Wednesday November 18 2015
Italy lack guarantees

The two friendlies against Belgium and Romania were far from reassuring, writes Edo Dalmonte.

It’s been almost 18 months since Antonio Conte took over as Italy CT from Cesare Prandelli following a catastrophic World Cup. With only a handful of games left before the Azzurri travel to France, it’s fair to ask ourselves what we know about this team. So far, the answer is very little, and the Azzurri’s 3-1 defeat to Belgium and 2-2 draw against Romania provided us with more questions than answers.

What’s worse is that the few things we do know aren’t exactly comforting. At present, what are Italy’s strengths, exactly? Just about the only guarantee the Azzurri can bring to the table is goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.

Beyond that, there’s little encouraging news. His sub, Salvatore Sirigu, was partly responsible for Romania’s last-gasp equaliser. In addition, the defence appears unable to offer any stability. The early goal Italy conceded to Bogdan Stancu is the sixth goal that they’ve conceded in the first twenty minutes under Conte, and a sign that the former Juventus Coach should have at least tested an alternative to the Turinese old guard by now.

Though Andrea Barzagli actually looked solid in the middle against Romania, Conte chose to shuffle Chiellini to left-back, which is far from ideal.

As thing stand, the Azzurri’s back line is Euro mincemeat material: even the weaker teams in the competition will be adept at punishing opponents on the counter, and will surely be licking their chops at the sight of the 4-4-2/4-2-4 Conte employed against Romania and Belgium.

The Azzurri’s energetic, yet bumbling performance in midfield is symptomatic of the former Bianconeri boss’s constant tinkering. Despite injuries to Marco Verratti and Sebastian Giovinco - who plies his trade in MLS, by the way - Conte is paying the price for bringing in out-of-form or still-convalescent players like Riccardo Montolivo and Lorenzo de Silvestri, and leaving the likes of Domenico Berardi and Lorenzo Insigne at home.

The Italian press has made much of the Azzurri’s pluck, but it’s hard to see that making a difference against the continent’s elite. Though much has been made of Romania conceding only two goals in qualifiers, they were facing Northern Ireland, Hungary, Finland, Greece and the Faroe Islands.

Despite the referee’s lenience towards Romania’s tough tackling, it’s not as if Conte’s charges created that many chances to begin with. Coming after a defeat to Belgium in which the Azzurri looked almost Trapattoni-esque in their persistent use of long balls, questions have to be asked of Conte’s tactical approach, as well as his apparent lack of a Plan B.

Leaving Lorenzo Insigne and Domenico Berardi - the latter of whom went on to star for the Under-21 team against Lithuania - out in favour of Graziano Pelle and Eder has left Italy looking predictable up front. This isn’t a Baggio-style tormentone: Italy simply can’t afford to leave talents like Insigne, who has been incredible for Napoli this season, and Berardi, who has notched 33 goals over the last three seasons for Sassuolo, off the plane.

It’s not as if Conte has exactly been helped by the FIGC, either: a recent book on the Azzurri CT, Metodo Conte, reveals how he feels that Serie A clubs – especially Juventus – have been stonewalling his attempts at bringing the players in for more camps.

Even after the game, Conte told the press that “we’ll improve when we have twenty days to be together”. Unless things turn around soon, it seems like a bit of a stretch.

Have your say...
@aussie italy fan
Give us a positive???
on the 25th November, 2015 at 9:57am
Waiting for a positive article about the Azzurri form this website. It always seems like doom and gloom, even when we win. We could win Euro 2016 and there still will be negatives.
on the 25th November, 2015 at 12:04am
Italy could win Euro 2016 , and we'd still get negative articles like this.
on the 25th November, 2015 at 12:02am
instead of players like soriano/zaza who are decent club players but not the fuoreclasse we need on the national team! Spain and Germany won the last 2 WC with 23 players of skill and class! Not monolivo or giaccherini! work rate isnt enough! we need skill/class!

