Friday June 28 2013
A precious defeat for Italy

Italy’s Confederations Cup bid ended on penalties against Spain following an epic contest, but Luca Cetta praises the defeated Azzurri for their best showing in Brazil.

Given their most recent meeting and the group stage results, this was supposed to be a one-sided affair. An easy Spanish passage to the Confederations Cup Final. The Brazil-Spain Final script had already been written, except Italy were not handed the memo. They were determined this match would be nothing like their last encounter.

Sad news came through less than two hours before kick-off that ex-Fiorentina, Milan and Italy striker Stefano Borgonovo lost his battle with ALS, aged 49. Then, for 120 minutes at the Estádio Castelão in Fortaleza against the World and European Champions, the Azzurri gave their best performance of the tournament.

It was a showing of grit, style and tactical nous – a truly worthy display. Only the old bête noire of penalties denied a place in the Final following an absorbing 0-0 draw, Leonardo Bonucci the player to falter from the spot as it ended 7-6. Deadlocked through normal and extra time in the sapping heat, both sides were collected and clinical from 12 yards.

This was a different Azzurri than seen previously in Brazil. They’ve been involved in two goalfests – games riddled with errors – but here looked polished. The defence, criticised for conceding eight goals in three matches, proved solid and assuring. Italy reduced Spain to few clear-cut chances, even if they retained the majority of possession. A big part of the reason was the change in system.

Think back to a year ago. Italy surprised by playing a 3-5-2 in the opening match of Euro 2012. They earned a 1-1 draw in Gdansk and pushed Spain all the way. Vicente Del Bosque admitted on Wednesday his side were second best then. When they met in the Final in Kiev, Cesare Prandelli reverted to his favoured four man defence and trequartista. Italy did not look the same side as they fell to defeat.

What the Fortaleza match has shown is that a three-man defence, popular in Serie A, could well be the way forward for this Italian side. Given the team is littered with Juventus players – seven of the Fortaleza starting XI don the Bianconeri shirt – it makes sense. It can also get the best out of others. The formation was slightly altered here to more of a 3-4-2-1 and sometimes saw both attacking midfielders drop deeper, but fundamentals of the system were evident.

The non-Juventini also looked at home on Thursday. Daniele De Rossi, like a year ago, found himself utilised as an emergency central defender when Andrea Barzagli went off at the interval. In both that role and his more traditional midfield position, the Roma man shone. Christian Maggio was another to benefit. He is an example of a player lost in the back four, but excellent in his natural role. The Napoli player – along with the equally impressive Antonio Candreva – had free rein of the right flank in the first half. This forced Del Bosque to change. Candreva was a tireless worker off the ball and an outlet in possession.

Meanwhile, Alberto Gilardino had the difficult task of replacing Mario Balotelli and while not testing Iker Casillas as much as he would’ve liked, he put in an honest and busy shift. Special mention to one of the Bianconeri, with Emanuele Giaccherini continuing his impressive tournament. Fielded here as a wing-back, his battery never died and he caused continual concern for the Spanish.

It’s hard to find fault with any of the players, but perhaps the substitutes did not influence as needed. Sebastian Giovinco and Alberto Aquilani failed to get into the game. In saying that, even when Riccardo Montolivo moved into De Rossi’s position alongside Andrea Pirlo the intensity did not let up. Nor did Italy hand Spain the initiative for prolonged periods. Spain were left chasing the ball. Spain were the ones shutting down space with 11 men behind the ball. How many times has that occurred in the past five years?

The only negative was Italy’s inability to finish chances. They did enough to win in 90 minutes. Claudio Marchisio saw a diving header flash wide, while the marauding Maggio was twice foiled by Casillas. Giaccherini thumped the post and then as Spain took extra-time ascendency, Xavi did the same.

In a side shorn of Balotelli, the options looked limited in attack. This is an issue to mull over in the next 12 months but if a 3-5-2 is the way forward, the Milan man needs a regular partner. Preferably somebody to link him and the midfield. Could it be Antonio Cassano? Perhaps Lorenzo Insigne? The options are there.

Prandelli must settle on a formation. He was reluctant to go to a back three until this match, but a porous Azzurri looked shaky in the group stage with a four-man defence. Compare that to the performance on Thursday. The case sample for a trio is small – it has worked with Spain, but less effective versus Croatia and Bulgaria – yet should seriously be considered given the players available. It may add an extra defender, but doesn’t mean Italy cannot control possession or create chances. This match showed that.

Italy have one match left, the third-fourth playoff against Uruguay on Sunday. Given the weary bodies and quick turnaround it’s likely there will be changes aplenty. The Azzurri will aim to leave Brazil on a winning note but while it may not have felt like it when Jesus Navas converted, they’ve already reached their high point. The semi-final proved Italy can be considered contenders come next June.

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...
BOSS, there are many things to consider about these penalties.
Physics/velocity, technique, psychology, nerves, experience ... just to name a few in the long list. Trying to judge a keeper by penalties is like trying to judge you not by your driving but by dropping the car-keys trying to open the door.

Most people here you claim to be concerned about have shown far more respect, maturity and essence when posting.

