Thursday March 6 2014
Taking the bull by the horns

Italy were dominated and succumbed to a 1-0 defeat in Spain, but it’s far from all doom and gloom says Jeremy Lim.

In terms of entertainment stakes, Italy’s clash with Spain did not make for pretty viewing. It produced the dour, backs-to-the-wall display that the Azzurri have frequently become associated with. Though the Spanish bull eventually battered down the visitors’ defences with a solitary Pedro Rodriguez strike, Cesare Prandelli’s matadors were able to stand their ground against swaths of possession for long periods.

Credit to the valiant Italians then, but something ill-deserved according to their Coach, who bemoaned a disjointed performance: “At this moment of the season the fitness levels compared to Spain are almost embarrassing.” Fatigued players aside, the squad had suffered their share of distractions and controversy coming into the game.

There was the matter of Prandelli’s contract renewal after the World Cup, and the 56-year-old needing to fend off pre-match questions regarding the exclusion of Daniele De Rossi owing to his imposed code of ethics, and his inclusion of the half-fit Giorgio Chiellini, to Juventus’ chagrin. The back-and-forth bickering therefore threatened to scupper their final ‘friendly’ test before a ball had even been kicked.

But as a starting XI missing Mario Balotelli, Andrea Pirlo and Giuseppe Rossi showed stepping out into the cauldron of the Vicente Calderon, you can never ever rule out Italy. The world champions took customary control of proceedings, putting the hurt on Christian Maggio and Domenico Criscito early on. Yet they were made to betray rare insecurities as Prandelli’s men kept their shape well under pressure, with Alessio Cerci and Dani Osvaldo going close enough to make the home crowd nervous in spurts.

Though the latest display against La Roja ultimately may not have been what Prandelli was seeking, he has readied his blueprint for the upcoming tournament in Brazil. There is now a depth in character and talent unlike his formative days in charge.

The current selection boasts a healthy dose of new faces to augment the established core of the group as Prandelli consolidates tactics and playing staff. Amongst them is Cerci, and joining him on Wednesday were substitutes Mattia Destro and Mattia De Sciglio. Thirteen-goal Ciro Immobile also enjoyed a productive outing for the senior Nazionale, but his debut was well eclipsed by Gabriel Paletta after the Buenos Aires native nullified the goal threat of Diego Costa and more - providing a timely reminder of the continued relevance of Oriundi to shore up Italy’s cause.

“These are young lads trying to emerge from the Under-21 side and they deserved this call-up. It was right to give them this experience. Paletta had a wonderful debut and at times Cerci also did well,” Prandelli credited afterwards.

All proved key to raising their country’s game, particularly in the second period. Indeed, his men have already shown they do not need to be favourites to have their say. Latest incarnations affirm Italy to be stubborn and solid as needed. While final victory was only as Spain deserved this time, the encounter was an uplifting gauge of where their spirit lies.

Whereas once scraping through the group stages of the World Cup may have sufficed as a milestone, now Italy will once more be keen to cement their credentials for football’s greatest prize from the outset against England. Along the way, there would be little surprise if another challenge from old enemy Spain arises again. Then, the Azzurri will be ready.

Have your say...

You're so called intelligence is so transparent and utterly boring. Realize this. You know very little and you're inputs has always been way off you constantly being told you're wrong and yet you come here claiming de scilio is crap. Face is, you're so wrong. Why even bring up urby when this is about abate and de sciglio. Thats what's most entertaining about you, you always make the stupidest parallels that has nothing to do with the topic. One word defines you, comical.
on the 9th March, 2014 at 3:59pm
@ DB Milan "the best full backs out there today" Abate & De Sciglio ? Best fullbacks nowadays ? Don't make me laugh because I'm not in the mood.
on the 7th March, 2014 at 11:29pm
@ Mark F

Hate, bias ? Even if I'm a Juventino, I'm more of a Milanista than you'll ever be. Take that sentence to your lab and try to figure a solution for it. I also know that many european teams like and want Emanuelson, and according to your logic, that makes him one of the best too.

Why would I hate, or be bias against a team playing the bottom half of the table knuckle-head ?

