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Wednesday June 26 2013
Are Italy turning into Fiorentina?

Italy’s defensive issues at the Confederations Cup have rekindled memories of Cesare Prandelli’s Fiorentina side for Giancarlo Rinaldi…

For Italian fans, it has been a pretty traumatic experience. Eight goals conceded in just three matches is not what followers of the Azzurri are used to. But, for tifosi of the club side where Cesare Prandelli clinched his promotion to La Nazionale, it will have had a pretty familiar ring.

Back then it was usually all about the "chains" - le catene - the overlapping work of full-backs and midfielders on the flanks in his 4-2-3-1 formation. Sometimes the left-side worked, on other occasions it was the right. And, when they both functioned simultaneously, the Viola were a glorious sight to behold. But it could be a little bit scary when it went wrong.

In truth, other than his final season in charge at the Artemio Franchi, Prandelli generally produced sides which were pretty solid at the back. In his first term in charge their defensive ranking – 4th – matched their attack. In all four campaigns after that, the backline performed better in Serie A terms than their goalscoring counterparts. Over five years in the top Division, they conceded about a goal a game.

It was once he got to elite competition, however, that the more madcap displays akin to Italy at the Confederations Cup this year started to emerge. The Viola's Champions League efforts in 2009-10 were always gripping but often induced heart-failure in their followers. It sometimes felt like they were determined to stand toe-to-toe with an opponent, trying to score one more goal to clinch victory.

In 10 outings, they managed just two clean sheets – in home games to Liverpool and Lyon. In half of their matches they conceded at least two goals. It was a rollercoaster of emotions similar to those which the Azzurri have conjured up of late.

They qualified for the group stages of the Champions League on away goals after two scoring draws with Sporting Lisbon. Their clashes with Debrecen of Hungary produced a total of 14 goals – six of them finding their way past Sebastien Frey and the ever-bungling Vlada Avramov in the Florentine goal. Elimination, when it came, was via away goals after a controversial 4-4 aggregate draw with Bayern Munich. If you wanted a Twitter hashtag to their campaign it might well have been #breathless.

Now Italy supporters are getting treated to more of the same. In his effort to put the emphasis on attack and get his team to take the game to opponents, some big gaps have emerged at the back. For veteran Azzurri watchers it is something of a shock, but to Viola followers it is bringing back a lot of memories.

And, as coincidence has it, it looks like Prandelli might have to turn to his talisman from his time in Florence if he hopes to make it any further in Brazil. With Mario Balotelli out through injury, Alberto Gilardino would be his natural replacement. And, as Riccardo Montolivo is also likely to feature, fans could be forgiven for double checking if the normal blue of their country has taken on a slightly purple tinge.

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Have your say...
@Maldini's Heir, "then Spain happened in the final." More like Italy didn't happen in the final lol. Hopefully they play brave and make a good game out of it!
on the 26th June, 2013 at 2:56pm
if it wasn't for Juventus and AC Milan players we wouldn't even have a team so to say that this team is turning to Fiorentina when they only have 1 starter and 2 ex players is ludacris!!

it's teams like Fiorentiona/Inter/Lazio/Napoli that are ruining serie A - no faith in youth and no scudetto hopes for years to come !!
on the 26th June, 2013 at 2:17pm
this is the EXACT reason why prandelli should of included osvaldo in the squad. osvaldo scores, and would of been an adequate replacement for the punta role, or as a supporting forward for a balotelli absence. BUT...his disciplinary ban should exist for one or two matches ban, and NOT for an entire tournament ban. let osvaldo sit the bench and pay for his wrong doing. ...but NOT ban him entirely from a competition!!! i'm just saying.
on the 26th June, 2013 at 2:15pm
I think this has to be the worst Italy side I have ever seen, Pirlo and super mario are the only positive in this side. I'm so afraid of what will happen against spain.
on the 26th June, 2013 at 12:28pm
But if you look at the top teams at the moment - Spain and Germany - they have properly co-ordinated youth team policies and the integration of young players into senior sides. Italy have some great young players coming through but we cannot wait for these players to be loaned out for 5 seasons so that players like Traore at Milan can take their places. We need them playing first team football now. At Milan Christante, Ganz and Petagna are easily better than some of the current first team.
on the 26th June, 2013 at 10:42am
However Italy are playing better football under Prandelli. The performances in the first game against Spain, against England and Germany in Euro 2012 will live long in the memory. And he has got us qualified to tournaments without too much hassle. He has done a good job. If he gets us to the quarter finals next year he can leave with his head held high, if he gets to the semis or the final then it will be a huge success.
on the 26th June, 2013 at 10:39am
I would again point out that Prandelli has lost one competitive match with Italy. So whatever he is doing it has worked until now. I am not going to judge him on a friendly tournament. And it is also not the case that Italy had these wonderful defensive records in the past. Trapattoni's Italy side conceded 5 in 4 games in 2002 WC and Lippi's Italy conceded 5 in 3 games in the disastrous 2010 WC. Up to the final in the Euros Italy had conceded 3 in 5 games and then Spain happened in the final.
on the 26th June, 2013 at 10:36am

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