Give that a thought. Let it marinate a bit ... most times it helps.
on the 4th July, 2013 at 2:37am
@ Viktor

Nicely played,

blaming Gigi for De Sciglio howler. And yet, you tell people to be less biased.

Have a lollipop.
on the 3rd July, 2013 at 5:11pm

De scigilio is one of the most promising defender at th moment considering he's age. You need to be less biased, juve fan. He's versaile, eithe left or right or midfield at the age of 20. And the backpass could have been avoided if Buffon would be on he's feets. Don't try to neglect de scigilio potential based on one mistake. Want me to tel you how many mistake chilini made????
on the 3rd July, 2013 at 1:36pm

All I remember on DeSciglio is the horrible back pass which led to the Mexico penalty, the many failed crosses and bad passing during the Uruguay. Against Spain, CP finally smartened up and went with a 3-4-1-2 formation which sent this fool to the bench and replaced him with the real star Giacherrini who almost won the game for Italy and was a constant threat on that side. Next Paolo Maldini? All I see is a lanky indecisive rookie! Italy can't afford to take that chance at the Work Cup!
on the 3rd July, 2013 at 11:41am

Huh, the troll is now changing the subject. First, he claimed that he's not there when it counts (in penalties), and now changed the subject by stating Xavi's shot as an example of "when it counts".

"infatuated with buffon", Who doesn't love Gigi?

Fact, you FAILED against me. You should be concerned about yourself.

Pathetic !
on the 2nd July, 2013 at 8:11pm
Boys and girls, no point hating Buffon, bottom line hes a great goalie, he himself has confessed to being poor in shootouts, he had poor start but ended well, can't praise him for the pen save against Uruguay as the pens were crap. He's a goalie n he saves the ball we should discuss our striker that doesnt score; gilardino and why on earth this lemon is still present in our national side. We have a striker thatddoesn't score in fact he does nothing, had he scored we wouldn't av gone to pens!!!
on the 2nd July, 2013 at 7:18pm
Mustuffa, I'm concerned about you. Your comments must be a reflection of your life, garbage. Here is a perfect example of when it counts. When Spain kicked six shots at him and he saved none. Xavi hits a straight shot at him and he fumbles it onto the post.

Come on mustuffa i know your infatuated with buffoon. But seriously its about time you took those posters of buffoon off you bedroom walls lol
on the 2nd July, 2013 at 6:26pm
@ Papaberts

BOSS is a troll.

He supports any team that wins something.
on the 2nd July, 2013 at 3:48pm
I have to agree with Viktor....De sciglio is pure young talent...holds the ball well and tries to take players on and make crosses ....if he carries on we may be lucky to see another Maldini! How can anyone knock him at his age....he's only just come into the senior side and really made his mark. My opinion he's a better player NOW than Crescito never mind in a few years time.
on the 2nd July, 2013 at 3:43pm
@ Viktoria

De Sciglio pure talent ?

You mean pure stupidity. What a fanatic jackwagon you are.
on the 2nd July, 2013 at 3:41pm

"Descgilio was awful" your probably the only person that shares that opinion. De scigilio is pure talent. Pure.
on the 2nd July, 2013 at 1:32pm
Oh I love this blog some times I come on wanting to write something interesting then I read the comments and lol.....Ok so Buffon is not as sharp as he was but come on Boss he ain't that bad! Who else can Italy call on that are decent. I'm a Napoli fan but don't our keeper is that great. Anyone have an idea?
on the 2nd July, 2013 at 12:12pm

I have no problem dumbing idiots like you 24/7.I wonder what's your level of understanding the words "when it counts".

- Most recent shoot-outs secured Bronze.
- Euro 2012, he leveled the shoot-outs after a miss.
- Euro 2008, Saved Mutu's and kept hope alive.

Did those matter? Anybody?

If he "needs to go", you need a CT scan on your brain because I think you have developed a tumor of stupidity.

jack-wagon :)
on the 2nd July, 2013 at 11:35am
Tommasso, rest assured i will post, unlike you i have a life so can not walk all over u and dumb ppl like mustuffa 24 7. Your excited because buffoon finally saved a penalty. He saved penalties against England also. The point is when it counts he couldn't save a snail going into the net. Let me know when buffoon saves Italy against a real team when it matters. Buffoon needs to go.
on the 1st July, 2013 at 5:30pm
By far Diamanti's best game, a bit more talented version of Gattuso with his grittiness which we were missing on this team. Gilardino was ineffective yet again, PLEASE GO AWAY!! I hope CP realizes he needs to go. DeSciglio is awful, so many blown crosses, and Criscito needs to replace him as he was so dangerous when playing that position at the Euros.
on the 1st July, 2013 at 2:57pm
Matt, I completely agree with what you are saying but it is not the answer to my question (1).
Conditions on the pitch effect both teams and if anything, the Spaniards should be better acclimatized.
It was the heat caused by the Italians and Brazilians.
on the 1st July, 2013 at 2:08pm
Boss must be apoplectic, i wonder if he will post again on this blog now that Buffon saved three (yes three) penalties. Doubt it after making a right royal tit out of himself.
on the 1st July, 2013 at 7:32am
Hahahahahaha....@ Dominator I TOLD YOU BOOOY... Brazil 3 to Spains NIL..The Spanish have been tactically FOUND OUT...and yes ladies and gents once again it was ITALIA who found the achilles heal.

