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Saturday October 11 2014
Wasteful Azzurri a worry?

Italy went through the motions against Azerbaijan, but Luca Persico wonders whether their wastefulness is a cause for concern?

For six second-half minutes, Italy were genuinely ruffled. Giorgio Chiellini’s unfortunate own goal had given Azerbaijan something to hold on to.

After going through the motions for two thirds of the contest, the Azzurri now had to play with urgency. The introduction of Sebastian Giovinco proved fundamental to this aim and the pint-sized forward duly delivered the match-winning cross for Chiellini to complete his hat-trick, of sorts, and spare Italian blushes.

“These are the typical games where you create so much, they defend and score at the first chance,” stated Coach Antonio Conte in his post-match interview.

“We need to be more clinical, more determined and we wasted too much tonight.”

The tactician’s assessment seems fair. Italy managed 22 attempts on goal, but scored just twice. Against sterner opposition, such carelessness could prove costly.

In recent years, Italy have developed a habit of just doing enough when faced with one of Europe’s perceived minnows. In qualifying for Euro 2012 and this summer’s World Cup, they beat Estonia, Faroe Islands and Malta by margins of just two goals or less. There was also a 1-1 with Luxembourg in June and a stalemate in Northern Ireland at the start of Cesare Prandelli’s reign.

Italy’s attitude in these matches is seemingly philosophical. With 2-0 worth them same as 6-0, why do more than is necessary? The Azzurri have not lost a qualifier since a 3-1 defeat to France in September 2006, so is it a cause for concern or simply a smart, calculated approach?

The results would suggest the latter, but Friday’s match did pose a more pertinent question that is relevant for the immediate future.

The forward combination of Ciro Immobile and Simone Zaza endured a frustrating evening in Sicily. Between them, they had eight attempts on goal, but failed to register. Having combined so well against the Netherlands and Norway, their fruitless 90 minutes at the Renzo Barbera suggests they aren't untouchable.

Both Immobile and Zaza have had mixed starts to the new season domestically. With Giuseppe Rossi injured and Mario Balotelli finding his feet at Liverpool, the duo took advantage in Conte’s opening assignments to stake their claim.

Whether they are the long-term solution, however, remains to be seen. The wastefulness they demonstrated in front of goal is symbolic of their early season form. With Southampton’s Graziano Pellè the only Italian forward playing and scoring regularly, Conte is left short on options. The promise Immobile and Zaza showed in September gave him some reprieve, but can they be ruthless enough when it really matters?

Conte is unlikely to shelve them after one indifferent performance in a game where Italy largely coasted, but it hints at a problem that potentially could develop over time.

With Rossi at full fitness a luxury and Balotelli forever frustrating, Conte would be wise to test another combination either against Malta on Monday or in next month’s friendly at home to Albania. Pellè’s good form surely earns him a chance to show his worth, while Giovinco’s cameo in Palermo was a timely reminder of his ability to create and he would be a good foil for the Southampton target man.

With Conte’s first proper test coming in November against Croatia, the tactician will simply be pleased to be sitting on maximum points. The initial starting XI that opens a new era rarely finishes it and the next few fixtures should show where Conte’s current attacking choices stand for the longer term outlook.

Have your say...
You earn your keep,who cares how old someone is.If they are performing at a top level...let him play PIRLO is a stud.Secondly let this Balo thing go the guy is not focused or worth it...we will rise again...Immobile Pelle...ya bring it these guys are playing at a high level and MERIT the opportunity.
on the 5th November, 2014 at 1:13am
@sul campo you're brain is so mashed up that you want a 38 year old at the euros, you are a total joke. You have obviously never heard of the saying all good things come to an end, Pirlo is nowhere as good as he was 2 years ago at the euros and will decline quite rapidly now due to no fault of his own. In you're own words we need workhorses around Pirlo as his legs are gone, you want the Nazionale a laughing stock, Xavi was a great player he has retired from Spain younger than Pirlo.
on the 18th October, 2014 at 8:02pm
@ Marc F

Boy, I know I'm talking to a standing light statue, so why don't fact yourself out of here?
on the 16th October, 2014 at 10:23pm
It's funny how everyone on here especially Italians like to bash Balo. Do you think we have a chance of winning with the current B and C rated attacking force?? really? Italy as a nation should back Balo and encourage him to get better. Listen the man is playing well at liverpool but not so lucky scoring so far. His italian goal scoring record speaks for itself. ZAZA? who? Pelle? who? Immobile? please?? You will be balo at his best if you have patience he will perform and live up to expectations
on the 16th October, 2014 at 6:04pm
I think balo should get back with raffaella fico. He played his best football when she was seeing him in England.
on the 16th October, 2014 at 5:28pm
@Mustafa,

