Thursday June 5 2014
Italy trying their Lux, or not?

Italy were held to a 1-1 draw by minnows Luxembourg. However, Cesare Prandelli and players remain confident and so does Luca Cetta.

On paper it was as unglamorous a friendly can be. In their send-off before crossing the Atlantic Ocean, Cesare Prandelli’s Italy side hosted minnows Luxembourg on Wednesday evening in Perugia.

In the end Italy were held to an embarrassing 1-1 draw. There may be some recrimination about the result – today’s La Gazzetta dello Sport headline borrowed from the national anthem, ‘where is the victory?’ – one which extends the winless streak to seven matches. Will it have much of an effect on Azzurri preparations for Group D? Unlikely.

Italy should have won – they hit the woodwork twice – as the visitors netted a late equaliser from a corner. Ultimately, the result is not significant, as Marco Verratti noted. There are two points of concern however - one stemming from Verratti’s post-match comments - in that Italy continue to experiment so close to the Cup: “This was the first game in which we tried a new plan. It’s unthinkable that we’d be at our best already. We’re working hard, but we know that when the World Cup comes around we’ll be ready.” It poses the question – does Prandelli know his best team and system?

Another is the missed chances, something the CT spoke of. “Mario [Balotelli] had two good opportunities in the first half, and had another chance when [Antonio] Cassano came on. We’ve missed a few chances tonight, and then conceded a goal from a corner.”

The importance of this fixture came from its proximity to Brazil, with it a chance for the chosen 23 to impress. Prandelli named his team on Tuesday but was forced into one late change, Leonardo Bonucci replacing Juventus teammate Andrea Barzagli in the heart of defence – the latter succumbing to fever. The main points of focus would be on the midfield and attacking structure.

Verratti impressed against the Republic of Ireland on Saturday and did so again in his 55 minutes here, allowing for the discrepancy between the two sides. The Paris Saint-Germain man showed his usual confidence in possession and creative vision. And in what was just his second outing alongside Andrea Pirlo, they showed their unfamiliarity and on occasion crowded similar areas, but overall it was a pleasing performance.

While the midfield trio were happy to move around, Daniele De Rossi was the central figure. He dropped deep as the full-backs advanced and was the origin for many forays from defence. It also meant Pirlo played on the left. It’s a position Massimiliano Allegri wanted him to occupy in 2011 for Milan, but was a cause for his departure to Juventus. Here Pirlo did line up in that role and while not one of his better games it may be a glimpse into the midfield against England.

Further a-field Claudio Marchisio and Antonio Candreva took turns getting close to lone striker Balotelli, with the Juve man opening the scoring early by heading in a fine Super Mario cross. What was nominally a trident attack, the pair had licence to drift infield. At some points it looked a narrow ‘Christmas tree’ formation, with Marchisio and Candreva moving centrally to create options and openings. There were some teething issues. “At times we were quite crowded in the middle, and had spaces out wide,” Prandelli commented. That’s important too for the defensive phase, helping ensure the full-backs do not get overloaded. It also goes back to the point of experimentation, but does show Italy have a number of good options in personnel and system to choose from.

Nonetheless, that movement is something Italy can utilise to their advantage. Two players introduced in the second half –Cassano, who looked dangerous, and Alessio Cerci – can work well out wide or free roaming just off the main striker.

Prandelli acknowledges Italy can improve, but remains confident for the World Cup: “We have tried a few things. But there are a few things that we need to improve on... But we’ll keep working. We know we can have a great World Cup.”

Their campaign starts in nine days. It will be some task for Roy Hodgson to decipher what he’s learnt about the Azzurri recently given they have so many faces. Oh, and in case you didn’t know – Italy don’t excel in friendlies.

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Have your say...
starting 11 vs England has to be...
barzagli de rossi chiellini

candreva pirlo t motta

veratti insignie


no balo or cassano waste of time!

