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Thursday June 26 2014
Rethinking the Azzurri

Italy’s World Cup exit leaves them without a Coach but with a ton of questions. Jeremy Lim assesses where they can build from ahead of the Euro qualifiers.

Italian football reached a surprise low point on Tuesday with the World Cup exit at the hands of Uruguay. The spineless manner that the national team bowed out in, making the side that were eliminated at the same stage in the finals four years ago look comparatively prolific, meant this hadn’t just been a defeat. It was a humiliation.

Cesare Prandelli put himself in the line of fire after the loss, tendering his resignation alongside that of FIGC President Giancarlo Abate. Later, the Italy camp disintegrated into open rebellion with their eviscerating remarks directed at one another forming part of a debacle that is as bad as recent memory allows.

Everything the public thought they knew is being called into question. It forms the gruelling narrative for a woeful and unflattering end to an era that had promised much more. The fact there was obvious talent and potential in the squad travelling to Brazil makes disappointment at this elimination more profound than the one in 2010.

Blame has centred on the man previously in charge. Prandelli’s idealism established him as an agent of change trying to secure a future for his country. But in the end, he may have diverged too much from the famed Italian nature of winning so as to transform the image of the Azzurri.

The ruthlessness to succeed had appeared to be missing most at the helm. Allegations that Italy’s core players lost faith in Prandelli over matters such as his contradictory approach towards games and contrived defence of underperforming players at the World Cup give an indication of the depth of his failure when it mattered most.

Now Italy will be looking to discover the customary bounce of a new Coach in charge - one who needs to be much more assured with his tactics, not to mention single-minded about winning. There won’t be much time for the incoming boss to get his house in order. Their Euro qualification campaign is just around the corner.

Righting Prandelli’s wrongs begins with the courage necessary to wield the axe on a host of players whose international prospects should have dried up long ago. Thiago Motta, Ignazio Abate and Alberto Aquilani face the cull for the next competitive squad if reports are to be believed, with Mattia Destro, Alessandro Florenzi and Romulo on hand to take over.

Merely promoting a handful of fresh faces will not suffice, however. As Gianluigi Buffon and Daniele De Rossi lambasted, several newcomers never learnt the effort and sacrifices donning their country’s shirt meant. It is a key lesson Italy take home from Brazil. Mario Balotelli had fatally played like a man who had received too many chances on the world stage, putting in two tepid displays and drawing the ire of teammate and media pundits alike.

Any false sense of security needs to be weeded from those uninitiated who were allowed to grow far too comfortable by Prandelli, with a firm hand from his replacement necessary to steer them. But these youngsters still constitute the future of the Azzurri. And undergoing a revival will mean drawing on the talents of her fledgling stars. There, Prandelli did leave room for optimism with his groundwork. Marco Verratti and Matteo Darmian in particular showed the makings to be cornerstones of the Nazionale for many years.

It’s painful having to start over. But being knocked out at the World Cup does not wipe the progress Italy made in the last four years, even if they stumbled at the final hurdle. While failure arrives as a reality check after the euphoria of reaching the Euro 2012 Final or beating England in the opening encounter, their fate is not completely barren. With a host of new names now expected to carry on the Azzurri imperative, there could be reason to look forward yet.

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Have your say...
@Maldini Heir...Balotelli, Motta and Paletta are not worthy of playing for the Azzurri. Motta and Paletta simply do not have the talent and Balotelli has the intolerable attitude that is destructive to a team's performance on the field. The forwards this year were the worst I've seen for the Azzurri in a major tournament. They had no cohesion and inventive passing and striking in the opponents 18 yard box. Just brutal. Embarrassing. These players did not like playing together.
on the 1st July, 2014 at 3:33am
I like many were disappointed in what happened to the national team in this and the previous World Cup. But my expectations were not as great as others. Pirlo was and is in decline who as we saw in the games against Costa Rica and Uruguay no longer had the energy to sustain a 90 minute effort. Prandelli was his own worst enemy and the team suffered more than it should have under him. When he lost to Russia before the European Championships he changed his tactics and the team did great although failing in the final.
If he is not to return then I would like to see Guidolin given a chance as the next coach. He has done well with not the best of teams and maybe that can be something that he can bring more out of players during a competition and when it counts.
on the 30th June, 2014 at 6:53pm
@ Vincenzo Grella What do Balotelli, Paletta and Thiago Motta all have in common?
on the 30th June, 2014 at 5:11pm
Prandelli out coached himself in forming this World Cup team. He took players that should never be considered like Thiago Motta and Paletta. These guys are brutal. Balotelli should never be called again to the team. He lacks the heart and effort to represent Italy on the world stage. Mario prefers to focus effort to glorify himself in an immature manner instead of focusing on the task at hand. Mario is consumed by all things Mario & not winning for the Azzurri & his country Italy.
on the 30th June, 2014 at 4:46am
We don't want any more false statements that they're prepared and everything is great, and then exiting at group stage and complaining about team infighting and problems with coach, lack of motivation, heat etc. We fans deserve better.
on the 29th June, 2014 at 10:31pm
Whoever the new coach is, if they don't realize the low point right now, it can be the same result 4 years later, or worse, failure to qualify.