Fact: Without Balotelli Italy don't get to the final against Spain in the Euros. There's the fact. In '06 when Italy won it had nothing to do with Toni so yes, Balo has had a bigger impact with the national team. FACT!!!
on the 16th October, 2014 at 5:26pm
@Marco...I don't know what you're smoking but it's bad for you. Pirlo loses the ball...when?? If anything, he's the only guy on the pitch cool enough to keep hold of it. Many comment that passing to Pirlo is like putting the ball in a vault. We need workhorses around him to protect and win the ball back. And for the blocco Juventino...note that Juve have conceded 2 goals in 6, and Italy have 1 in 4. So, they're not too shabby at the back.
And please no-one else mention Toni or Cassano.
on the 16th October, 2014 at 11:50am
To change the way Azzurri play you need to change the way Serie A plays. When you have one club that is Roma being coached by a foreigner with few Italians playing the most entertaining football and always looking to beat teams by more than one goal. It says a lot about what state the Azzurri are in. A few years back Germany realized the flaws in their football and did a complete overhaul of the Bundesliga starting with the youth sectors. Now Germany is dominating & that is exactly what we need.
on the 16th October, 2014 at 2:43am
@ Marc F I'm no hater and I don't hate anyone. If you're gonna take Balotelli over Toni in any day, that's you clueless opinion and quite frankly I don't care. Toni wasted great chances? Haha hoho! Play back every game Balotelli played with Azzurri and compare. To remind you of few, two one-on-ones in the Euros and one of them was against Spain. How's that for facts Mr. Fact?
on the 15th October, 2014 at 11:55pm
Don't worry its all new!! Lets remember at Juve in conte first season top scorer was I think Matri with ten goals not a lot!!I don't think we will ever beat teams 4/5-0 with contes style there is too much running involved, plus we are relying on ZAZA and IMMOBILE....
on the 15th October, 2014 at 4:33pm
@Mustafa, everyone knows your hatred for everything/everyone who has any association with Milan. Your opinions are always so biased. Try for once using actual facts. Toni is not a good national team player. He wasted so many great opportunities in '06 and '08. At club level he's prolific but not when he's playing for the Azzurri. Balo has his issues but between the two I'd take Balo any day.
on the 15th October, 2014 at 1:43pm
@ Marco In fairness I only raise these things when I see the constant barrage of hatred on here. I just think it needs some balance that's all. I let most of it go. Anyway I have seen him play for Liverpool and he's done ok but obviously hasn't scored. I agree that Destro should come in. It would be good if we had some pace in the form of SES, Insigne or Cerci. Cassano would be great but since Bonucci and De Rossi seem to have a big say in the team I don't see that happening.
on the 14th October, 2014 at 11:19pm
Berardi, Gabbiadini, Belotti, Destro, Pelle, and one of Immobile, El Shaaraway, Zaza, Bernardeschi. At this point its a no-brainer that the first 5 plus one of the last 4 should be getting as many caps as possible for Italy. No room for anyone else from here on out.

Destro does nothing but score. Give him half a chance and he puts it in the back of the net. Shocked that Conte didn't give him a chance against Malta.
on the 14th October, 2014 at 8:53pm
judging Conte after 4 games is laughable. Pirlo an all time great is still world class in the set piece situation, it's that he can't run any more, hangs on to the ball until he loses it in danger areas. The last two results prove that the other decent players I and many others have mentioned are required to be given a chance NOW, Pelle done well, pleased Bonnuci will miss next game, the so called Juventus block of players are too old and please NO Barzaghli overweight and slow.
on the 14th October, 2014 at 8:15pm
I can't believe I'm saying this with his age but I think Totti should be called up. If the guy can stay healthy and fit he will bring the attacking quality in the midfield. He plays more advanced then Pirlo and Verratti and will unlock defenses all day long. Then again, it may not work with Conte's no-play zones, lol.
on the 14th October, 2014 at 8:00pm
@ Mark F

