Thursday March 1 2012
More Ogbonna than Giovinco

Juventus eyes would have been on Italy’s strike force last night, but it was a Torino defender who impressed the most. Antonio Labbate writes.

Italy’s midweek friendly against America didn’t exactly capture the imagination. Less than 12,000 turned up at Marassi to watch the Azzurri lose their second consecutive home friendly 1-0. Yet, there would have been one very interested spectator at home – Juventus boss Antonio Conte.

Wednesday’s clash in Genoa was the closest thing you can get to a crystal ball for the tactician. It was a glimpse into the future, one without the need for a Flux Capacitor, as Italy CT Cesare Prandelli opted to start with Alessandro Matri and Sebastian Giovinco in attack.

Matri is currently Juventus’ most potent goal scoring threat amongst a bunch of misfiring forward players. His strike at Milan on Saturday was goal number 10 in Serie A this season – four more than if you combine the League goals of teammates Marco Borriello, Alex Del Piero, Fabio Quagliarella and Mirko Vucinic.

Giovinco, on the other hand, is the player who Juve will consider recalling at the end of the campaign to offer Conte something different next term. Co-owned between both outfits, the 25-year-old has scored nine goals in 22 ties for the Gialloblu this season – even if three of them have come via the penalty spot.

Both Prandelli and Conte would have learned little about the pair last night, they certainly didn’t look like the potential answer to either of the Coaches’ varying problems in attack. Prandelli will probably be without Antonio Cassano and Giuseppe Rossi for Euro 2012, while Juve have scored 12 Serie A goals less than Milan this season. They’ve also failed to score more than one goal in half of their 24 matches.

While Giovinco was one of the Italy’s most lively elements on the night, he made no telling contribution which backs up the theory that, at this moment in time, he’s a squad player at best for his country. Matri, meanwhile, was poorly served and kept quiet by a surprisingly organised and defensive Jurgen Klinsmann side.

While Italy’s front two struggled to get past the Hummer which the Americans had parked at Marassi, the more notable partnership on the night actually turned out to be centre-backs Andrea Barzagli of Juventus and Torino’s Angelo Ogbonna.

Neither put a foot wrong before the break, with the Serie B defender looking particularly composed and assured during his first start for his country. Admittedly the USA didn’t pose too many problems in the opening 45 minutes, but his serenity and touch on the ball were the early signs of a future regular Italian international. It was a disappointment when Prandelli switched him to left-back after the half-time oranges.

Conte, and a few more Serie A Coaches, would no doubt have been impressed by the 23-year-old. In a country currently deprived of its once trademarked quality centre-backs, Ogbonna offers a small flicker of light given the worrying lack of development shown by Leonardo Bonucci at Juventus and Inter’s Andrea Ranocchia.

While it would be hard to imagine Toro chief Urbano Cairo selling Ogbonna to city rivals Juventus in the summer, it would be even more improbable that Italy could win Euro 2012 with an attacking tandem consisting of Giovinco and Matri.

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Have your say...
I am not sure where juventus will find their next set of world class forwards from. Giovinco, as the article says, has a lot of skill, but he doesn't make that many telling passes or amazing strikes.
I think Juventus will need to spend a large amount of cash and try to sign plauyers like Nani, Higuain and Lavezzi. The current juve strikers are not up to the task.
on the 4th March, 2012 at 3:11pm
My Italy squad for Euro 2012:

GK: Buffon, De Sanctis, Sirigu/Viviano
DL: De Ceglie, Balzaretti/Criscito
DR: Maggio, Abate
DC: Chiellini, Barzagli, Astori, Bonucci/Ranocchia/Ogbonna/Cannavaro
Mid: Pirlo, De Rossi, Marchisio, Pepe, Motta, Nocerino, Giaccherini
Att: Giovinco, Balotelli, Di Natale, Quagliarella/Matri, Pazzini