darmian/santon/disciglo(criscito) chiellini/Bonucci/Romangoli/astori

all shown consistency!(except chiel/bonu)
on the 23rd November, 2015 at 9:25pm
To call for players like Zappacosta or Baselli to be used in friendlies is reasonable but to have them replace players like de rossi makes zero sense. He may be 33 and passed his prime but he is STILL one of our most solid players! Conte's mistakes have come in not using rugani or romagnoli to try to replace the juve 3 (who make errors every game that lead to goals conceded) We need players like Insigne and Veratti starting every game, these are players who have been consistenly good for years
on the 23rd November, 2015 at 9:16pm
The fact that I read people calling for Buffon not to be included baffles me. Since 2006 there has been an obsession with calling younger players. I even remember back in 2009/10 after the south africa disaters (confederation and wc) people were regularly calling for the likes of Pirlo to be replaced for the like of D'agostino or cigarini! Throwing a bunch of young players who havent had 2 solid seasons in serie a is insane! None of our goalies is as good as Buffon currently is!
on the 23rd November, 2015 at 9:12pm
And Bonaventura and Saponara may be given chance as midfielders, just that Conte doesnt seem to be using a trequartista much but they can be good options on bench or to change system if needed.
on the 23rd November, 2015 at 12:44am
As side backs, Calabria and Zappacosta may be tried as backups to Di Sciglio and Darmian, as the other backups have been tried and are older options.
Midfield is good if 2 of Marchisio, Verratti and De Rossi are there and not many choices for CB's except Juve back 3 and either Rugani/Romagnoli. Team needs to get rid of defensive lapses but hopefully things can be more positive at Euros.
on the 23rd November, 2015 at 12:42am
Everyone agreed that Conte is the right coach. I think he also got a better formation with 4-4-2. I would like some changes in attack - forwards Pelle, Insigne, Giovinco and Gabbiadini/G.Rossi(if he gets back to his best, I'm not convinced about Eder.
Bernardeschi looks very good for Fiorentina and he can be used along with Florenzi, Candreva and El Shaarawy (he still has potential and needs confidence to get back to his best).
on the 23rd November, 2015 at 12:40am
ya.. we lacks quality.... Conte chooses players on da basis of good manner & is not usual for football quality&talent above all...i hope conte understand dat before Euros otherwise players like parolo gets regular chances and baselli,benassi,jorginho,bertolacci,bonaventura etc out of da team....
if he wants to to use 2 midfielders he mst have good defence i dont think this sluggish juve defence is capable fir dat..they r slow & problemstic in counter.also dat 2 midfielders rewuired good defensive qualities..marchiso??he is defensibly rosdi passed his days...then i seen thiago motta he is doing good at paris he desreves chance..him with verratti is btr they have good undersranding..Jorginho also capable bcoz he is defensively alerted.
in wide bernardeschi or berardi shud play in right they r da brighest player rite left insigne..ratate with candreva.two forwards are Pelle with either eder or vazquez if vazquez there we have extra creativity...
in defense i want changes Conte mst show courage to call up romagnoli &rugani(if his january transfer happend)..
dats all
on the 20th November, 2015 at 3:36pm
Anonymous. Your great Portuguese chef Mourinho has some great eggs but I would not eat his omelette. And lets face the facts with basically the top 3 in most groups qualifying, Italy and most top nations (Look at the Dutch) would have been really embarrassed not to qualify. Come On lets all believe in Conte. We have no other choice and lets face the facts when he took over most Azzurri followers would have took AC rather than any other available candidate.
on the 20th November, 2015 at 3:08pm
Most of us want newer, younger players in the team and that comes at a price - inexperience. No matter how good a player is at club level, international exp is priceless. I think the team should be a blend of experienced and new. Last thing I'd want in my team is a young player who loses his confidence as soon as he takes a bad touch and starts worrying about what the fans, crowd and press are going to say. Conte should only be judged after the Euros not months before it has started!!!
on the 20th November, 2015 at 2:25pm