Never mind. I'm a better striker than Balotelli.
on the 14th October, 2014 at 7:53pm
For those who keep whining on how Norway and Croatia beat that team by 6-0 & 3-0, just remember when they play the Azzurri --> they get beaten! Let me hear you're whining then. You're even failing to realize that it was almost the bench of the Azzurri who played Malta with few regular starters. Yet again, if we had a real goal scorer, it could've been 3 or 4 to zero.
on the 14th October, 2014 at 7:47pm
Not sure i'd agree that Toni's a better striker than Balo, especially in the Azzurri. Toni was great at the club level but was a complete waste on the national team. I'd take Balo over Toni any day.
on the 14th October, 2014 at 5:32pm
considering the little time Conte has had he's done what we need and won, he's still trying to impose his style and is using these few games to find his best squad of players, he's not had the luxury of a few friendlies beforehand. I think Aqualani will be dropped he's offered nothing for Conte and I'd be surprised if he is selected next time round. The game against Malta was slow paced, though we hit the woodwork a few times we got the result. Patience.
on the 14th October, 2014 at 2:51pm
Maldinisheir I am so tired of you're endless banging on about Balotteli, talking of strikers missing chances I take it you have not seen him play for Liverpool this season. Seeing as Rossi is not even fit so what you want him up front on crutches, yes Rossi has had many set backs so many that one more crunching tackle could well end his career. I'm more concerned whŷ Conte hasn't given players who score like Destro, Gabbiadini, Berardi an opportunity.
on the 14th October, 2014 at 12:34pm
I said it yesterday and I say it again today: Verratti isn't Pirlo. That difference was obvious yesterday. He'll be good but he needs time and less pressure. For now, Pirlo has the quality and calm to deal with regular first team action.
Whilst the result wasn't great, the points were. That's all that matters at this stage. If the ball hadn't hit the post and bar, we'd have won 5-0 and no-one would have anything to main about.
Again, PAZIENZA!!!
on the 14th October, 2014 at 11:03am
It is a big shame, when Gli Azzurri suffers with wins against Azerbaijan & Malta! The whole thing regarding Azzurri will get more complicated with the match against Croatia. That will exploit whether for real Conte is a deserved CT or he was hired for the likes of Tavechio! I believe he was appointed for political reasons more than technical capabilities. I believe he is a good Serie A coach but not to the Nazionale level, not yet.
on the 14th October, 2014 at 10:52am
Let me express something here; the Azzurri needs an elite coach such as Ancelloti but ofcourse he is not available now. Gli Azzurri has been managed by Prandelli & now Conte, both with all respect are not good enough for a profile nazionale like winners of world cup x4. I hear people screaming balloteli here & there!!! In regards to that, yes balloteli is a goal scorer but he has some mental issues which sometimes cost a team big!!! What the Azzurri needs is an experienced & professional CT.
on the 14th October, 2014 at 10:43am
As you guys concentrate on Balotelli, I am asking where was Destro. He seems to be both Garcia's and Conte's whipping boy. Other than the fact he scores every ninety minutes whenever he is allowed to play, again like Cassano he is not given a chance.
on the 14th October, 2014 at 10:40am
The two results from matched played with Azerbaijan & Malta, are the true reflection of Serie A Italian Strikers who do not exist! Look at Juve; the starting strikers are foreigners, Rome, Inter-Milano & Milano are all the same! Where are the natural goal scorers? How can Azzurri score goals without the true definition of a striker included? …
on the 14th October, 2014 at 10:37am
Malta play for over 60 minutes with ten man and we fail to score a goal in that time. Should have played Pelle alongside Giovinco from the start. Bonucci red card is a blessing, hope Rugani plays against Croatia, he is a defender with some class. God knows why Darmian played where he did. No penetration, just pass pass pass going nowhere. We played with fear, we are so far off been able to challenge for the euros its incredible. Give Conte time, but these games for me have left huge questions.
on the 14th October, 2014 at 9:26am
5 million euros a year for Conte to struggle to beat a team of part-timers who were down to 10 men after a few minutes!

Tavecchio, Galliani, Lotito and the other members of the caste who ru(i)n italian football should have spent that money in developing infrastructure, new talent, new coaching staff, etc. but they thought it it wiser to give it to the toupee-wearing clown.

The change from Abete/Prandelli to Tavecchio/Conte was the traditional Italian Gattopardo at its worst.
on the 14th October, 2014 at 9:20am
After Azerbaijan match I thought it couldn't get any worse how wrong I was. Croatia beat Azerbaijan 6-0 and Norway beat malta 3-0 yet we struggle to a 2-1 and 1-0 win, beyond abysmal. Last night was a joke just like Friday. No one can put the ball in the net, we can hit the post and bar in both games but cant score. Only 2 positives was the points and I thought Pelle was great. He scored, hit the bar, held the ball up well and layed it off loads, but as usual immobile couldn't finish.
on the 14th October, 2014 at 9:18am
@maldini heir
Your italian team would consist of a player that hurts himself standing still and a striker that isn't actually any good! Look at ibra 32 games 28 goals and at psg 70 games 61 goals.
It may be harsh but this is football, we can't pick players on names and because we feel sorry for them. I would understand if we didn't have options but we have a brilliant group of fresh young talent so why waste time on Balotelli and Rossi. We need to win world cups not nurse injuries.
on the 14th October, 2014 at 8:58am
@maldini heir
I can't believe you are still on here!
If he is so great and so decisive how come his valua has declined and no teams actually wanted and was a last resort for Liverpool who have openly said he was never the first choice? If he is so great why are they looking at replacements already? Stop banging on about the Euros 3 and half years ago! 1 game which he had a good 10mins for. Stop going on and on and wake up! You are the worst 'expert' i have ever heard. 1 goal 9 games!
on the 14th October, 2014 at 8:40am

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