Saturday June 28 2014
Pirlo today, Pirlo tomorrow

Andrea Pirlo’s future with Italy continues to hang in the balance, but Livio Caferoglu is keen to see the midfielder remain part of the country’s present.

As the dust settled on Italy’s miserable World Cup campaign, so did the unfathomable realisation that Andrea Pirlo may never don the famous Azzurri jersey again.

Prior to the World Cup, Pirlo had stated that his international career would be coming to an end once his sojourn in Brazil was over. His reasoning that the time had come for younger players to take centre stage was wholly understandable, given his advancing years and widespread calls for younger players to be entrusted.

After a second performance of epic proportions against England in an opening 2-1 victory, the Italians became expectant and placed their trust in the evergreen star. The country had just given the best passing display seen at a World Cup in 48 years - an accolade not possible without Pirlo’s contribution.

However, his influence wavered in their remaining group matches, and the nation promptly crashed out at the first hurdle for the second time running. But the 35-year-old gave a glimmer hope to his compatriots when he announced that all may not be lost: “If the new Coach asks for my availability, I would willingly return.”

Ever since his debut in 2002, Pirlo has been the most important member in La Nazionale’s development. While the likes of Francesco Totti and Alessandro Del Piero, arguably more stylish contemporaries, spent their Italy careers stealing the headlines, the midfielder was quietly at work, laying the foundations for a glorious era in the Azzurri cycle.

In the current Italy set-up, Pirlo’s role of regista has begun to diminish, as the entire team is instructed to maintain possession. Although he continues to dominate the centre-circle, his mobility has evaded him. His mental sharpness has only increased with experience, meaning he is still able to orchestrate attacks at free will – providing his team-mates offer ample movement around him.

Before the reign of Cesare Prandelli, the Azzurri were known primarily as a counterattacking team, built on the ideals of catenaccio. Pirlo’s primary role under Marcello Lippi was to release the ball quickly on the break. It may not sound that ravishing, but the ability to remain calm and make a split-second decision in the pressure cooker of international football cannot be underestimated.

Following on from the 2010 debacle, Prandelli engineered a shift in Italy’s style of play – one which certainly plays to the strengths of an ageing Pirlo. The former Fiorentina boss once again made Pirlo the focal point of his philosophy, which has been to turn the side into a team that can relentlessly adapt itself to the opponent while remaining in control at all times.

Yet there are certain issues with Pirlo’s continued indispensability. Prandelli’s approach has faced criticism for a variety of excesses - too similar to the Spanish tiki-taka system that has nosedived in efficacy over the past 18 months, too much tactical convolution and too much reliance on the No 21 to “make a magic pass” in the words of Brazil great Zico.

Pirlo’s impact has also suffered at the hands of heavy pressing. Two of the world’s fittest sides, Spain and Bayern Munich, carried out their best efforts to stifle the midfielder, and it rendered Italy and Juventus one-dimensional, as they recorded convincing defeats in both Euro 2012 and the Champions League without reply. However saddening it may be, his brilliance has been clouded by sentiment at times.

Lippi blindly entered the South African World Cup in the hope that the class of 2006 could repeat their heroics of four years prior, without a contingency plan to boot. Still, it’s hard to blame Pirlo for their joint failures. The ex-Milan ace was ruled out for most of the group stage due to injury and can’t be held accountable for the lack of another creative presence on the pitch.

But Pirlo is like a fine wine, as Juventus have seen since grabbing him on a free transfer from Milan three years ago. The creative heartbeat for both club and country, there still isn’t an equal and may never be another of his ilk. With that in mind, his availability crucially bides Italy some extra time in moulding their plans for the future.