In the words of the great Portugese chef Mourinho: "It is omelettes and eggs. No eggs - no omelettes! It depends on the quality of the eggs". Italy does not have quality players. Conte is working with what players he has and it isn't much. I will reserve my judgement until I see how his team does next year. They did qualify and that's a positive.
on the 20th November, 2015 at 10:34am
We don't have quality anonymous? I strongly disagree! The problem is that Conte prefers his workmanlike players (attitude over ability). This will only take you so far. As will his tactics, his CL performances with Juve highlighted this. If you're only going to play with two central midfielders, then you'd better have a strong defence, and we just have this. We haven't for a long time now.
on the 20th November, 2015 at 10:20am
This past fortnight has been extremely frustrating. Conte had the perfect chance to try out many of the young talents that all of you have listed. Instead he chose to select the old guard, players that we already know. Bonucci & Chiellini, both have the attention span of a goldfish and are a disaster in waiting - how many times have they passed the ball to the opposition?!! Meanwhile, we are desperately lacking imagination in attack and clinical finishing.
on the 20th November, 2015 at 10:13am
Indeed, the problem is that Italy lack quality.
on the 20th November, 2015 at 9:19am
Despite what i stated earlier, The Italian squad does have some good players, but they are missing someone who can turn a game which many teams have. They only Italian I would currently place in that category would be ballo but he will not be risked by Conte. They need to get rid of silly mistakes at the back. Centre Midfield needs work but its on because we were so reliant on Pirlo. Up front if we can find someone to play of Pelle's join up play we stand half a chance.
on the 20th November, 2015 at 6:58am
@maldini heir
Let me guess- everyone's racist! Funniest thing about your comparison is De Rossi is a defensive midfielder Balotelli is a striker kind of speaks volumes, esp as under prandelli De rossi was almost always a centre back. You also have to take into account the amount of years we have wasted on waiting for Balotelli to live up to the billing. In your eye the goal against Germany is enough to cement a place forever, most other ppl look at the crap he produced before and after that goal
on the 20th November, 2015 at 12:19am
Just get rid of players like Montolivo, Parolo and also El Sharaawy. He's not at the level people think. He's too predictable and misses too many chances. Insigne needs to start, and Berardi needs to be given a chance already! Pelle is a good centre forward, he has a nose for goal. Sure he's no Vieri but he's the best we've got these days. By now I would have liked Conte to introduce players like Zappacosta, Benassi, Cataldi, Romagnoli, Rugani..The quicker these players are promoted the better!!
on the 19th November, 2015 at 10:52pm
@ Lucio Balotelli is still joint leading goal scorer in competitive matches with De Rossi. Both have 12. In fact the two share quite a lot of stats for Italy including distance covered at the last World Cup, disciplinary record (both have been sent off once, De Rossi's when he got banned for 3 matches in 2006 for an elbow) and assists (Balotelli has one more assist with 6). One is idolised and not at all to blame for 2014 and one is the reason Italy went out. It's a funny old world.
on the 19th November, 2015 at 10:32pm
Saponara and Bonaventura both give Italy something that Prandelli never had. Someone who can play behind the front 1 or 2. Italy have exciting wingers in Insigne, SES, Berardi, Candreva and Florenzi and we should utilise those. The sort of players we have means that 4-2-3-1 is the obvious choice. For the World Cup Italy should also be thinking of a Romagnoli-Rugani defensive partnership. Things are really not as bad as the performances we are seeing from Conte's side.
on the 19th November, 2015 at 10:14pm
@ the non-obsessed anonymous I agree Conte should be given time and judged on the Euros. I actually have a feeling Italy will muddle their way to the Quarters and Conte will hang onto the job meaning more of the same for the World Cup. If Conte is replaced then I would love to see Ancelottii take charge. Prandelli showed in matches against Spain, Germany and England in the World Cup what Italy are capable. Pirlo was obviously key but I think Verratti can fill Pirlo's shoes.
on the 19th November, 2015 at 10:09pm
This should be the team