There has to be team spirit, no g
on the 29th June, 2014 at 10:26pm
Watching Greece vs Costa Rica today, Greece has created better chances. Last 2 matches for Italy, it was hard to find any team perform more poorly.

Maybe Italy could've scraped a draw against Honduras but everyone else seems better. Definitely whole team has to be changed if these guys do not want to play as a team. The friendly draw vs Luxembourg should have been a warning, and now friendlies need to be taken seriously.
on the 29th June, 2014 at 10:22pm
Ancelloti could manage both Real and Italy but not sure about Conte as he manages in Italy.
on the 29th June, 2014 at 9:22pm
Conte to manage both Juve and Italy?
I like it.Why not Ancelotti?

Can it work?

Scenario:Both Juve and Milan are challenging for the title,both have big games next week.Before that Italy have a friendly.Does Conte pick a bunch of Milan players but no Juve players to rest them?

Interesting.
on the 29th June, 2014 at 9:19pm
Good Comments.
Yes to Azzurri supporter...both 2010 and 2014 were v.disappointing...the tragic cases and losses in the 90s were at least exciting games and great teams (1990, 94, 94, 98, 2000), but these now were just awful and depressing. Several levels of things wrong: personnel(everyone knew that Motta, Paletta etc would be a waste of time)and he should've included Rossi, Destro, Giaccherini...tactics (why keep changing and confusing people? 4-5-1 to 3-5-2 etc.)
start again with new blood!
on the 29th June, 2014 at 4:51am
Also maybe it is now time to move beyond Pirlo and find another style with good forwards and a solid midfield, even though he was the best player in last 10 years.

Ancelotti may be best coach and he said earlier around 2006-07 that seeing how Italy reach final in 12 years, he should coach for 2018. Someone like Cannavaro could be interesting too, as he was a real winner. Mancini doesn't seem to be positive.
on the 28th June, 2014 at 3:36pm
While Veratti was on pitch, italy scored 2, conceded 1, and motta 0 - 2.

In the 3rd match, it might've worked if Balo was on bench, because such a tense match is usually decided in the last 30 minutes, and Balo may have felt he had something to prove. The same tactic worked against Ireland in Euro 2012. These decisions by coach made the difference.
on the 28th June, 2014 at 3:33pm
Cassano, was well past it this time as he couldn't create any chances in his 45+30 minutes, and G. Rossi might've done better than him, cerci and Insigne combined. Maybe Totti was needed since he had said he was available and could've been great off the bench.
In 2006 as well there was no hero grabbing headlines, but 10 different scorers

Defense was always weak this time, and the attacking italy was missing. Thiago Motta was the worst decision.
on the 28th June, 2014 at 3:28pm
Not sure if WC 2014 was more disappointing or 2010. The difference was that everyone believed this time, especially after Euro 2012 and Confed. 2013.

I think Prandelli is a good coach, but was a bit naive and got some decisions wrong. Firstly, in terms of selection, he left G. Rossi because he did not play as an out-and-out striker. But he could've done very well as a support striker for Balo. Also relying solely on Balo was a mistake.
on the 28th June, 2014 at 3:24pm
Has everyone forgotten the amount of foreigners in Italy 82-90-94-06? The national team was good then were they not? The problem is the quality of the foreigners that they have now. Most of them are cheap because they are second rate & the Italian nationals now play with second rate foreign players. I don't understand these clubs, wouldn't they prefer to play Italians from their primavera than these cheap foreigners? 
on the 28th June, 2014 at 9:35am
Italy,Spain,England,Portugal,Russia all out.

Both games today 4 teams from South America.

Convenient.

Guarantees the stadiums will be full and there will be a great atmosphere.

Convenient.
on the 28th June, 2014 at 8:50am
I'm surprised so little is being reported regarding the poor referring in our game against Uruguay.
He's sees Marchisio's foul and sends him off harshly but conveniently he doesn't see the bite from Suarez.I don't remember him asking the linesman if he had seen anything.I don't think he even bothered to look at Chellinis shoulder.

Had this been against England you'd never hear the last and by now the ref would have received many death threats and be forced out of the game.
on the 28th June, 2014 at 8:46am
I do want to point out one thing, Suarez gets the red card he deserved both teams are 10 men aside now. 10 min left and Suarez gone it is much less likely Uruguay scores. Italy gave up possession constantly when a man down because anytime they passed centre there were only 2 Italians up there. That missed red card changes all our perspective. If we made it to the second round completely diff attitude all over the message boards.