This is Azzurri, which is something you don't understand. Got it ?
on the 7th March, 2014 at 11:25pm
I'd rather Italy lost all the friendlies but won the WC. I'm not concerned. Prandelli is testing things but hiding his cards. If we meet Spain in Brazil, we'll win...they've been sussed out.
on the 7th March, 2014 at 12:02pm
Personally i don't think 3 at the back is the answer to all our problems, only against teams such as Spain, Brazil etc... I remember the qualifier with Czech Republic where 3 at the back was used, and was so ineffective that CP switched to 4 at the back once we were 1-0 down. Juve's issues in Europe only add to this argument.
In terms of the full-backs this is a problem area at the minute and it may come down to playing Chiellini at LB, with Barzagli/Bonucci/Paletta playing in the central roles.
on the 7th March, 2014 at 11:48am
Spain won so what, Gigi made a mistake other than that this was a pointless game since everyone knows Spain just keep the ball so it was always going to be a chase... still I must say I don't understand why Thiago Motta is anywhere near the team?? The guy is a very very poor version of Montolivo better off with Poli or Aqualani instead.
on the 7th March, 2014 at 11:28am
@Mustaafaaaa; Seriously? Dani Osvaldo is in the team and you complain about 2 of the best full backs out there today? Yeah, they dont defend as well as players in years past but thats the way the game is gone, full backs attack constantly. Even so, they are 2 of the best fulls backs you will find today.
on the 7th March, 2014 at 10:26am
Spain won because they were fitter, they chased the ball when Italy had posession & were more skilled at passing. We need these type of mid fielders that are fast, have excellent dribbling skills and have better vision. Nearly all of Spains mid fielders are not only good at pressuring us but they all have a high degree of creativity and dribbling. We simply rely on Pirlo and Verratti on this. Cerci was good but that's it. We need more speed, creativity and dribbling skills. Get rid of Osvaldo!
on the 7th March, 2014 at 2:33am
I really don't get what prandelli was trying to achieve last night- these are the world champions and you show up with second tier players
on the 7th March, 2014 at 12:28am
IMO! WE NEED TO STICK WITH 3/5/2 or 3/4/2/1 which gives us a sixth mid on the counter in defense or on attack.......Again please no MONTOLIVO AND PLEASE NO MOTTA. Also don't bring to brazil Gilardino nor Osvaldo. But Cassano as a sub would be great as a support striker or attacking midfielder.We need Florenzi for his speed and Gabbiandini for his pressing and tenacity. As much as I'm no De Rossi fan he was missed truly.....BUT PLEASE GET CIGARRINNI in there and Lodi for their awesome pass skills
on the 6th March, 2014 at 11:43pm
Let's stay calm, it was Italy's B team and hopefully Prandelli is being a cunning fox by not giving anything away (true Italian tactic) but although it was virtually the reserve side Spain didn't overwhelm us, My only concern is his formation, 3-5-2 has been successful in the past with Spain, but strangely he hasn't used it against them since, why? Logic says you have to pack the midfield against a spanish brilliant midfield, so why oh why does he not see this? Anyway Forza Italia!!!!!
on the 6th March, 2014 at 10:15pm
LOL MUSTAFA.. We all know you hate/ have a ridiculous bias against Milan. It goes well beyond being a fan. Mattia De Sciglio is amazing which is why so many teams want him. He's a great defender. Somehow if he were playing for Juve you'd probably be singing his praises. You gotta stop with the Milan hate. We get you don't like them but dude, give it up. Everyone on here knows your bias and it really makes you look unknowledgeable.
on the 6th March, 2014 at 9:51pm
The two best performances Italy has had in recent years under CP against Spain saw Dan face punch De Rossi playing a role in the back three as a type of new sweeper. I believe as someone said CP doesnt not want to give too much away as these tactical "devices" are their edge. I don't mind CP experimenting with "fringe" players in currently more common systems like 433 and seeing how his players match up on a big stage. Italy does not really have the players to play this way but maybe in time.
on the 6th March, 2014 at 8:37pm
@Mustaafaaaa "I don't know What Prandelli sees in Abate & De Sciglio " Ahahhaha I think we have a winner people!!!! By far the most stupid comment ever posted on this wall. De scgilio, who's considered by more or less every well know coach out there as a extremely talented and promising defender, is now not good enough for the extremely talented mustfaa. Dude, give up.
on the 6th March, 2014 at 8:19pm
If Prandelli calls on all the right players (including Totti) this team could be dangerous. I love Cerci on the right side, he was a beast last night. If we have De Rossi, Pirlo and Montolivo(not a fan but he's all we've got)we should be fine in midfield. We need Totti there to take the pressure off of Pirlo and give him time to create (remember 2006? Insigne should also start on this team.

