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Sunday June 15 2014
Adaptable Azzurri

Victory over England proved Italy can both flourish with best-laid plans and tear them up to start again, says Susy Campanale.

It was far from the ideal way to prepare for a World Cup opener. Losing Riccardo Montolivo and accepting Giuseppe Rossi’s lack of fitness. Days beforehand Mattia De Sciglio was ruled out, then with hours to spare legendary captain Gigi Buffon followed suit. Giorgio Chiellini had to brush the cobwebs off his left-back boots and Salvatore Sirigu make only his second competitive outing in an Azzurri jersey – the other being four years ago in Estonia. It’s enough to make a Coach like Cesare Prandelli tear his hair out.

England thought they had done everything right, taking advantage of Italy’s injury woes to field an all-attack side with the Raheem Sterling/Danny Welbeck question transformed into a Sterling+Welbeck equation. In theory, Roy Hodgson had the game in the palm of his hand. In theory.

Italians flourish when they are up against the odds, we all know that and this is also why friendly draws against Luxembourg aren’t particularly frightening. We don’t like it easy. Far too boring. Drop the Nazionale into a full-blown crisis and they are in Blue Heaven. Sirigu – thank goodness – is no Federico Marchetti, as we all feared a repeat of the South Africa debacle when Buffon was last injured in a World Cup. Paris Saint-Germain have a great goalkeeper and he showed an admirably cool head under immense pressure.

England changed some of their tactics at the last minute, but it was mainly the same approach promised by Hodgson: try to close down Andrea Pirlo and attack with pace. The problem here is that Prandelli saw old Roy coming a mile away and had plenty of time to undermine the whole affair. Run at Pirlo every time he is near the ball? Then he’ll sell you a dummy and create space for the other Italy players. It worked like a charm on Claudio Marchisio’s goal and on several occasions, suggesting this double playmaker system with Marco Verratti has real legs in future too.

Daniele De Rossi’s position is also crucial, providing the kind of coverage and security that for example Milan sorely needed in their final seasons with Pirlo. This quality of midfield is only sustainable thanks to the Roma man, who is effectively working as a sweeper. And, let’s face it, an extra sentinel was essential with Gabriel Paletta there...

Prandelli said tactics and line-ups could change at the last minute, but not fitness levels. He was proved so very right at the Arena Amazonia. Usually it’s Italy players gasping for air in the final minutes of games, but we were greeted to the unusual sight of Azzurri veterans like Chiellini helping young England starlets deal with cramp. It was a Twilight Zone moment, much like seeing the England physio stretchered off with a sprained ankle after over-celebrating.

The Nazionale experienced these conditions in the Confederations Cup last year and learned a great deal from it. Building the so-called ‘Casetta Manaus’ – basically a sauna – in Italy’s training camp was a masterstroke. England merely trained with several layers of clothing, but that cannot hope to replicate the humidity and stifling air of an Amazonian rainforest environment. It’s a completely different kettle of steamed fish. Prandelli’s staff deserve absolute praise for this performance and we can only hope the fitness levels are maintained during the tournament, especially in less challenging atmospheric conditions.

Another great piece of planning was Matteo Darmian. He can really be the Fabio Grosso of Brazil 2014, a full-back from a minor club who suddenly bursts on to the scene and proves decisive. The 24-year-old Torino talent was remarkable against England and it looks as if we’ve finally found the right player for that role after searching through so many dire options. Christian Maggio, goodbye and never come back. However, it now seems worrying that Prandelli doesn’t have a replacement left-back when De Sciglio has spent most of the season injured at Milan already.

Finally, a word of praise for Mario Balotelli. He worked hard, did not let frustration get the better of him and kept plugging away even after a spectacular Phil Jagielka goalline clearance denied him that long-awaited breakthrough. I am glad SuperMario silenced his critics, though I am confident this blog will still receive numerous comments insisting he should be dropped. Chatter away, because Balo is here to stay.