Not to mention how the game was diff until Marchisio red.
on the 28th June, 2014 at 6:26am
Prandelli never had a structure in place and dabbled with untested formations which sadly to say never gave fruit, which in theory the azzurri never had an identity to begin with in place. too many player changes and never having a core of the first starting 11 players. NOT TOO MENTION second guessing himself and of course relying on Balotelli to save the day.
on the 28th June, 2014 at 3:51am
Everyone RELAX. Italy was never going to win this tournament, not in South America, although they certainly underperformed. A red card to Suarez and resulting free kick for Italy stops the corner that leads to their defeat.
Every 12 years, Italy makes a World Cup Final (70, 82, 94, 2006, usually when it is played in Europe. The World Cup in 2018 is in Russia. Look at Italy's best young players and be happy - they are going to be a force in world football.
on the 28th June, 2014 at 12:38am
some of those players need to watch some youtube clips of Italians greats. Start with Bettega's goal against England in 1976, tardelli's goal 1982 baggio and schillaci at 90 and baggio 94. They might learn what it means to play for the Azzurri. balotelli Really does not care, he is for himself. If you are not prepared to die on that pitch, get off, that goes for anyone who wants to put a blue shirt on.
on the 27th June, 2014 at 10:31pm
Steven and Dagman I saw an online statistic today that said out of 32 teams in the World Cup Italy were 3rd from last in terms of how long teams had spent rolling around on the floor.
on the 27th June, 2014 at 7:57pm
Its taken a few days to make sense of the last weeks azzurri games.why did italy play well against eng but poor against crc & Uruguay?......you have to put it down to LACK of motivation of BOTH players & manager playing against England for an Italian player doesn't need motivation.....theres intense rivalry against the two. as a manager....u really need to rally the troops players got fed up of cp relying on balo up front......cp tried building team round him...balo too inconsistent
on the 27th June, 2014 at 5:51pm
I Feel sorry for Balotelli, He's been made a scapegoat and its not his fault we got knocked out. I admit you feel on edge whenever he gets booked,and he performed well below par in our last 2 group matches. He's a good player, but he's inconsistent, has poor attitude and movement. He could be great if he had the right attitude, but I doubt he ever will. I blame Prandelli for investing his faith in balotelli, it was a huge error of jugement. We had other options?
on the 27th June, 2014 at 5:36pm
@ Dagman

You eched my sentiments exactly. As I watch other countries play I have noticed a lack of diving at this World Cup in comparisons to others. The US, Australia, Germany etc. play without the petty rolling around. The Germans are mentally on another level. As a Juventino I am very disappointed in Chiellini. That to me coupled with the time wasting against Uruguay set Italian football back 10 years.
on the 27th June, 2014 at 5:29pm
I read that balotelli said he did not choose to be italian, well to be honest he did, I am sure Ghana called him and he decided that it was italy he 'wanted'? I am slightly confused. I wish he had chosen Ghana!
I dont think the whole campaign was a failure because of him but he is a contributing factor. I dont think strolling around a pitch while team mates break their balls running about is the kind of player italy or any team need!
on the 27th June, 2014 at 12:22pm
Am i wrong or is the only thing this Italy team lacked was motivation and direction. You can't tell me that our players weren't good enough for the quarters - or even semis. They just lacked tactical clarity and motivation. Costa Rica wanted that win more, so did Uruguay. I love Prandelli as a man but he lost the plot a bit and confused his team. We need a hard-nosed manager like Conte who will give the team a kick up the arse like Lippi did.
on the 27th June, 2014 at 10:10am
Italy's defence let them down. Chiellini was awful against Costa Rica, as was Buffon. In the last two group games we barely created any chances because - facts are facts - Marchisio, Candreva and Motta are average players. De Rossi and Buffon are hanging Balotelli out to dry but they were both awful against Costa Rica, too. Balotelli barely received the ball in a goal scoring opportunity. In fact, he only had two clear-cut chances in the whole tournament and scored one of them!
on the 27th June, 2014 at 10:05am
I would say it was neither a surprise nor a low point.
on the 27th June, 2014 at 9:59am
@Sanrella & @Maldini's heir - I think you´ve both voiced what I have been thinking. Set aside our performance and the fact that Italy were sent to play their group games in the most unforgiving climates - it appears that FIFA are doing everything they can to smooth Brazils passage to the final. When we have seen the corruption of Bin Hammad and Jack Warner coupled with Blatter´s sticky mano nera on everything is it any wonder that this Wolrd Cup feels like it has strings attached. Forza Chile!
on the 27th June, 2014 at 8:08am

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