forza italia
on the 9th June, 2014 at 11:12pm
Dear Italian Fans,

No room for talking now. Forza Gli Azzurri!!!
on the 9th June, 2014 at 12:33pm
Think immobiles show last night underlines that he should start. But that wont happen. I fail to see how anyone can break through in a team that balotelli has the only certain place! Immobile has had 2 games to bond with a team he hasnt played in- he deserves great credit for a great display last nite. Destro should have been part of this team and it shockimg he isnt!
Abate. Chiellini. Bonnucci. Desciglio
Verratti. Pirlo. De rossi.
immobile. Insigne.
on the 9th June, 2014 at 8:43am
Anonymous (joe) you make a fair point lets hope they do well what ever happens as long as they r competative and not give up soft goals
on the 9th June, 2014 at 6:12am
Mario,I want Italy to win too. It's frustrating when we have high paid players that can't burry opponents that may have day jobs. I think they play to the level of their opponents and don't want to risk injury before the big games. I was upset that people don't regard the 1930 WC wins as accomplishments just because they happened a long time ago. Those are stepping stones of success creating a framework to build and expand from. How to you get to university if you don't finish high school?
on the 8th June, 2014 at 6:58pm
anonymous i dont care about the past it doesnt build a thing i care about whats happening now i dont care brazil have one 5 wc what have they done since, winning the confederations cup big deal your only as good as your last victory i want italy to win their games especially when they play low placed teams i im happy and proud they one 4 wc but thats history now man you dont get points for that if u want history remember 2010 couldnt beat new zealand if it wasnt 4 the de rossi's dive i
on the 8th June, 2014 at 10:52am
aussie bob i live in liverpool australia, born in italy raised in australia italian football has gone down in quality its a fact look at the champion leauge and europa cup italian teams once were feared and respected this reflects on the natinal team when was the last time italy have gone this long without a win its mentality its the quality they dont have
on the 8th June, 2014 at 10:29am
Italy will be just fine. So many people complaining and stressing out, you might as well all have gray hair. Im sure Italy will make it out of the group. I was concerned back in 2006, but I had a feeling since before the tournament started that they would win it and they did. Well I have a similar feeling, they aren't as strong as 2006 but England and Uruguay are no worry, Italy plays well against teams they know, and not so well against smaller teams they don't know. The talent is there
on the 8th June, 2014 at 6:12am
If we lose tomorrow against Fluminense, I will cancel my cable before Friday. (But not my Carioca Carmencita!)

Good God, he's playing a midfield of Motta, Aquilani and Parolo. It would be like watching a 90 minute long funeral march.

I bet he still doesn't know which formation to play vs England. :-0....
on the 8th June, 2014 at 3:53am
I think people need to have a bit more respect for the Italian World Cup victories in the 1930s. Not all nations participated but take a look at the list that did participate. There were highly respectable teams that played and Italy was the team that came out on top...twice. 80 years from now, are we going to look back on the accomplishements of Tiger Woods as mediocre because it happended a long time ago? That would be ridiculous if we did. Those victories built the foundation of success.
on the 7th June, 2014 at 7:05pm
Many sit here saying CP has made great changes since the horrendous campaign of 2010 but I fail to see any progress. The changes made are default changes; an old player retires so he cant play anymore- it hasnt been anything inevitive just standard change. Along this 4 year 'adventure' he has said the same thing at the end of every game and talks of his selections as if they have been life changing- well they havnt! 10 men running and an overated bag of rubbish wondering isnt progress!!
on the 7th June, 2014 at 5:42pm
i understood that prandelli have good players but he have no idea how to use. insigne& cerci are italies best wide players.but he have no courage to use them he use marchisio!!!!for wide position it is simly harsh.
he must believe his players &must make a permenent formation.
in my view 4:33 or 4:2:3:1 r d best formation for us
my line up against england
darmian-paletta-chiellini-de sciglio
pirlo-de rossi
de rossi defensive mid,pirlo play maker
verratti trequartista
this team make result..
on the 7th June, 2014 at 12:36pm
This is what happens when you base a whole team around the balotelli! Must be very demoralising for the 10 men who break their ballz to win and balotelli doesnt score! CP had a love affair with gila- his broken that love and started a relationship with balotelli- get rid of both prandelli n balo we might actually win a game!
on the 7th June, 2014 at 12:17pm
From CP's latest comments, yes apparently he's been bluffing in these friendlies..keep the uncertainty and surprise elements!
My assessment is that Azzurri wud do well just to make it through group stage - the why is below - but if we do, then we can go all the way! Why? Well, it's all to do with the conditions. Azzuri had the worst draw in terms of venues & times. Now add the hundreds of miles of travel that will be required- due to the stupid decision to base team in Rio- and one can c why!!
on the 6th June, 2014 at 10:27pm
Tactically speaking, I totally agree with Tardelli '82 re Bonucci aka the donkey and that Mario cannot lead the attack on his own. I like your 352 formation but I think it should only be deployed if we meet Spain, and perhaps to lesser extent against Brazil or Germany.
on the 6th June, 2014 at 10:18pm
Every time an article is written about Italy and a friendly we can always expect the line.."Italy should have won". Yup, we got it again.
No winning mentality on this team, friendly game or not.
They simply struggle. In 2006 we had the right mix of talent and experience running in cohesion toward a common goal.
Since then we have not put together the right mix of talent/strategy on the pitch; and we certainly know we have it available.
on the 6th June, 2014 at 7:26pm
Italy needs a killer instinct. Friendly reputation aside, they should be beating a team like this... How can a game like this build confidence?

On the other hand, we will not know what Italy will show up until the first ball is kicked in Manaus... that is the truth. We are not on the inside, and I hardly think Prandelli is an idiot, contrary to what many people are commenting.