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Have your say...
@dennis
Thats my point he doesnt possess much of anything! So he isnt a poacher, he is 100% not even close to baggio or totti. So my point is how can he be an automatic selection when he has had such a terrible season.
With all the focus and play based around balotelli I feel we let ourselves down. Part of a 23 man squad is 1 thing but starting 11 with what seems absolutely no effort is what my prob is.
Like I said it was a well taken goal and great to win opener just dont agree with hype!
on the 19th June, 2014 at 4:17pm
"Pirlo does in 1 game that Balo does in a season" I do not even know what that is all about. Why are you comparing the 2? He is not in the team at the expense of Pirlo so your logic escapes me. Balo has 13 goals in 31 matches for Italy; 3 in his first Euro, 1 in 1 world cup game. What exactly are you after here?
on the 19th June, 2014 at 12:59am
@Mm I wish you really knew about this game you profess to know so much about. It doesn't matter where Muller plays he is a poacher. He sniffs out goals like Gerd, Lineker, Rush, Inzaghi, Paolo Rossi etc. Balotelli does not have those instincts. He is more of a spectacular goal kind of striker. Baggio, DP, Totti do not have those instincts either cos they are much more than goal poachers. It is not something you learn either. He has other xtics you have chosen to ignore but what the hey.
on the 19th June, 2014 at 12:46am
@dennis
O and as the philosopher of football I take it youv watched the whole world.cup so far and seen the german team- who have a 'striker' who actually isnt a striker at all, muller- who to the germans is classed as lazy and arrogant- all the characteristics of our 'striker' balo poscesses- the big diffrence between the 2 is when the ball goes in the box muller attacks the ball, balo watches the ball- strange thing is muller isnt an actual striker hes a midfielder, but balo is (apparently)!
on the 18th June, 2014 at 6:40pm
@dennis
Pirlo does more in 1 game than balo in a season! Your completly rite candreva did mess up afew crosses which went straight to hart- but a STRIKER should be there troubling the keeper and actually making an effort- or atleast look like hes making an effort.
Anyway he scored and it was a great start to the WC hope he can score more.
Forza italia
on the 18th June, 2014 at 6:31pm
@mm just shut up already you are a huge bore. Why should I bang on about Pirlo when no one comes on here just to diss him like you do with Balo. How many of Candreva's xs went straight to Hart? 
on the 17th June, 2014 at 11:03pm
@dennis
your rite- he isnt a poacher.
I have to put my hands up. I was wrong about balotelli, you dennis have helped me realise what a great striker balotelli is. He is complete, what messi and ronaldo bring to their nations balo brings to italy!
Look forward to costa rica- I think exactly the same set up as we used against endland will be more than enough to beat anyone.
on the 17th June, 2014 at 4:02pm
@dennis
2nd time? You talk more rubbish than that maldini heir!
Pirlo hit the cross bar are you banging on about him? Balo had a chip saved which was probably a cross. Balo was apparently isolated yet he had a whole midfield and candreva delivering to him, by the time immob came on italy had gone rite back in defence. Dont come on here like a philosopher if you only watch the highlight! all We needed was you, the expert to tell us what we could all see, our defence is slow, clap clap you!
on the 17th June, 2014 at 3:40pm
The amount of uneducated nonsense in the British media towards Italy was disrespectful in the extreme. Calling Pirlo a has-been, stating that Italy would wilt in the heat and England would destroy them in the last half-hour, was laughable. Italy's tournament savvy runs through every players DNA, whether it is their debut or their 100th. Their ability to interchange position seamlessly made it impossible to get anywhere near Pirlo who's understanding with De Rossi is beautiful to watch.
on the 17th June, 2014 at 1:18pm
this was never going to be a high scoring game, mario was left up front as a single striker so the midfield could be overloaded to play the slow build up and keep possession. Mario did his job, he got the winner and held up play well. He deserves some credit.
on the 17th June, 2014 at 12:47pm
this was never going to be a high scoring game, mario was left up front as a single striker so the midfield could be overloaded to play the slow build up and keep possession. Mario did his job, he got the winner and held up play well. He deserves some credit.
on the 17th June, 2014 at 12:44pm
I am not a manager but I do know like anyone with any commonsense does is if a team is desperate to score against you, to counteract that bring on someone with pace to give them something to really worry about.I guess it was Sirigu's movement behind Cahill that gave Italy d lead & it was Sirigu's movement that went past Hart, chipped him only for it to be saved on the line. Since you know so much about football why don't you know that Balo is not a goalpoacher. Inzaghi, Rossi he never will be
on the 17th June, 2014 at 12:35pm
@mm that is the second time you have tried to act like you understand football better than others on here. About subs if you are trying to pin opposition defence back would Motta really be your first choice? Insigne would have worried Johnson the way Candreva worried Baines. England's central defence lacks pace were defending high but Motta comes on. What was Parolo's contribution. Immobile was a good call but he did F.A. Offside on 4 or more times. Basta about Balo we all know about ur views
on the 17th June, 2014 at 12:27pm
Italia 06
I agree but marchisio and darmien were also excellent. Balotelli is more likely than ever to start after his goal, it was a good finish but like you said and like MANY have said he is just to lazy, watch over the game and see how many times the ball went into space and balo was walking somewhere else, harts fumbled save was another great chance and again balo was outside the box walking. I still see 10 men running and him strolling- sirigu ran more than him from in goal!
on the 16th June, 2014 at 10:08am
@dennis
Its Wrong sport for you!!! You didnt understand the subs?? Its basic understanding of football. Immobile and parolo were brought on to pin back the defence so to keep the counter attack plan working!
Iv said id hold my hands up if balotelli proves himself- but I look at the game and apart from a well taken goal he did little else, his movemnet, positional play wasnt great- where was he when Hart fumbled the shot?? Its not nip picking in what was a tight game where every chance count
on the 16th June, 2014 at 9:06am
We should go all out for a win against Costa Rica and forget about resting players.Can't afford to get cocky and feel CR will be a walkover and then leave it for us to sweat againt Uruguay.Having said that I'm not worried by CR.

