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Wednesday July 2 2014
Assessing Prandelli’s Azzurri reign

Cesare Prandelli overhauled Italy after its shambolic 2010 World Cup, but left the Azzurri on a dismal note. Luca Cetta assesses his reign and legacy.

Cesare Prandelli travelled to Brazil safe in the knowledge two more years at the Azzurri helm lay ahead. By the time he returned home he was without a job, resigning after admitting the ‘technical project failed’. Prandelli copped the failure on the chin, but that it ended so abruptly was a shock. While not favourites to win the tournament, Italy had the goods to go far. Instead they were on the first flight home.

It ended at the same stage as in South Africa four years ago. The difference was Marcello Lippi’s disastrous second reign finished as expected. It was a crash that could be seen a mile away but with no desire to veer from its course. Prandelli’s was more of a sudden sideswipe, but just as brutal.

When the former Fiorentina boss took over from Lippi, the Nazionale was at its lowest ebb since the 1960s. And not since those dark days of rotten tomatoes had the public been so out of love with the Azzurri. Prandelli’s aim was to change this. It was to be a Nazionale the Italian public could admire. He introduced the ethical code and took the team to all regions of the country - it was after all for all Italians. This fact was made clearer by his open-door policy towards Oriundi, foreigners of Italian extraction.

In order to make people fall in love once more, Prandelli had much to do on the pitch. His Italy would be a proactive team, taking its cue from the all-conquering Spanish. It took greater risks and would not be the Azzurri of old. Andrea Pirlo, reborn at Juventus, was the focal point in midfield. Alongside him and other veterans such as Gianluigi Buffon and Daniele De Rossi, Prandelli nurtured talented youngsters coming through the ranks - from Mario Balotelli to Marco Verratti near the end. He put faith in Antonio Cassano and Giuseppe Rossi where Lippi had not.

It wouldn’t be all about results, but they were impressive nonetheless. In 56 games Italy won 23, drew on 20 occasions and lost 13, nine of which were friendly matches. Prandelli’s Italy were unbeaten in qualification for Euro 2012 and Brazil 2014. And when the question was asked of this new Italy ahead of the European Championships, they responded with gusto. This fresh brand was taken to the world, as Italy thrilled on the way to the final.

Prandelli said he dreamed of winning the World Cup with seven formations in seven games. Throughout his reign he was open to new ideas, adapting where he felt was needed, but keeping the same principles. This chameleon-like Azzurri nearly tasted victory in Poland and Ukraine, but Prandelli’s first glaring mistake came in the most important encounter, as he failed to use the same plan in the Final which had so successfully stifled Spain in the group encounter. The Azzurri paid dearly.

They had exceeded expectations in reaching Kiev. It also meant expectations rose for the World Cup. The Confederations Cup experience offered valuable insight on and off the pitch and the 2014 campaign started well enough with the win over England. Then the CT lost his nerve.

Where Italy had a chance to take command of Group D, they gave an old Italian showing. The Costa Rica reversal was the start of the downfall as Italy looked shorn of imagination and belief. His tinkering hindered the team and when the fine margins went against them versus Uruguay, Italy headed home following 180 minutes of un-Prandelli football.

It’s easy to look at its culmination and think the worst, but Prandelli deserves praise for his overall achievements the past four years. The Nazionale is at a healthier point now than in 2010, when he had to redesign Italy. The new tactician has the platform to build ahead of Euro 2016, with only tweaks required. Players given a chance by Prandelli are now better positioned to make their mark in France in two years time, then in Russia.

And that will be the legacy of Prandelli’s reign. The new Coach can continue down his path, one forged for four years.

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Have your say...
CP regains a little respect from me after finally speaking out about what happened at the WC. I still feel he lost the plot though, totally dependant on 35 yr old Pirlo who played and finished all three games. In the confed cup against Brasil Pirlo was taken off at half time for Cerci and Italy played the best of there football in that tournament in that second half. Hoping for a more successful azzurri in the future.
on the 21st July, 2014 at 3:12pm
The Azzurri are good, and they know it. They have the makings of a champion. But they really need to play as a team. Selfish, immature behaviour will not get them far in any game, be it a friendly or the Final of an international competition. What I saw in their game against Costa Rica was the Italy of old, the tired, lazy, unimaginative Italy. With promising young players like Veratti and Darmian, the Azzurri have the potential to succeed.