I do think he knows his formation, and I do think he will change it up per game... hopefully that works...
on the 6th June, 2014 at 5:12pm
Where is this optimism coming from? 2 of the best matches Italy have played under CP have both ended 0-0 after 120 mins against Spain and England. All Wc wins have been in Europe; when outside Europe, Italy have struggled. Lucky in 94 as coming 3rd like they did should have seen them out. Question marks against too many players in the squad. Lack of pace in midfield. I hope they do get out of the group but I am not as confident as some using silly reasons like Italy always rises to the occasion
on the 6th June, 2014 at 4:53pm
We have serious problems at both ends!Our defense is lousy:how many goals have we conceded during CP's reign? Our attack is too wasteful & has been so for a long time. Going back to the Euro's: we couldn't score against a poor England side. In the semi, we created so many good opportunities against Germany, but were profligate. Nothing has changed, & Balotelli just isn't clinical enough-needing 5 chances to score 1 goal. Watching Italy can be an extreme exercise in frustration.
on the 6th June, 2014 at 3:06pm
This is nothing like 2010, when we didn't have a serious striker to speak of, when our 'best' midfielder after Pirlo got hurt was an inexperienced, afraid Monto, when Cannavaro was a mere shell of himself and a liability. And as bad as that 2010 team was on paper, there's no question we make the Qr's if Pirlo and Buffon don't get hurt. After all, we basically gave up 5 shots on net and Marchetti gave up 5 goals. Buffon just needed to save one of those. Hardly the same situation as 2010
on the 6th June, 2014 at 2:06pm
mario -- "...we supposed to have one 4 wcups but dont forget two of them was back in the 30's."

what an absolute ridiculous comment. Brazil won 2 in the 50's, which might as well have been the 30's in the context of your statement. They're both lifetimes ago. 3 of their 5 were more than 44 years ago. In 'modern' times - as in most of us middle aged adults' lifetimes - Italy and Brazil both have 2.
Germany hasn't won anything in 25 years. Argentina more than 30.
on the 6th June, 2014 at 1:48pm
Starting slow is actually a good thing for European teams in this tournament. Without experiencing the heat beforehand, young gung ho teams will burn and crash before it matters! I agree with the coach that fitness is even more important than experience this time. And let's hope that sauna training works. I'm not sure how much more Italy could have prepared. We're quite OK. Nothing to worry about.
on the 6th June, 2014 at 11:02am
Let me remind you that we have played Uruguay and England competitively in the last 2 years. Played Uruguay full squad, Cavani/Forlan/Suarez and co., with a B team without Pirlo or Balo. They trailed us, not otherwise. We didn't win outright because the attacking relied too much on Balo without effective replacement.
on the 6th June, 2014 at 10:53am
Wake up to what? The nagging from some people here is incredible! It's like you lost money on these games or something? If you want a team that does well in friendlies, then you support the wrong team. Support England instead!
on the 6th June, 2014 at 10:48am
I agree that Verratti is a bright light. But why is CP only trying him now? It has always been very clear that after Pirlo and De Rossi, Verrati is the best Mid Italy have. Yet CP kept playing rubbish players instead. CP remains clueless despite being boss of Italy for some time. And in all his games in charge I can name just two games were Italy played good football. Other than that I saw a team struggling to understand what it's supposed to do. I'm worried because of CP not d friendlies!
on the 6th June, 2014 at 10:30am
Yes Italy have a tendency to struggle in friendlies and rise to the occasion when it matters, but those believing that this will happen this time around are simply deluding themselves. I hope I'm wrong but I wasn't in 2010 and it is looking likely that I won't be neither this time. Italy won’t make it past the group stage. Prandelli has so far (and its been too long) failed to give this team identity. He keeps changing tactics, formations and players. Hence no continuity.
on the 6th June, 2014 at 10:23am
Not at all concerned. I'd have actually been worried if we'd battered Luxembourg 6-0...
Prandelli is experimenting because he knows the formation he wants to play. He's tested new things out when it doesn't matter.
We'll grind the results and the last game will be a fight for top spot.
on the 6th June, 2014 at 9:54am
I get the wave of negativity after 2 avg results but until the first ball is kicked we don't know how Italy is going to perform. What we can't argue is that historically Italy play best when it matters in the knock out stages & even when we go out of tournaments they tend to be extremely unlucky. I think Prandelli has earned the benefit of the doubt with previous results & believe that we have the quality and depth of squad to cause a surprise. Particularly if Fantonio and Super Mario hit form.
on the 6th June, 2014 at 9:12am
There's no excuse for this result even if as we all know
we usually are poor in friendlies including just before a major tournament.

Even playing experimental,playing with little desire to win,holding back so as not to get injured after what happened to Montilivio,Italy with all their top players should still have suffed the part timers of Luxembourg.

We can't just write off 7 draws in a row because it does matter.
on the 6th June, 2014 at 7:46am
The big worry is our defence. Slow and looking shaky at set pieces. We do have creativity and goals in or team so just hope they click at the right time.
I remember how angry I was before 2010, Anyone who watches Italian football knew the team was not good enough. Not the same feeling this time but nervous non the less.
Team selection time
Barza (if not fit Bonnuci over Palleta for familiarity)
De Rossi
Marchisio ( poss Motta)
De Sciglio
on the 6th June, 2014 at 6:54am

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