Friday March 25 2016
Are Italy finally making progress?

Edoardo Dalmonte asks whether last night’s 1-1 draw with Spain is evidence that the Azzurri are improving, or whether it masked some of their key weaknesses.

It is a telling sign that many of us would have signed below the dotted line for last night’s Azzurri performance. Was this a sign of how much Conte’s team had achieved, how low our expectations were, or both?

To be truthful, it was a relief that Italy weren’t passed off the park by Vicente Del Bosque’s men, but was this ever likely to happen? Though it was refreshing to see Italy harry Spain’s ball-carriers and never let them find their feet, La Furia Roja has yet to prove that it has moved on from the team that puffed and wheezed in the Brazilian sun.

It is also one thing to run more than your opponent in a friendly, another to outwork him in a competitive game, and I have the sneaky suspicion that Italy’s numerous passing errors (both in defence and midfield) will be better exploited by a dynamic, countering minnow - and France 2016’s 24-team format allows for plenty of those!

This may explain why I like the Azzurri more against the tactically-simplistic Marc Wilmots and his collection of freakishly talented Diables Rouges Belgian, who will likely try to take the game into their own hands as Spain did, leaving space to attack at the back.

Still, it was nice to see Italy set up lightning-quick attacks and three-way combinations, whether it was Matteo Darmian combining with Graziano Pellè and Alessandro Florenzi in the first half, Antonio Candreva drifting inside to shoot, or Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi combining for some breathtaking counters in the second.

As welcome as it was to watch Italy playing high-tempo football, the second half bore out to what extent it was better for Conte to opt for more talented, albeit less hard-working players, especially after Bernardeschi and Insigne quite simply took over proceedings.

Case in point: the highly-praised Alessandro Florenzi may have been found good positions, but his end product (save from the fierce strike which David De Gea parried away) was generally poor. Another, Emanuele Giaccherini (Conte’s favourite Stakhanovite) earned a live rebuke from RAI pundit Giovanni Trapattoni for not immediately looking for the killer through-ball to Insigne.

Admittedly the assist-man for the Azzurri’s goal, the Bologna man still looks to lose half a yard off pace when he plays at international level, a trait he shares with Eder, who is struggling to understand if he is to play as a false-nine or as a foil to Pelle.

Bizarrely, it was the Southampton man who was involved in almost every early Azzurri attack, acting as a dangerous pivot and helping his team-mates gain precious yards.

Four more Azzurri counter-attacks will highlight my point: in the first half, Candreva recovered possession outside the box… to find Pelle and Eder making the exact same run. Later on, Florenzi tried to launch Giaccherini on the left with an outside-of-the-foot pass… which was inaccurate. Or was the former Juventino too slow?

In the second, however, a perfect, outside-of-foot pass from Bernardeschi forced a hand-ball from Gerard Pique, who could do little else to stop Simone Zaza from running through on goal. The two Azzurri later combined for a one-two outside the box before passing to Insigne, whose incredible lob nearly had De Gea fooled.

In short, Conte’s Azzurri finally look like they’re building something, but it is worth asking whether he’s using the right pieces. Let’s hope that Insigne’s claims that the two of them have cleared things up (the Neapolitan had angered the CT by skipping two qualifiers through injury), and that hard work and “loyalty” won’t be the be all and end all of selection.

With a handful of friendlies left before Italy’s showdown in Lyon with Belgium, it’s a relief to see Conte finding a workable solution. Can he now turn it into a winning one?

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Have your say...
After seeing both games and adding in some variables like: experimenting with new players, injuries to the preferred starting lineup....I think if Italy have their players at full disposal they can be a threat to any team.

I just want to point out a few things. Conte is doing the best he can with the lack of italian players playing starting roles in serie a and abroad. Lippi had 60% of serie a to chose from. Conte..only 30%.
on the 1st April, 2016 at 3:45pm
poor poor poor nuff said!
on the 30th March, 2016 at 2:46am
still very confident Italy will do well and surprise @ the euros....remember no veratti or marchiso on the pitch & still midfield looked very good against hopefull conte will use the likes of candreva, el shwarely (sorry for the spelling) & pelle up front.....insigne & giovinco as subs & with some luck we can be successful...
on the 29th March, 2016 at 11:36pm
Tonight shows progress is definitely not being made. This is the worst Italian side in living memory - the worst Serie A in living memory.
on the 29th March, 2016 at 10:53pm
what on earth has balotelli done in the past 2 years to warrent a callup to the national team?? Certainly wasnt his performance with liverpool or milan...
on the 28th March, 2016 at 8:17pm

