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Defending champions Italy show their age

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Chris Bevan | 06:54 UK time, Tuesday, 15 June 2010

World Cup 2010: Cape Town

The Italian team coach, escorted by about a dozen police cars with sirens blaring, was in such a rush to leave Cape Town on Monday night that it forced our BBC minibus off the road as it hurtled past us at high speed.

Having witnessed them labour to a draw against Paraguay a couple of hours earlier, I'm hardly surprised Marcello Lippi and his players wanted to make a speedy exit and put a difficult evening behind them. They might have been in the fast lane on the road, but on the pitch they had been pretty pedestrian for most of the evening.

Yes, they survived atrocious weather, picked up a point, avoided an embarrassing defeat and should still qualify out of Group F with relative ease, but the defending champions did not begin this World Cup in a manner which suggests they are going to prove any of their detractors wrong - and there are plenty of those, especially back in their homeland.

If you think the English press is hard on our national side, spare a thought for Lippi. Despite being a World Cup-winning manager four years ago, he and his squad have been written off by their media this summer and are variously seen as being over the hill (half his players), out of form (the whole team) and devoid of ideas (Lippi himself).

The knives are likely to be out for the 62-year-old again in Tuesday's papers, judging from the conversation I had with some of the disgruntled Italian journalists present while we waited (and waited) for a lift to take us down from our seats to Lippi's post-game press conference.

Words failed one of them when I asked him about Lippi's inclusion of 36-year-old Fabio Cannavaro - victorious and inspirational skipper in 2006, but looking very much past his prime here when he allowed Antolin Alcaraz to leap above him and nod Paraguay ahead - but I still got the message loud and clear from his horrified facial expression and repeated shaking of his head.

paraguaycannavarroafp595335.jpgCannavaro looks on as goalscorer Alcaraz (centre) celebrates his goal with team-mate Valdez. Photo: AFP.

As well as defensive uncertainty, one other thing stood out to me as I shivered in the press box along with, among others, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger - Italy's shocking lack of creativity.

With Andrea Pirlo nursing a calf injury, only the energetic Simone Pepe seemed able to add any flair and finesse to a side whose only form of attack often seemed to be the footballing equivalent of banging your head against a brick wall. Until the final few minutes when Paraguay tired, all of Italy's best chances came from set-pieces and even then they were obviously reliant on Justo Villar's horrific gaffe to gift them their only goal of the game.

As things stand, Lippi's strategy of relying upon veterans of his memorable triumph in Germany 2006 (five of the team which beat France in the final started against Paraguay, and there are four other survivors of the last World Cup in his squad this summer) undoubtedly looks misguided, despite him declaring himself "very satisfied with the performance". Maybe the torrential rain misted up his glasses at some point during the match because that didn't tally with the display I saw.

But Italy are clearly not the only side to have stumbled while taking their first steps in South Africa - only Germany have looked completely convincing so far - and past tournaments show they are a country that has a horrible habit of showing the irrelevance of early form when it comes to World Cup finals, even if I can't help thinking that the history books are where some of their side already belong.

From what I was told, though, many Italian fans have lost faith in Lippi, too, although I didn't get a chance to speak to any of them afterwards as planned - the torrential rain meant that by the time I left the stadium, the concourse was deserted save for a huge squadron of police (who had acted as stewards on the night after an impromptu strike from the regular staff).

I'd be interested to hear what any Azzurri supporters think but, for a more objective view of Italy's prospects, I grabbed Clarence Seedorf who, as well as being part of the furniture at the BBC studios in Cape Town where I am based, has been a regular fixture in Serie A for most of the past 15 years with Sampdoria and both Milan clubs. He knows most of the Italy players well and also understands the nation's psyche better than most.

He laughed off the pessimism surrounding Lippi and his side as "typical", adding: "Italian fans rarely say they are going to win anything because they are very superstitious - they definitely expect them to do well, even if they say otherwise!"

Seedorf also dismissed the view that too many of Lippi's key players are too old, although that's probably not surprising seeing as he is 34 himself and is reaping the benefits of AC Milan's famed Milan lab (known for extending the longevity of many a player's career) along with three of Italy's surviving stalwarts from 2006: Gianluca Zambrotta (33), Gennaro Gattuson (32) and the much-missed Pirlo (31).

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"Age is not a factor," Seedorf told me. "Performances are all that matter. If Lippi had better younger players, then he would have picked them. If these are the best players, then so be it.

"I hear it all the time about how when players get past 30 that they are past it but it's not true. In general, people die 10 years later now because of better food, medicines and science. In sport, it is the same thing. If 32 was old for a footballer in the 1980s, then now it is normal to be playing at a high level when you are 35, especially if you have looked after yourself well.

"I look at the Italy squad and I see older players that might not be the same as they once were physically but who now have the mentality and the experience. To do well any team needs a mix of older and younger players and I think there is a good blend in the Italy squad. They are not playing well but I'm actually expecting them to click soon because they usually save their best form for major tournaments."

Whether that happens or not, nothing less than a win will do against outsiders New Zealand in Italy's next group game on Sunday and, although their other Group F opponents Slovakia might put up more of a fight, I'd still back Italy to get the results they need to reach the last 16.

It's after that that their progress looks less assured - especially if they go on to meet European champions Spain in their quarter-final as looks likely. To return to the story that I began this blog with, unless they make a huge improvement over the next couple of weeks, I can't help thinking that it won't be long until their journey comes to a juddering halt too.