Florenzi-bonucci-chiellini-de Sciglio

Verratti-de Rossi-marchisio


Balotelli was made a huge scapegoat in Brazil, I'd choose him over pelle and Eder any day.
Parolo, Soriano, el shaarawy , giacherini. CercI, Okaka and Zaza should be nowhere near the squad let alone the team. These players are some of the worst in our history but no doubt conte will be picking them for the euros.
on the 19th November, 2015 at 10:05pm
our defense is looking is hona b a real problem in Euros..i believe u21 defense is better than senior...bonucci is always a error maker..chiellini looking verry avg..conte mst show courage to take some young players in to the team & give some pkaying time..rugani,romagnoli,baselli,saponara,berardi,bernardeschi all deserved callcups..

i think Prandelli showed more courage to handle youngsters..he called up lot of youngsters and give intl exeriance to them..hw many youngsters got debut under Conte?????verry few..
Conte is not ideal for nazionale..

my 23 man roster for euro
Gk- buffon-perin-sirigu

Defense- astori-romagnoli-rugani-barzagli-darmian-donati-de sciglio

Midfield- verratti-marchisio-bertolacci-jorginho-bonaventura-florenzi-candreva-saponara

Attack- pelle-eder-insigne-berardi-pavoletti

starting lineup

this team can make results for sure..
on the 19th November, 2015 at 2:36pm
I've been watching Italy since I was 10 years old, the USA 94 WC. Since that tournament I fell in love with the Azzurri.
They have produced at most tournaments and always prove the doubters wrong. They have also become agonising to watch at the same time, but I've been used to Italy hanging on for the result when they should kill it off. They have changed over the years and are still now at a huge transitional phase.
WC 2006 and Euro 2012 is long gone, although some of the legends still remain.
on the 19th November, 2015 at 2:29pm
@Maldini's Heir - And who do you suggest should replace Conte? Ancelotti wont come near Italian clubs let alone the national team. Capello is just an older version of Conte with his near fascistic disciplinarian approach. Di Biagio is busy with the under 21s. Lippi? - lets not even go there!! Bringing Prandelli back would be a huge mistake (just like Lippi)!! who does that leave us with??? Lets see how Conte does in E16 first and then his fate can be decided!! Give the man a chance...
on the 19th November, 2015 at 1:56pm
My Italy team for the Euros would be:

Florenzi - Rugani - Romagnoli - Desciglio
Insigne - Verratti - Marchisio - Candreva
Berrardi - Vazquez

Sirigu and Donnarumma
Darmian Chiellini Barzagli Astori SES Benassi Baselli
Eder Giovinco Balo (if ready and improving)

No more Buffon and Pirlo
on the 19th November, 2015 at 12:32pm
I cannot understand why they play themselves into problems at the back.I heard AC conference meeting and I must admit he was absolutely right.We had circa 5 shots at goal from Bel/Rom and conceded 5!We must not allow oppositions to have easy chances.I do fear we are not going to come out of the group stage if this is not resolved.If it was up to me, I would bring the current U21.Absolutely lovely to watch without any fear.Give them a go and get rid of Buffon.He was awful.
on the 19th November, 2015 at 12:21pm
Some great points in this thread.
I would say I'm unfussed by friendly results, rather how they're being used to either develop the team, the play or use the talent available. So far there's little evidence for these three.

Bonaventura is a great shout.
Not using Rugani when he had a chance too.

What do you guys make of Insigne? He's "missing" from a few of those XI you're proposing.

This 2010 comparisonis very valid. I'd say more 2008 myself... Hardly vintage material eh! :-)
on the 19th November, 2015 at 11:54am
Conte will get you wins,draws and close games a plenty. But you can forget winning decisively.
on the 19th November, 2015 at 10:13am

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