If we get through this group which we should do then its looking like Colombia or Ivory Coast so we have a good chance to make the quarters.

Can't understand Balo getting Man of the Match.
on the 16th June, 2014 at 8:40am
I have to say Sirigu was fantastic, I think Italy and England put on a great show it was a good game. Candreva, Darmian, De Rossi and Pirlo impressed me.
on the 16th June, 2014 at 8:08am
@ Tardelli 82 I was thinking that myself. Do we use the Costa Rica game to recover or do we get qualification over with (assuming we win)? The players need to recover. Apparently some players lost 2 litres of water. If we play a different system v costa rica then it'll give Prandelli a chance to test players out and give the players a rest. Having said that it'd be a shame to change the system around. I'm sure Prandelli will make the right decision.
on the 15th June, 2014 at 10:22pm
Possession in the first half was 66-34 in our favour.Second half was 45-55.
on the 15th June, 2014 at 8:55pm
......... I wouldn't be surprised to see Immobile and Insigne against Costa Rica. CP has already tried this out to good effect. Hopefully we won't make life difficult for ourselves?
on the 15th June, 2014 at 8:02pm
There is lack of understanding on the nuances of Prandelli's tactics. Ballotelli was isolated for much of the game, as was Immobile when he came on. This was because we had 5 central midfielders, this worked to narrow the game and allowed Darmian space. (It would also have afforded Space for De Sciglio on the left) It was the strikers job to maintain a high line. And react as and when the opportunity arose. England had more possession than we would have expected 48%!...........
on the 15th June, 2014 at 7:44pm
I'm not understanding the criticism of Balo here.
He scored the winner,had one cleared off the line,had a good shot from distance etc.

It's important to remember he was totally isolated and some of the hopeful balls we were putting in to him were ridiculous.Cassano needs to start the next game.Thats obvious.Balo needs supply.
on the 15th June, 2014 at 7:34pm
I really can't believe the continued criticism of balo. For those who missed the best part of his performance was his hold up play. He list the ball three times. Now please can people stop posting about him.
on the 15th June, 2014 at 7:13pm
I will say, Sirgu Played well. I was in a doubt but replaced Buffon greatley. Buffon, get well soon.... Paletta was shaky. Chiellini played good, but was not comfortable at that position. DeSciglio should take over the LB position and Paletta should be replaced by Chiellini. Chiellini should go to his legendary position LCB... Verratti should be played... He can play like an alrounder. It should be utilized. Candreva was Great... Not to say PIRLO will play for Ever like this... KING PIRLO.
on the 15th June, 2014 at 7:10pm
Ragazzi -- Who looked more dangerous and the more clinical striker last night? Balotelli, or Danny Sturridge? Wanna trade?

My friends, strikers MUST run, assist, create, score, trouble, outwit. Last night one of them struck TERROR into our defenses; the other one jogged around and waited 70 mins for the perfect pass to his rooster head.

Our problems are not just in defense, but up front too. While we must be grateful for his goal, Balotelli is not quality!

Immobile must assist vs CR.
on the 15th June, 2014 at 5:56pm
Just about right Susy.
Good article.
I only hope we don't tinker too much for the Costa Rica game. Lets get another three points under our wing and we can then assess our situation for the game v Urg.
Plenty to play for yet, this group is still wide open.
on the 15th June, 2014 at 3:24pm
Huh,

Calling for De Sciglio to resolve the left-back problem? Chiellini can't play at the left ?

Have lollipops !!

As long as the two stooges don't play (Abate & De Sciglio), defence is gonna be all ok.
on the 15th June, 2014 at 2:57pm
Get away from Cahill! that is the most basic part of a forwards game find some space, he is moody and lazy, personally I like a striker that works hard like Cavani did for Napoli, front to back chasing down, he scored more goals in the league and offered more for the team. Nobody doubt ballo's ability, but there is no place for egos in a united team, get away from Cahill!! come on, Cahill is average at best. and the chip, good, but didn't go in, like Pirlo's free
on the 15th June, 2014 at 2:33pm
England have been overrated for decades so I'm not surprised by this win. This team won't get a real challenge until the knockout stages now and I can't see them beating any quality teams. Aside from Sigru who played great under the circumstances, I thought only Candreva and Pirlo played great the whole match. Our defense is weak and will be a problem when we face a real team. Balo was lazy the whole match as expected and got a gift goal handed to him.
on the 15th June, 2014 at 1:50pm
@Jenkins - You're joking right? The cross might have been perfect but Balotelli still had a lot of work to get behind Cahill and score, and the chip that was cleared off the line was a brilliant improvisation. I'm starting to understand what @maldini's heir has been saying about the attitude of people like you towards Balotelli. You couldn't even at the very least give him credit where due. You instead look for every minute fault. Rubbish.
on the 15th June, 2014 at 12:53pm

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