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Have your say...
who ever is the next coach of italy should go for youth as did the germans look were there are now
on the 14th July, 2014 at 3:33pm
Del Piero: 27 goals in 91 caps. Awesome. Vierri has just 3 less goals in nearly half of the games played. Baggio has the same goals in nearly half the caps. Worse, regardless of qualifying, tournament performances have not been good. A goal every 3 and a half games is not something to brag about. even balo has a better scoring rate
on the 2nd July, 2014 at 4:44pm
8 years on, it floors me to hear about Totti as if he is snubbed. It's he who announced his Azzuri retirement after the '06 WC. Since then, there has been no indication whatsoever he has ever truly wanted to be part of an international campaign. when asked about his 'exclusion' from '14 team, he admits he never really thought about it. I'm a fan of his and someone who believes Ita was its best with FT & AP together. Shame he didn't continue as '08-'14 could have been different. so enough already
on the 2nd July, 2014 at 3:41pm
@ Vincenzo Grella I think you'll find that the 20 outfield players on the pitch that day all tried to outdo each other on the cynical stakes. There were 4 or 5 elbows, a bite, lots of play acting by ALL
players, time wasting and pretty nasty tackles. The match was one of the most cynical I've witnessed. I'm not going to single out one player. In fact the person who disappointed me the most was Prandelli who seemingly encouraged some of the cynicism. Admittedly this was out of character.
on the 30th June, 2014 at 1:32pm
Surely they wouldn't appoint Guidolin as manager?
Please someone calm my nerves.
on the 30th June, 2014 at 12:05pm
Its sad to see my beloved Azzurri crash out of the WC back to back. I always had hope & supported Balotelli for the Azzurri but after watching his self glorifying lying on the pitch all the time in tasteless fashion has turned me off from him for good. When a player dons the Azzurri shirt they must play with heart & exert every ounce of energy. This Azzurri team lacked heart in many respects & players displayed no sense of urgency. The forwards had no cohesion & their lack of scoring showed it.
on the 30th June, 2014 at 3:33am
Demetrio Albertini said it best as it's time to use seria b players.........................
on the 30th June, 2014 at 12:56am
Dennis - the runners off the ball Giacherini, Diamanti, Maggio etc were replaced by Motta, Acquilani, Abate - bet he is having nightmares now. Prandelli then tried to cover this by having Cerci and Insigne which meant as you say limited striking options. Head down Cerci and offside Insigne are the cool guys of Serie A, as they play on the opposite flank to the foot they use - clever......Might work in Serie A (bit of misnomer) but against teams who can DEFEND - is just a poor magic trick.
on the 29th June, 2014 at 1:39pm
May I suggest that no one does anything too rash. If Pirlo has retired then he should be convinced to continue to make himself available. Let the new manager have all the options available to him. If its Mancini or Allegri then I doubt they'll know how to utilise Pirlo. If its someone else then maybe they will.
on the 29th June, 2014 at 12:43pm
I am wondering how many strikers were taken to this world cup because to me it looks like it was just Balo n Immobile. Insigne and Cerci are forwards cum wingers while Cassano is definitely a forward but prefers to create than score. In 2006 they had Inzaghi, Toni, Iaquinta, Gilardino supported by DP n Totti. Where were the goals meant to come from? If you look deep down this was a flawed squad from the start. No runners off the ball either, which is crucial to Pirlo's inclusion.
on the 29th June, 2014 at 11:29am
For years we were spoiled with players such as Del Piero,Totti and Baggio who for me was the best out of these three for the Azzurri.Who can forget the 1994 World Cup.
Even players like Mancini and Zola and even Di Canio couldn't get into the squad.

Now with Pirlo he's the last of this line of fantasy players although I'm not sure if I would put him up with the first three.

Once Pirlos gone the closest we have to a fantasy player is Verratti.He's 21 and has a long way to go so fingers crossed.
on the 29th June, 2014 at 8:09am
Sam De Martino I'm not sure how you can be so confident of Euro 2016 qualification.We just got beat by Costa Rica,drew 7 games in a row,drew our last two world cup qualifiers against poor quality teams and struggled away to Malta who we have to play.Take nothing for granted.

Watching the games yesterday showed to me how slow we played and we little passion.In comparison we almost crawled around the pitch at a snails pace.

Del Piero? Not all the effective for Italy from what I remember.
on the 29th June, 2014 at 8:03am
@ missing Bagg

You don't even realize what you're saying. Yes the numbers speak for themselves.

Go to your room, and cover up real nice.

You're beyond me.
on the 29th June, 2014 at 12:21am
Read the context in which stealing headlines was written by the author compare Dennis, then please come back and tell me if you agree.

If the writer mentions del piero to enhance his point, than it is fair game to criticize del piero to scrutinize his point.
on the 29th June, 2014 at 12:04am
Stealing the headlines is not necessarily for the right reasons but whether you like it or not DP is a bigger iconic figure than Pirlo so he is bound to steal the headlines. Its 2014 and we still have the stupid Baggio/ Del Piero debate 16 years after the fact. This is about Pirlo so any bitterness you feel towards DP post on your "I hate dp blog or website" and not bore decent folk with your boring rhetoric. Like I said please go missing and never be found as haters like you contribute nothing
on the 28th June, 2014 at 10:17pm
@missing Bagg if only you had any brain cells then we can converse. I never said DP was a hit for Italy, I said he was never a starter apart from 98. Then another clown states that Totti should have been taken to the world cup in 2014 despite doing little in 2002, nothing in 2004 and little in 2006 but lo and behold at 37 in that heat n humidity he would have done something. Did DP or Totti not steal the headlines for Italy whether good or bad or are you too dumb to know what that means?
on the 28th June, 2014 at 10:12pm
Del Piero, Totti and Baggio will always be ahead of Pirlo even though some people now want to act like Pirlo is better. In an age when Italian soccer is at its lowest he is doing well but in its heights and in its best days Del Piero was far better and more important. The past italy teams were so defensive and unsure how to play baggio and Del Piero and than later Del Piero and Totti. The 2002 team was cheated By Byron Moreno and in the past Del Piero and others had far more competition.
on the 28th June, 2014 at 10:05pm
No disrespect to Pirlo but he was no where near the levels of Totti and Del Piero at their heights nor was he ever as important. I have watched pirlo from the beginning and he struggled at times and he needs special attention when playing with others. If you realize there is a reason now that Pirlo is better and the Azzuri team is worse its because his style does nothing for them in terms of goals. In the past Italy was very defensive hurting Del Piero and Totti's stats.
on the 28th June, 2014 at 9:56pm
And I'm a juventino compare, just a realist who knows who did well for their country and who was given repeated chances because he was aligned with the right people.
on the 28th June, 2014 at 9:54pm
Mistafa you are a tripper. Bobo scored against chile, double against cameroon, header against austria, goal against Norway in 98.
2002 he scored double against Ecuador. Good return from two tournaments. What other italian striker gave that return?
So in 8 international tournaments that del piero played, that is the best contribution yyou can come up with? Pfft the numbers speak for tthemselves . failure by anyone's measure.
on the 28th June, 2014 at 9:52pm
This was another poor showing at a world cup for Italy. In my mind Balo sabotaged Italy's already slim chances for this world cup with his numerous throw away shots and drama on the pitch.
It was also very sad that Italy had zero attack without Balo and its defense was just as shaky. What has happened to the Azzuri?
Pirlo is fantastic kicker but he alone should not have to bare the burden of pulling the entire Italian team.
It was a poor strategy by the coach and one they payed dearly for.
on the 28th June, 2014 at 9:08pm
Impossible to leave someone with Pirlos ability out of the team especially when we lack world class players.