All the best to the new coach and the Nazionale. :)
on the 15th July, 2014 at 8:28am
Another excellent article, bravo!
on the 11th July, 2014 at 9:18pm
Italy still need to develop their youth and we do have a few promising youngsters in the pipeline, but these kids need playing time and may not be getting it at the big clubs. I'm not opposed to exporting our talent as well(see Belgium as an example). Serie A is not close to what it used to be for many reasons. We have to remember this isn’tthe Italy of old whether it is good or bad, remember scoring 1 goal on a swift counter attack and then going into lockdown mode.
on the 7th July, 2014 at 7:57pm
In my opinion CP was a good coach for 3 years and 10 months! For the last 2 months he unfortunately lost it by not taking GR. Took Cassano! What a mistake that was. If clubs do not invest in our Italian youths, I am afraid we will not improve? We need a football expert as president (Zoff, Sacchi, Maldini) of the FIGC and a good coach ideally Ancelotti but Conte, Donadoni or Spaletti will do. They must revitalise from the very young and clubs to buy Italian not mediocre foreigners. Forza Azzurri.
on the 7th July, 2014 at 11:40am
We still havent chosen a national team coach. Our clubs keep taking about signing foreigners and i dont see any drastic measures to clean up our game at home.Can we make the tough decisions, do we love our country and our game.I am proud to be Italian, we must follow what the Germans have done both club and country.We must all get behind our country and cheer on our children and be proud of our players, players who die for the shirt.
on the 5th July, 2014 at 10:09am
.. And what does CP do? He refuses to see them on the field together until the first WC game (and only because of Monto’s inj), despite the latter’s fine form and CL experience over the last 24 months. And guess what? They looked good. Imagine what a year of chemistry would have built? And why, pray tell, Motta instead vs CR?? Other than Rossi’s exclusion, shrugging off Veratti for over a year, especially on a team supposedly built on midfield possession, is the most inexcusable decision CP made
on the 4th July, 2014 at 3:44pm
…Watch Italy in mid. Pirlo is shadowed. When he passes it off, defenders don’t overact because there isn’t another playmaking threat. That’s what makes Motta especially so useless. He’s a pylon. When he gets the ball, the other team doesn’t even move. Hell, they turn their backs. Lol. Plus, in a poor man’s ‘Tika-taka’ don’t you need more than 1 great possesion player? so, along comes Veratti the first true creator, possession, and all-round release valve for Pirlo in 8 years … (cont)
on the 4th July, 2014 at 3:42pm
I think hindsight is being rather cruel to Pirlo. Even at his age, there are very few deep midfielders I’d rather have. The issue is – and has been since 2006 – is who is the 2nd playmaker to command some attention and give Pirlo space to breath? De Rosi is not a consistent playmaker, Monto is a decent going wide but weak vertically (except for that one lob vs Ger) and useless around the box. Not since Totti has there been a true complement for Pirlo. Without one, we are too predictable … (cont
on the 4th July, 2014 at 3:40pm
Gee Prandelli got over the Italian failure very quick, he must have been very depressed about it. Personally I hope he fails his new club like he failed me.
on the 4th July, 2014 at 10:32am
Picking Balotelli was understandable, probably a risk worth taking. However picking Cassano over Rossi was madness. Don't think Italy have a better manager available at the moment unfortunately. Don't see things improving a great deal by 2018 either, certainly not while clubs are all playing at most 1 or 2 Italian players.
on the 4th July, 2014 at 9:48am
Maldini's Heir...Thousands of people don't pay $$$$ to watch us work in our professional lives...Big difference.
on the 4th July, 2014 at 5:32am
Prandelli was one of the best.
With best wishes for him at Galatasary.
Good luck Cesare!
on the 3rd July, 2014 at 11:57pm
Prandelli sure doesn't hang around.

We only went out of the world cup 2 minutes ago yet he's already signed for Gal.

Was this a done deal before we played Uruguay perhaps.It seems pretty fast.

There's me thinking resigning was an honourable thing to do or maybe he had another reason.

This is a little like someone whos husband/wife just died and their hooking up with someone 2 months later already.
on the 3rd July, 2014 at 11:15pm
@TO - You are 100% correct about Catenaccio, why is it then that the Italians are so stereo typed about the way they play football? In Australia we get the commentary from the UK & you always hear 2 things when either Italy or England play - 1966 & Catenaccio & I can say we are all sick to death of it.
on the 3rd July, 2014 at 9:32pm
Wish Prandelli all the best at Galatasary. If he can get players he can trust he will be a success. Seems a very quick turnaround.
on the 3rd July, 2014 at 6:30pm
Prandelli failed to figure out who were his best players and that would include Pirlo.
Pirlo reflects what the team sadly is...old, slow, uncommitted, and distracted. Will only run if he lost possession of ball through embarrassement... otherwise he will not give the effort required. And then there is Balotelli...can't run, can't dribble, trips on his own feet, cant shoot straight, and gives no second effort. How can you have a team set up like this? Prandelli did us all a favor by resigning.
on the 3rd July, 2014 at 5:15pm
Any sane person would not rely on just an aging Pirlo and misfiring Balo to be there primary attack. On top of this, not one midfielder on the team would I consider to be attack oriented in general. Their approach is to retain and keep ball possession. In all 3 games Italy had the higher ball possession but this translated to only 2 goals in 3 games. This was CP's asinine "technical project."
on the 3rd July, 2014 at 3:57pm
Con't: "... Long Live Catenaccio, I for one loved it."

