is why he fooked up wiv Italy. Just too -ve for me. Italy have gr8 attacking players no need for the -ty. Well done CP even if he has less gifted players
on the 17th June, 2013 at 6:23pm
I don't know about that Dino! In the run-up to last years final, we played good football against Spain, Croatia, & Germany. We also played very well against Brazil earlier this year. Our problem isn't a technical deficit, it is application & mentality. The players seem to choose when to play, & this is wrong. Every time a player wears the blue shirt, they should give 100%.
on the 17th June, 2013 at 9:19am
Suffolk, I read you right & agree with you! Good performance last night, the system worked well. Giaccherini really outshone Marchisio, (who should be dropped for the next game), his movement was excellent and he was always involved in the play. Di Sciglio was also impressive. Problems; our vulnerability on the counter & our profligacy-we were not clinical in good situations. Lets hope that we can improve further in the next game.
on the 17th June, 2013 at 9:12am
Great win last night and effective tactics. Only down side was barzagli howler, lucky to stay on. And abate who i thought was poor, when mexico hit the bar he was outmuscled and also gave away some poor freekicks. Barzagli and chiellini where in general solid, de sciglio was great as was pirlo, mario and giaccerini. We kept the ball very well, we just need to be more clinical. Should have been 4-1. Thought cerci was wasteful when came on.
on the 17th June, 2013 at 8:49am
Italy sucked the life out of holland. That's a strength and it's just as important as anything g else. All the emphasis on flair and attack is good but Italy can reduce their opponents to frustration and that's a totally viable tactic. It's tactical and technical like watching a chess match on a field. Flicks and tricks are good too, but don't underestimate the power of "defensive" tactics. The better team is the team that wins. Period.
on the 16th June, 2013 at 10:31pm
I dont get why people are so down! we outsmarted a far more experienced and physically advanced Holland side. We started badly yes, but we adapted to what was in front of us and got a foothold in the game, for all their possession holland couldn't make too many chances and the stats showed 3 shots on target each. the goal showed our class. we will live with Spain and i think it could go either way. I'm proud of what i've seen from this competition, some will go on to great things I'm sure of it.
on the 16th June, 2013 at 9:20pm
Daniel Giambrone
Sorry you must have read it wrong I was being sarcastic over someone's earlier comment of 1990 over again. That's why a stated that the 1990 side was my favourite Azzurri side. They were class and in my life time the best side not to win the World Cup. Cant agree with other comments that Italy midfield does not have quality against top sides. They certainly have the quality to semi in any competition
on the 16th June, 2013 at 8:07pm
Dutch coach would not accept the defeat to Italy, repeatedly insisting that Holland were the better team, and the better team did not win. His biggest mistake goes back to the Spain game. He rested the starting 11 and basically allowed Spain to win the game by a humiliating 3-0. Saving a healthy and rested starting 11 for Italy back fired. The psychological effect of the Spain loss did them in. He goes home knowing that he did not field the strongest Holland side against Spain.
on the 16th June, 2013 at 6:05pm
@Daniel Giambrone.
Italy is only able to play proactive football against week teams. There is not enough quality midfielders in Italy to play a possession game against quality competition.
on the 16th June, 2013 at 4:37pm
Chico, I'd fancy the U21's! Suffolk, the 1990 side played beautiful football. I have the St & Greavsie book on that WC, in it Jimmy Greaves said that Italy were potentially on a similar level to the 1970 Brazil team. That Argentina game will always haunt me. Why did Viccini drop Baggio? Dennis the 2002 side desperately lacked creativity in central midfield, & Traps approach was awful. Baggio, at 35, was still Italy's best player, (Wenger even said this),& should have gone; Pirlo also.
on the 16th June, 2013 at 2:42pm
I agree with Suzy, I like it when we are proactive. Holland really should have won and if their finishing was better, they would be in the final. It wasnt great tactics from Italy, it was grit & good fortune. I hate it when Italy adopt this approach, inviting trouble onto themselves. More often than not, it comes back to bite us on the backside.
on the 16th June, 2013 at 2:25pm
...but when the Azzurri(or Azzurrini) go up against decent competition the attractive football disappears.
The future of Italian football is not as bright as it appears.
on the 16th June, 2013 at 1:49pm
I'm happy to see the Azzurrini reach the final, but I'm disgusted by the way Italian football is played.
That was an ugly game againt the Dutch. Unfortunately, that's generally how Italy wins most of their games. Ugly!!! No possession, no flair, no flow to the game. And flopping on the ground with the slightest of contact o keep the game mving even slower.
