Thursday, June 24, 2010

A True upset.... with a possibility of more

"I take full responsibility; "If the squad went out with fear in their legs and hearts it means the coach didn't prepare the match well tactically or psychologically."- Italy manager Marcello Lippi after being knocked out of World Cup 2010.

Today we saw the biggest team of this year's world cup bow out of the tournament as the reigning, defending world champions Italy were defeated 3-2 by Slovakia. The result left Italy with the dubious record of not having won a single game in a world cup for the first time in its history. Although the ending of the game was very exciting from a neutral point of view, it also exposed a lot of when went wrong for the Azzuri in the group stages. Coach Marcello Lippi picked a veteran team for this tournament excluding younger starts like Giuseppe Rossi and Mario Balotelli. Also Lippi was leaning on injured midfielder Andrea Pirlo to create the majority of the offensive chances for Italy. With Pirlo out for the first two games against Paraguay and New Zealand the Italian attack looked pedestrian at times, lacking in any real creativity. It also did help that creative players like Fabio Quagliarella and Antonio Di Natale only saw limited action in the tournament.

However what might be more shocking was the defensive display from the team. The Italian back four when put under serious strain buckled much easier than one would expect from the Azzuri. Although much of the focus for this defensive failure has been placed on aging captain and 2006 world player of the year Fabio Cannavaro, the entire squad as a whole seemed to lack the essential discipline required. An example would be a third Slovak goal in which the team as a whole fell asleep on the throw in allowing the Slovak player to run onto the ball untouched to flick it over a diving Federico Marchetti.

The combination of the two plus the poor team selection and tactics of Lippi has lead to this disaster for the Italians, and looking forward things may get a bit worse before getting better for the Azzuri. The majority of this squad will retire from international competition in the next four years, many will retire this summer leaving a void in talent on the national side. The above mentioned Mario Balotelli is a potential world star for Italy if he can get his head screwed in straight and actually chooses to play for Italy at the senior level (Balotelli was born in Ghana and may still play for them). Aside from Balotelli there is a sense that Italy is lacking in young talent to take over on the senior national team. This is not exactly true, however they will need time to become comfortable with the jump to world cup level football. Regardless Italy will have little time to feel sorry for itself as European Championship qualifying begins in August, we'll see if new manager Cesare Prandelli can bring in some new blood to help ease the already deep wound of World Cup 2010.

Joe Ross of has a great breakdown of what happened and why, Ross is one of the better Canadian football bloggers out there right now. Click here to see his take on things.

On a side note I might have to be writing the same type of upset analysis for Spain tomorrow if they don't win against Chile. if this were to be the case Spain would become one of the biggest upset squads in World Cup history given its high odds of winning the entire tournament. 2010 South Africa is proving to be one of the most intriguing tournaments in years.


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