For the most part I don't disagree. I do, however, want to see a hyper Catenaccio - one that the team commits to the counter, it goes balls out! Ita always seemed way too cautious breaking out. With more speed and better finishing, I would welcome its return.

But the other thing to remember is there is no defender anywhere close to the level of Cabrini Baresi,Bergomi Cannav, Maldini etc. Catenaccio was a no brainer when we had great def
on the 3rd July, 2014 at 2:55pm
@Aussie Bob - "Catenaccio has been played by all the so called minor teams in the WC."

... and not so minor. When the Dutch do it, it's called 'total football.' what was their possession vs chile? 35%? The diff from catenaccio is they have more speed on counter and better finishers but its the same. There are others - Uruguay hardly pressed forward in any of their games until Ita were in 10. Only when Italy does it, disdain drips from the BBC commentator's lips (whether we do it or don't).
on the 3rd July, 2014 at 2:46pm
My Take on the failed World Cup Campaign, was a classical Italian over-analysis of what was needed to win the Cup in Brazil. Italy were dealt a tough hand with 3 consecutive games in the countries North. The Italians looked to be "conserving" energies, with an eye to complete 7 games over a 27 day period. Playing too "cute" meant we also played in a predictable fashion, with Pirlo our only real avenue of creativity. Prandelli made some glaring tactical blunders, but will a new CT do better?
on the 3rd July, 2014 at 11:37am
Lastly Luca, speak for yourself when you say that this was a shock I was expecting Italy not to qualify from the group and said so on many occasions prior to the WC. Reason is simple. Prandelli in all his time in charge still didn't seem to know who his best players were. There was no chemistry in the team and no identity because he kept changing formations and players. He was literally a man without a plan and actually lost the WC before the tournament even began.
on the 3rd July, 2014 at 10:57am
To interpret the qualifying campaign as an achievement is to be really happy with very little. The statistics are misleading because Italy never really looked quite convincing in these games and they were all against very weak teams. In fact when push came to shove we couldn't beat better teams which are still not among the best. Furthermore, the ethical code was nonsense and the no youngsters were really brooded in the team. Verratti only started 2 games in the WC and he was the most promising youngester.
on the 3rd July, 2014 at 10:53am
This article is just rubbish, Prandelli achieved nothing and the only assessment required is that he was a spectacular failure. Italy never played good football under him except in 2 matches a draw against Spain and a win against Germany both in the Euros. The Confederations is generally considered as a friendly tournament and coming 3rd means coming last from all the good teams because the rest were not better than Italy.
on the 3rd July, 2014 at 10:49am
You could put god on the bench, and it wouldn't make a real difference, unless we have better players. Our league & national team are bereft of quality. Bar Verratti who seems to be progressing well and Darmian who seems to have made the step up, there are no other real young bright sparks in the squad. An ageing team of mediocre players, who literally had no legs to play beyond walking pace. Add to that, we lack a real goalscorer. Balotelli typifies everything that's wrong with Italian football
on the 3rd July, 2014 at 9:51am
I think the story this morning about Cassano supports what seems the simple scenario of what happened. A devisive character, he ripped the unity of the team apart putting pressue on CP. Like you get in school some followed the class clown not realising the consquences. Cassano will never change here's a quote from Nov 2012 after his spat with A Conte "I simply wanted to say that at Juve they are too professional in their approach. I have never been like that". A leopard never changes in spots.
on the 3rd July, 2014 at 8:33am
CP started getting butterflies and he stopped being himself. Out of the blue but not suprisingly after some strange decisions we were jilted at the altar. After the initial feelings of anger and frstration at what could have been - you start to remember the reason why you had been set to tie the knot. You think maybe we should try again, what we had was good, if we can learn from our mistakes we can make it work. And that is where i am - he made mistakes but deep down i think he's still the one.
on the 3rd July, 2014 at 8:23am
It feels like CP's reign began with a whirlwind romance, we were behind him as he picked the rigth players on merit and played some attractive football. After several succesful dates we came through our first bump in the road losing the Euro 2012 final. The partnership grew stronger and a mutual decision was made that this was partnership to keep and the wedding was set. We had everything booked and we were set to walk down the aisle and have a glorious honeymoon basking in glory. At some point
on the 3rd July, 2014 at 8:18am
Actually Italian fans and media are not worst judging by the comments in Russia about Capello!
on the 3rd July, 2014 at 8:12am
This atmosphere has meant that it's impossible to make any rationale decision. There's a huge question mark over whether Prandelli should resign. How can a manager get any World Cup experience if they keep being replaced each World Cup? A European team has never won a World Cup in South America and I'm not sure it's going to change this time. I'd like to have seen how Prandelli's tactics would've gone in Russia 2018. I guess we'll never know
on the 3rd July, 2014 at 8:08am

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