Its one thing to play attractive football against minnows like Israel...
on the 16th June, 2013 at 1:44pm
1990 all over again. If I remember they played with flair up until Toto scored. Then against an Argie side that had nothing to lose we made one mistake. Nothing like yesterday where the match was won and The Azzurini will now be playing in the final. For the record 1990 certainly my all time favourite Azzurri side.
on the 16th June, 2013 at 12:08pm
I would like to see the u21 v senior team and see who comes out on top. Minus balotelli, el shaarawy and de sciglio. Who do you think would win?
on the 16th June, 2013 at 11:46am
Trapatoni took a talented side to wc2002 only to freeze, play defensive and got deservedly knocked out for his cowardice. Lippi was bold and was rewarded in 2006. Zoff almost pulled it off as Italy played offensively against France the world champs and would have been 3-0 up if not for DP's misses. You cannot keep inviting good players to attack you like they did last night as Spain would win that tussle hands down. Play without fear and they stand a chance.
on the 16th June, 2013 at 11:11am
Arrogance galore from the Dutch coach Mr. Pot on saying Holland were the 'better team.' He then asserts it repeatidly as if to make it more real than the actual result ... the result of course, being, that Holland could/did not score and Italy COULD/DID! The reason why a game is played is to determine who the 'better team'is - usually the team that able to score is the'BETTER TEAM'!
Placing of Florenzi on the wing allowed the Dutch more possesion esp in first h but things more balanced later.
on the 16th June, 2013 at 11:10am
Totally agree with this blog unlike the cowardly comments I am reading. This under21 side has talent and it was disappointing to see them play like that showing Holland too much respect which all to typical of Italian sides of the past. Comparing this side to CP's side of 2012 is also daft. That side was just above ordinary and did well to reach the final. This is a good team and should go out to play to their strengths. Immobile and Gabbadiani are a good pairing so why change it? 1990 all over
on the 16th June, 2013 at 11:02am
What we are sure of is we played the way we did and are now in the final. The Dutch are a talented side as are the Azzurrini and Spain. 3 top sides who are all capable of winning this competition on there day, if they get their tactic right & a little luck. AS for blaming CP for the Euro 12 defeat credit Spain on the day. They certainly got their tactics right and if I remember correctly had their lion share of the luck as Italy luck totally deserted them. Forza Azzurri & Azzurrini
on the 16th June, 2013 at 10:18am
What a great result yesterday despite not the greatest performance, yet people have to always find a down side. Italy alter tactics at knock out stages and stop the flair. I'm old enough to remember 82. I could also mention a very defensive display against Holland 2000 semi only to come out and attack France in the final. Ok we lost this final but that was due to the last ditch goal. Who can say if we had attacked the Dutch yesterday we would not have scored 2 or 3.
on the 16th June, 2013 at 10:10am
I think that italy can't win. There are very ill some players. They fall , wine, cry en stumble every time a dutch player comes near them. Vitamin and early to bed is a good thing.
on the 16th June, 2013 at 9:43am
I thought it was great to see an old school, character filled, defensive but winning performance. It was the kind of Italy of old, good defense, good tactics, decisive finishing. Not that attempt to be attacking and exciting which is slowly eating away at the true identity and character of the Italian game and leaving Italy in a middle ground where we don't have great defenders nor do we have exceptionally effective attackers.
on the 16th June, 2013 at 9:37am
Football is not a sport for everyone to go out and play like cowboys. Teams also require discipline and guile, exactly what was on display in the semi final. The only critisism you can muster is "they MIGHT get torn apart by spain playing like that". Says you. Some journalist eho has never put on a pair of boots. If they win, what willyou say? Admit there are professionals who have a greater knowledge of what theyre doing than yourself?
on the 16th June, 2013 at 8:55am
I find it difficult to accept that Spain will tear Italy apart in the final. In the first half against Holland we were more expansive, and struggled whilst after the break we tightened in midfield and Holland looked more like Stoke, being restricted to play the long ball at every opportunity.
It not only takes great technique and skill to defend as Italy did, but also to adapt to Hollands strengths and weaknesses, let them moan, but L'inno dei Mameli will reverberate again on Tuesday in Israel.
on the 16th June, 2013 at 7:30am
Which is grit, hard work and defensive solidity. We need to find a way to mix attacking flair with that and Prandelli's Italy is not up to the job as they leak way to many goals and players like Giacherinni, Diamanti and Candreva have no right to even try on an Azzurri shirt let alone start games.
on the 16th June, 2013 at 6:11am
We showed in the Euro final why it's not always a good idea to attack with abandon. We were destroyed and embarrassd by Spain because Prandelli (who is a horrible coach by the way) wanted to show the world the new, attack-minded Italy. He failed miserably and should never have changed the tactics set out in the 1st group stage game.
The team needs balance and tonight's U21 performance was not great but showcased all of the qualities that has made our national team as successful as it has been
on the 16th June, 2013 at 6:07am
Mangia is a better coach than Prandelli as far I am concered. And what do you know about the U-21 team to criticize them by thinking Spain might torn Italy in the finals! The only one to blame in euro'12 final game was Prandelli. Mangia is different. Wish him to be Azzurri's coach in future. Time to bring all them Youths to replace the useless seniors, really.
on the 16th June, 2013 at 5:52am

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