I don't believe Rossi and Cassano will be match fit in time. Even though Quagliarella hasn't scored much this season I tihnk he is better than Matri.
on the 4th March, 2012 at 2:54pm
First of all I wouldn't judge a player on one match especially against the US. I'm not saying he is bad or good. I'm just saying he needs to be observed facing far more potent attacks both domestically and internationally. I think if Paolo De Ceglie gets to play every match from here on he might get a look in. I'm not judging him from his goal against Chievo. I've been following for the last few seasons and I believe he is the answer to Juve's left back woes.
on the 4th March, 2012 at 2:30pm

but yea Ogbonna was fairly solid except for one moment I remember inside his 6 yard area. big fan of his
on the 4th March, 2012 at 9:54am
Ok, lets be realistic, Ogbonna did nothing special vs USA, in fact he was one of the worst performers from an equally poor Italy side. His passing was off, he added nothing going forward, he took unrealistic shots and gave away posession cheaply, I dont understand the big fuss over this dude, he clearly needs to do more, balzaretti and criscito are more worthy and there are much better CBs.
on the 4th March, 2012 at 8:25am
why is everyone concluding that rossi and cassano will not make it back in time for euro 2012?

if they do, my lineup would be:


Maggio Bonucci Chiellini Balzaretti

De Rossi


Pepe Marchisio

Cassano / Giovino

Balotelli / Rossi
on the 3rd March, 2012 at 11:54am
Regardless of poor attitude and temper... Prandelli can no longer ignore De Rossi and especially Balotelli. De Rossi's stability and box to box play is like no other. And Balo offers flair and an aerial threat that cassano, di natale, and giuseppe rossi cannot. I also hope that Fabrizio Miccoli is given a chance at the euros but it may be too late for his inclusion.
on the 2nd March, 2012 at 3:15pm

Maggio, Barzagli, Rannochia, Chiellini

De Rossi, Pirlo, T. Motta


Balotelli, Di Natale
on the 2nd March, 2012 at 8:07am
Ogbonna was impressive & I hope Prandelli includes him in the 23 man squad for Euro 2012.

My concern however is a lack of quality forwards going into this tournament, a problem Italy never had in the past. Its safe to say Cassano & Rossi are ruled out. Balo is a fantastic player but his unpredictable character makes him a gamble. Matri & Geo are scoring in Serie A but their partnership against the US was dismal.
on the 2nd March, 2012 at 6:51am
Prandelli cannot keep out the best players like Balotelli for abstract reasons and expect to do better than Lippi in 2010. The euros are a few months away and if you do not pick Balotelli now than when.
on the 1st March, 2012 at 11:12pm
Ogbonna switching to left back showed his versatility, and i thought he got to show more of what he could do in the second half.

The amount of times he got into attacking positions and made some crosses was immense, adding the strength he showed against anyone who came near him.

The game last night was just Prandelli letting some other players play. I'm sure he knows at least 85% of the team he wants to bring to the Euro's.

Giovinco needs to build up his strength and he'll be unstoppable
on the 1st March, 2012 at 10:11pm
Why has everyone forgotten about Miccoli??? He's younger than Di Natale, and much more creative and effective in a weaker team. Miccoli should be going to the Euros. Prandelli has done so much right since taking over, except take into consideration our most natural and inform playmaker/striker we have going at the moment.
on the 1st March, 2012 at 9:43pm
Don't read anything into the match the big guys were saving themselves for key club matches upcoming.

I agree what the heck is Motta doing playing there. This was a typical Azzurri Pirlo game. Pirlo is older now and only works with Juve b/c a Vidal, and the talent around him.

No Doubt Ogbonna is better than, Barzagli.

Italy need to do is figure out either a 4-3-3 or a 4-3-1-2.