These are the players that should not be on this team:
Motta - awful
Maggio - awful
Criscito - awful
on the 6th March, 2014 at 7:32pm
I don't know What Prandelli sees in Abate & De Sciglio . Those two are the most stupid fullbacks playing in Serie a. They have NO DEFENSIVE AWARENESS, and yet again Prandelli sticks with 433 with stupid fullbacks. Central Defenders are always caught out of position because of THE FULLBACKS! For God Sakes stick with 352. Enough with this crap !
on the 6th March, 2014 at 6:58pm
Remember Italy don't do friendlies. I'm not worried at all, as that was mostly our B team & I doubt Prandelli wanted t give anything away. I do fee that 3-4-2-1 is the best way to go though.
Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini
Abate, De Rossi, Pirlo, De Sciglio
Cerci, Rossi
With this team we have a chance.
on the 6th March, 2014 at 6:29pm
you can never take too much away from a friendly involving Italy, however the fullbacks ball distribution when spain was pressing high was absolutely abysmal (criscito+maggio especially but slight improvement with the milan backs). de rossis absence and the lack of a true ball winner allowed spain to boss the middle of the park. i cant see a 4 man back line working against a squad that presses high also 4-3-3 just wont work because mario and rossi should always be on the field.
on the 6th March, 2014 at 5:39pm
It hurt me to see another Spain defeat but I have to say, When Pirlo came on in the second half the game opened up big, now imagine that second half with Balotelli, Rossi, DE Rossi, and Chiellini and I think it would have changed the look of that game entirely, not to mention the final score. I know with our boys a little more fit,and with those players I just mentioned on with the right setup not only can we beat Spain but we can take the cup. They have to be in shape though with that heat.
on the 6th March, 2014 at 5:32pm
that was a truly impotent performance last night. am i right in saying that it was Pirlo' loss of the ball that leaded to the goal? He is amazing but there are times he is slow at releasing the ball when getting closed down fast.

Like Dennis said it was a friendly so there is not much point ever in commenting on a friendly but i am HOPING CP is playing some kind of psychological game by showing that Italy are low quality but will then surprise in Brazil. ill not be buying the shirt...yet
on the 6th March, 2014 at 5:14pm
It truly sickens me to see Osvaldo wear the jersey, what a disgrace.
on the 6th March, 2014 at 3:52pm
@Marc F, I kind of agree with you, sometimes it's all pumping without any climax, possession for possession's sake. Both Barca & Spain were schooled last year by Bayern & Brazil because their opponents had more variety to their play. Still, I think that their style will be well suited to the Brazilian climate, & this will aid their fitness in the latter stages.
on the 6th March, 2014 at 3:35pm
Don't wanna go overboard cos its a friendly at a ridiculous time of the season but you have to ask why Giacch, a sub at Sunderland is in Italy's squad, Osvaldo was a sub at Southampton and now at Juve was starting. Prandelli had already complained about meeting Spain and hinted that he does not want to play his hand so I would reserve judgment on him.This was not a game that either side will be happy about. After all Costa was very poor and did no more than the strikers ignored.
on the 6th March, 2014 at 3:27pm
The Spanish possession is so overrated. I saw about 20 minutes of the game and yes Spain had the ball for about 15 of those minutes but they had it at half field just passing it about themselves. You won't do any damage from there so Italy doesn't really even try to retrieve it. Of course you'll have lots on the ball. I'm not trying to take anything away from Spain, they're the best for sure but sometimes too much is made of their dominance on the ball.
on the 6th March, 2014 at 1:58pm
With Pirlo, De Rossi and Monti in the middle of the park we are going to be great at keeping possession. Our defence without Chiellini looked strong, however, criscito did not have his best game. Paletta was awesome (has a head of steel) I am interested to see how our attackers fair because if we set up this way and get one or two chances, we must take them. I dont like us playing 4321, I prefer 352, its the Juve system everybody knows and it allows Pirlo to control the game's tempo.
on the 6th March, 2014 at 1:40pm
The problem with this team is clearly in attack. If Rossi and Balotelli are not fit and starting, the azzuri have no chance. Absolutely crazy that Osvaldo is on this team and wearing the number 10, yet Cassano hasnt been picked in 2 years.
on the 6th March, 2014 at 12:51pm
I agree with CP's analysis of the game. Perhaps our club sides should take note. I also agree that it wasn't all doom and gloom considering the team was very experimental. Despite Spain's possession, they rarely hurt us and we kept our shape well. I also thought Paletta was top draw, brilliant debut, and Cerci for the first time in an Azzurri shirt looked dangerous. Personally I would have liked Verratti and Florenzi to have played, but I fear that CP will not consider these talents for Brazil!
on the 6th March, 2014 at 12:36pm
I saw the game last night and I thought I was watching the Euro final in 2012. We appeared very tired and last to the ball. It would have been better for Italy to have played against a South American side or an anglo saxon side rather than playing Spain so I do not know why on earth our federation applied for this friendly. We need to learn from this as we do need to be on our top form and I mean ALL players. Would the press, please stop calling them Oriundi. They have Italian ancestors.
on the 6th March, 2014 at 12:35pm

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