Spain have always had the most awesome players but they just didn't understand the concept of how to play in a tournament. Italy is the reverse always tactically masterful with few awesome players...a champion team will always beat a team of champions.
on the 1st July, 2013 at 5:51am
JJ couldn't agree w/ you more about Baggio and I feel Signori would've done more if Sacchi hadn't played him out of position. Rossi was a true poacher like Toto (Inzaghi should've been for Italia) and Balo has the talent and he's willing to play back to goal and hold possession or flick on to others. It's up to him how good he wants to be and keeping his emotions in check, but he's so young so one can only hope he continues to mature. The future looks bright.
on the 30th June, 2013 at 11:30pm
J-J Thats how you get me back on side.. baggio is the greatest haha. I think balo has the quality to and be great as long as he concentrates on the football. His temperament and attitude in this tournament has been very very good, so a massive step in the right direction. But pandelli must pick a better back up plan, gilardino is horrendous. I promise you 1 thing no talk of baggio will sway me on that 1, gila is a waste of space. In 2006 we saw midfield and defenders score most of the goals!
on the 30th June, 2013 at 11:02pm
The best forward in my generation in the Azzurri shirt is Baggio. As a no9 I can't remember anyone playing that role as effective as Mario. Schillachi poacher, Signori anon, Casiraghi sigh, Gila/Toni didnt repeat club form either. Vieri aside, who missed that gaping open net against South Korea (as he was one footed), 9s in the blue have failed to deliver. Balotelli, not just with goals, has delivered and played at outstanding level for the Azzurri. Let go of the joke, it was perhaps harsh. 2/2
on the 30th June, 2013 at 9:10pm
If you look at Lippi's 2nd reign & what we were reduced to at the Confeds/WC, you'd see that offensively we were toothless. Against odds CP has taken a group that couldn't get out of the easiest WC group in living memory to a team capable of challenging and beating the best teams in the world.

His first move was Cassano/Mario intro. Balotelli when representing Italy has been first class on the pitch. His attitude and selfless effort, along with quality and goals deserve our respect. (1/2)
on the 30th June, 2013 at 8:54pm
No 1 said ball wasn't a key figure, I as many others have pointed out that when he isn't there we play as a collective unit from defence to attack, if ball spent less time thinking about flashing lights and more about football he has all the qualities to be the best, our problem is when he is there our game plan completely changes, if we played like we did against Spain with ball or any proper striker wed have won in 90. But don't come on here say closet rasists coz its uncalled for and pathetic
on the 30th June, 2013 at 8:06pm
To win today shows huge character. Loads of key players out and players playing that arent 100 percent. And the other took a lot out of us. Proud, huge commitment from everyone. Well done de sciglio, he missed but great courage for stepping up at his age. Monty would normally have taken it and scored probably. A great tournament, good and bad. Now lets get to Wc and win it.
on the 30th June, 2013 at 7:34pm
Great performance from gigi in last 2 games. He has responded brilliantly to criticism. Has a few years still at the top. Casillas has made mistakes this year and was dropped and hart has made loads of mistakes this season. Does that mean they are finished, all goalkeepers make mistakes however good they are. Buffon has had little protection in a lot of games, and at least 4 of the goals where either offside or none pens. Forza gigi.
on the 30th June, 2013 at 7:26pm
GiGi Buffon tonight 60%.

I won't continue to enter debate about Mario because he is comfortably the best Italian striker and has already proven to be a key figure for Prandelli. If I question your motif it is because there is no legitimate debate to be had in footballing terms.

CAPS would be screaming, ? is to question motif, after all the broken biscuits you have been writing!

If you should be critical be objective, this is my National side and I don't care for spam that is off the mark.
on the 30th June, 2013 at 7:04pm

I mean troll,

pick somebody else to pick on because Gigi just saved three penalties. Stop buffoonizing yourself here.

What a jackwagon !
on the 30th June, 2013 at 6:52pm
As for the discussion of Buffon and penalties, if you are true fans youd know that Buffon has openly admitted that he is not confident on penalties. And not to take away what Buffon has done for us but this tournament was a really opertunity to try out a new goalie for the future Buffon is starting to crumble. But prandellis indecisiveness is more to blame and the fact that he has no idea how to pick a 22 man squad
on the 30th June, 2013 at 6:24pm
Name or no name you have no idea what your talking about. I don't need a name on here to highlight your lack of fooballing knowledge. If you can compare Beckham and pirlo past present or future then you are definetly following the wrong sport. Free kicks are 1 thing but comparing them as player ludicrous. No need to bring this discussion here to. everyone told you you were mad last time. But I'll praise you for 1 thing forza milan
on the 30th June, 2013 at 6:03pm
Mustuffa, recent history? As i said there was France, Spain and Spain again. Not a single save. Wow he made a save against the English, England could not win a penalty shoot out if their lives depended on it. 
on the 30th June, 2013 at 5:43pm

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