I'm for a:Maggio, Ogbonna, Chiellini, Criscito
Nocerino, Motta, De Rossi
Rossi/someone, someone, Balotelli
on the 1st March, 2012 at 7:38pm
I too have my doubts about Giovinco. He's too small to be a starter. The best use for Giovinco is using him as a late substitute with 20-30 mins left. That's when his speed and skill can make the difference. He's also definitely not a player who can play in the hole. There's a big difference from playing at Parma and playing for Italy.
on the 1st March, 2012 at 7:17pm
Gio didn't particularly impress because he was played out of position, either as a classic striker or as a left AM; at parma he plays in the whole. I believe in him as well as in Borini, rossi, matri and cassano. Ogbonna is a potential world class
on the 1st March, 2012 at 7:13pm
Good debut for Ogbonna. Would like to see him more and against stronger teams to see the true him
But guys your right, Motta is not the man to play behind the front two.
Giovinco is the man for that role. For me he will suit it better to play there.
This way Matri wont be falling asleep during the games as he waits for delivery's.
But we must have Mario back playing because for me he is the only all round attacker we have and Italy have been missing someone like him for a long long time.
on the 1st March, 2012 at 6:57pm
Doesn't look like Cassano and Rossi will be fit or in any suitable condition in time for the Euros. I would like the starting XI vs Spain therefore to look like something like this.


Maggio, Barzagli, Rannochia, Chiellini

De Rossi, Pirlo, T. Motta


Balotelli, Di Natale
on the 1st March, 2012 at 6:56pm
Good to see a young centre back coming through, I hope he keeps progressing. Again Italy struggle to break down a physical team that parks the bus, they need to be more direct in that situation & move the ball faster, committing more players into the box to break these teams down. Giovinco also should have played the trequartista role last night behind Matri and Borini/Pazzini with T.Motta deeper in Midfield... Hopefully lessons have been learnt?
on the 1st March, 2012 at 6:49pm
1) I have been saying for some time now that Ogbonna is Nazionale class. He may have to wait in line behind Barzagli and Chiellini (and rightly so), but he is certainly worth more than Ranocchia and Bonucci right now.

A season or two in Serie a, this guy could be a nailed-on starter in 2014.

2) Giovinco's class is not in doubt. I think he can do big things in the Champions League next season, IF Conte take's him back. With the Azzurri, he can do great things alongside Balotelli.
on the 1st March, 2012 at 5:55pm
It should have been Giovinco in the hole behind two strikers... Matri and Borini. Not sure why Motta was there.
on the 1st March, 2012 at 5:25pm
Hard to disagree with anything here. If you had to choose which player out of Ogbonna and Giovinco would get a first team shirt at Juventus today then it would be Ogbonna. He was grande. He has to be in the squad for Euro 2012.
on the 1st March, 2012 at 4:12pm
Why would Prandelli "experiment" with Motta playing trequartista, and then go on to say in a press conference that it's difficult when your team plays only once every 3 months? Considering the dearth of matches, why not experiment with worthwhile positionings? This smacks of roun peg in square hole stuff too close to a major tournament. Especially when Italy's attack seems so one dimensional and flat, Motta in the hole, really?
on the 1st March, 2012 at 4:09pm
Re: Ogbonna. Terrific player, have been saying that for a while now. The touch isn't good though which is fine. Giovinco was terrific and has been terrific for the last 5 years! Also, Italy was experimenting a lot last night and trying players in different positions. The U.S. took it as a real game. Both teams played hard but I'm talking about the way the coaches handled it. I like Alexi Lalas commentary last night on the us team as he was fair; "great result, team still has a long way to go"
on the 1st March, 2012 at 3:23pm
It's impossible if they are supported by motta in hole role. Definitely he is that type of player. Prandelli can change his line up and if he still want to keep 4-3-1-2 formation, then the only way Italy would show their best is once Prandelli put giovinco/cassano on that role, not motta not montolivo.
on the 1st March, 2012 at 3:03pm
Excellent editorial. I had the same reaction watching Ogbonna, especially surprised that he was equally composed when moved to LB. Had a couple nice crosses as well. Physique reminds me of Vieira.
on the 1st March, 2012 at 2:44pm

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