I agree he slows down play and I would love to see a fast paced attacking italy but we don't have the players.

Pirlo is at least good for another year but can't see him making the Euro championship.

Verratti showed his ability against Uruguay with some great ball skill so for now lets play him alongside Pirlo.
on the 28th June, 2014 at 9:01pm
Scored every time he played!? Count the goals for me you hypocrite! Or you just spreading your hate as an interista.

DelPiero scored 17 goals in international official competition. Decisive goals on 2002 against Mexico, and 2006 against Germany.

DelPiero scored 27 goals in total, and he's joint fourth all time leading scorers of Italy.

While your Bobo scored 23 goals in total despite being a reference point attacker, not as second striker as Del Piero.

You can zip it now.
on the 28th June, 2014 at 8:14pm
Platini has spoiled in my view what was a great tournament. How can you have a qualifying group of 6 teams where top 2 qualify and 3rd place teams play off. Then in the tournament allow 3rd palce teams with best record to qualify for next round. The euros should have the best 16 teams from Europe, not average teams that finish 3rd in their qualifying groups. Usual story FIFA trying to make more money by more games. DISGUSTING
on the 28th June, 2014 at 7:59pm
We should finish in the top 2 in our Euro 2016 group. Apart from Croatia we should be fine. Bulgaria will also cause us problem as in world cup qualifying. Norway , Malta and Azerbaijan should be easy, but we are Italy so we are bound to struggle. We need to start scoring more goals, the group we are in should give us the chance to try new things and experiment for the future. The new Euro format is a joke as is the tournament itself where best 3rd places teams go through. Platini is a moron.
on the 28th June, 2014 at 7:56pm
Looking back we should have won a lot more over the years. Italia 90 was our best team, we where robbed then. Euro 2000 was the worst ever, minutes from glory, Vieri injury before the tournament cost us dear and del piero missed. 2002 we had a great team but where cheated beyond belief. 1994 had baggio and baresi been fully fit I think we d have beaten Brazil. For me Euro 2000 was the worst as we where so close. euro 2012 a mixture of injuries and Cesare cost us. To win the euros is my dream.
on the 28th June, 2014 at 7:34pm
Pirlo is still a big player for us. He should in my view retire after Euro 2016 for Italy for good. Having Pirlo, Verratti and Jorginho would be very exciting and give us great options going forward. I was in tears when Baggio name was mentioned, everyone would play for him, he is my hero and the greatest ever. He would be an amazing appointment, although the FIGC don't have the balls to appoint him, better to try and get Cesare to stay or someone equally as bad. Ridiculous.
on the 28th June, 2014 at 7:28pm
Verratti is the future, Pirlo is the past.
on the 28th June, 2014 at 7:10pm
@ mustafa. Vieri scored every time he played for italy. Del Piero 8 international tournaments, 3 goals. Vieri scored beat that in the group stages in 98.

Dp barely even scored in qualifiers.

True azzurri supporters know the frustration of watching del piero for the national team without italian refs calling a free kick every time he touched the ball.

One futile goal against germany when game is already won doesn't undo that.
on the 28th June, 2014 at 7:10pm
"The former Fiorentina boss once again made Pirlo the focal point of his philosophy, which has been to turn the side into a team that can relentlessly adapt itself to the opponent while remaining in control at all times." What like Vs Costa Rica? Prandelli was a rabbit in headlights and the team made the 2012 final in spite of him, not because of him. Pirlo is one of the best players to grace Serie A, but Verratti will be even better because he has the vision of Pirlo, but can dribble at pace.
on the 28th June, 2014 at 6:21pm

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