Darmian Bonnucci Chiellini

Florenzi Veratti Marchisio El Shaarawy

Candreva Balotelli Insigne

What a team that would be...
on the 28th March, 2016 at 6:20pm
@JPP there are other teams in Italy, England, Spain, France, Portugal, Germany and even Holland he could have gone on to and would come against defences far superior to the MLS. I cannot think of any Italian striker in the current set up that will go to the MLS and not look impressive. I saw NYC vs NE revs last night and the defending was farcical.
on the 27th March, 2016 at 6:19pm
@ Dennis.....about Giovinico...I believe he went to mls to get a chance to play on a more consistant basis as he was sitting on the bench at juve most of the time plus when conte did play him as a sub in the last couple of games he was very impressive....he would be very useful as a sub than some of the other players currently on the team....why not...
on the 27th March, 2016 at 12:40pm
Why are so many ppl including Giovinco in their squads? This is a player that chose the MLs while still at his peak. The defending in the MLS is worse than in serie B, yet people seem to be fooled by his form over there. I guess England should call up Bradley Wright Phillips since he scores a lot of goals over there. Its 1 thing to go to the MLS, China or the middle east during your twilight years, its another to do so in your 20s and be considered for a country that wants to win a major tourney
on the 27th March, 2016 at 10:34am
I would play a fluid young attack composing of Bernardeschi, Insigne and Berardi in a 343. With Verratti pulling the strings behind and the movement and pace of those 3 Italy could be a huge problem for the opposition. We don't have to play a 9 especially when all our current 9's are so mediocre. Could even bring on Pirlo for the last 20 to make a killer pass as those 3 would create so much space.
on the 26th March, 2016 at 4:45pm
i think going 3-4-3 was the key in last outing for italy. it can give an extra edge. Here you can easily fit juve's defence, in mid psg duo shall sit dip with candreva and marchisio in attacking midfield role with parolo&saponara next in line. Up front, right side should be given to berardi with eder as alternative, pelle will lead the line as right now he is simply the best answer italy have, next in line would be immobile or zaza. In left hand side, insigne should be left trusted as a key man. El sharaway will pull push for his place there. Italy should go in the direction as time flies by quickly. Its time conte start using fixed eleven continuously as he sure have ideas how to use his whole squad already,, goodluck for the euros.......
on the 26th March, 2016 at 1:55pm
Was really impressed with the way we played, lets not forget in barzagli, chiellini , marchisio and verratti we had 4 world class plaers missing. Eder was awfull and wouldn't make my squad, insigne and bernardeschi movement changed the game. Candreva may be good as a wing back but he's too static to play in an attacking position. very impressed with pelle, hold up play was first class.
on the 26th March, 2016 at 1:15pm
@ Z-man

I agree with your line-up although I would use the same players but in a fluid 4-3-3 with Candreva, Berardi, Insigne as the front three interchanging positions throughout the game. If it isn't working well i'd take Berardi out and put in one of our mediocre center forwards like Zaza or Pelle. It's such a shame Balo never developed into the player he could've become because Berardi, Balo, Insigne could've been a devastating attack!
on the 26th March, 2016 at 11:38am
Are you all serious..,,why have Buffon anymore when we could have the Young AC Milan goal keeper. Buffon was great but too many mistakes and cannot cope with crossed balls. Give youth a chance and get shot of all the old players totally. Use this as a platform for a young squad for the World Cup which matters.
on the 26th March, 2016 at 10:35am
My Italy first XI and full 23 squad would be:

Playing in a 4-3-3

Darmian Bonucci Chiellini De sciglio
Marchisio motta verratti
Candreva pelle Eder

Subs: Perin. Sirigu, astori, barzagli, Florenzi, de Rossi, pirlo, jorginho, insigne, el shaawary, Giovinco, Zaza.

Reserve: antonelli, rugani, parolo, montolivio, donnarumma, okaka, Rossi, berardi. Soriano, romangoli
on the 26th March, 2016 at 3:08am
This team will surprise @ Euro's
on the 25th March, 2016 at 5:49pm
Negatives; Eder needs to go. Buffon at fault for goal (He just cannot deal with crosses into the 6 yard box, as he failed to do so in the Champions League also.
Positives; The 3-4-3 suited us. Candreva, Insigne, Florenzi, Motta, Darmian all looked good. If it wasn't for De Gea, Italy would have won. Sharraway needs to play v Germany, Giovinco should make the Euro squad too.
My Team;
on the 25th March, 2016 at 5:32pm
edoardo, it is not yet visual if italy making progress! wait to give a fair judgement after the game with germany. i believe the germans will give a lesson of wonderful football and score at least 4 goals, as italy's defense is low in quality and lacks concentration. spain's game was alright, italy showed some strength but let us be frank here it was against an over rated team, spain are finished. italy does not have top strikers, the 5 leading scorers in serie a are foreigners! don't kid urself
on the 25th March, 2016 at 4:07pm
I saw the highlights and I think it's going positive, and Italy might be building something now.

I agree about Eder and Giach. not being same quality. El Shaarawy and Giovinco/Berardi can be a step up instead.

Hope to see El Shaarawy against Germany. Still some questions, is he finally going to stick with 3-4-3, or go back to 4-4-2? I think too much changing will also not be good, and best 11 should be identified soon.
on the 25th March, 2016 at 2:42pm
My winning formation.....lets see

My formation (4-4-2):



CANDREVA-VERRATTI-MOTTA (for his long international experience)-MARCHISIO

( I may want to tweak it with a ( 4-3-1-2) with Giovinco as the player maker behind the forwards....I think we're good....
on the 25th March, 2016 at 2:12pm

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