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  • Comment number 1.

    first! nice blog

  • Comment number 2.

    To be honest you are being Harsh...Cannavaro would walk into the England side

  • Comment number 3.

    I think - unlike comments on England - that this blog is premature. England start badly and go out at the quarter final stage.
    Italy start badly and win the thing.

    Most of us with money on the Italians (as I have every world cup) were not too bothered about last night. In fact, I thought Di Natale, De Rossi and Camoranesi all looked pretty chipper. Paraguay are going to qualify second; always were. A draw against them is not the end of the world. Italy flare to life later in the tournament; always do. Their big game is the likely quarter against Spain when I'm backing them - literally - to come through and start a 1982 type roll which will lead them to the cup.

  • Comment number 4.

    Standard start from the Azzurri really. Not too convincing but still fairly solid, much better in the second half.

    I would however like to question this age old cliche about the age of the Italian squad. Do you consider the Brazil team to be too old to win the world cup? Because they have the second oldest squad at the tournament with England having the third oldest. Italy be contrast only have the fifth oldest squad. Plus lets face the "old" players in the Italian squad are legends such as Buffon, Cannavaro and Pirlo. I'd rather have those than the dogs that fill the English national team.

    No one ever rates Italy. Yet come the end of the tournament they will be there. I hope they meet Spain as they have the game to beat them and send all the doubters packing who do not appreciate the art that is calcio.

  • Comment number 5.

    It wasn't an amazing display by the Azzurri, but they do always start slow. The second half was a much tighter display, especially when they switched to 4-4-2. Marchetti and Marchisio both looked terrible last night, though De Rossi and Pepe seemed much sharper. It was a shame Buffon had to be subbed off as that sub could have been used for another tactical later in the game, possibly a winning one.

    Italy will win their next two group stage games and will progress through to the quarter finals where they will probably meet Spain - most people will write them off at this stage, but if they sort out some defensive problems and sneak a goal, they could be in the semis with no problems!

    They are an old team, but as a I read somewhere yesterday (can't remember all the details), but Italy are actually a younger average aged team than Brazil and England! Age is not the problem here.

  • Comment number 6.

    Have to agree with kentspur in that this article is premature albeit it is interesting to find out what the domestic press (Italy) make of their team, not least because I thought Italy actually played pretty well during the game. Unlike most games it was a very interesting game which Italy seemed to get stronger in.

    I think Camoranesi made a difference and when fit Pirlo will also. Pepe as you have acknowledged also looked good.

    On another note it would be interesting to find out what the South African press/locals make of all the media and fan critique of the swarm of bees they are allowing to attend their games.

  • Comment number 7.

    I don't buy this whole "Italy are an ageing team". Sure they have a few veterans in their squad, most of whom are now squad fillers. Most of the starting XI were around the 26 years mark.

  • Comment number 8.

    What a lazy headline and article! Italy don’t perform so it must be an age thing!!??? I am not sure what game Chris Bevan was watching but Cannavaro had a good game and it was De Rossi (yes, old man De Rossi aged 26) who was at fault for the goal. In fact, it was the 'veteran' Camoranesi who made a positive impact when he came on in the second half. The Italians were much improved in the second half switching to a more balanced 4-4-2 formation with De Rossi and Montolivo dominating midfield. Thumbs up for Pepe too! Marchisio (aged 24!!) was very disappointing and it will be interesting to see whether he starts against New Zealand on Sunday. Paraguay were tough and uncompromising ( note the ‘leg-breaking’ tackle on Montolivio after 1 minute) and they will be difficult to beat for any team..

  • Comment number 9.

    Another premature, ill-informed blog by the BBC.

    I'm normally very impressed by the BBC bloggers but this World Cup, you've just been like every other set of journalists.

    You shouldn't be judging teams on their first result, especially when it's a draw against the toughest opposition they face, i.e. England and Italy.

  • Comment number 10.

    I am Italian... it is true, many Italians do not support Lippi anymore. This is partly because of questionable selection (expressly seeking an "experienced" old squad, dropping Cassano etc) and partly because of the actual squad he puts on the pitch. For example, Gilardino is in the first XI instead of serie A's top goal scorer Di Natale.
    Many of us feel that this is the last world cup of an era, we won't do very well, but it will be very useful in allowing the next manager (Fiorentina's Prandelli) to start from scratch.

  • Comment number 11.

    Nonscence! Chris.. I think you should concentrate on the probs you have now in the English camp like German berkenbaure suggested. Which do you prefer???- An English side with young inexperienced players (some with injuries) or an Italian side with some older much experienced side. Italy may have had a slow start, but dont be surprised to see them in the last eight as usual.

  • Comment number 12.

    The Italians always start slow! Let's not forget they started their 2006 World Cup Winning campaign with a draw against the USA! Also - they pretty much dictated last night's game from start to finish against Paraguay! Don't be so hasty to write them off!

  • Comment number 13.

    .... and dont forget Marcelo Lippi is a Renowned defending champion world cup coach.

  • Comment number 14.

    Never bet against an Italian side. They have the mentality and nous wo win this thing. Aside from that they have probably the most tactically astute coach in the tournament.

  • Comment number 15.

    I agree that this is a lazy article and symptomatic of a very poor world cup effort by the Beeb and ITV. When are we going to see some better pundits? Last nights panel included Seedorf who was the best we have had so far by a LONG way.... but I just cant take anymore of McCarthy, Quinn, Shearer and Lawrenson.

    as for Italy, that is not an old squad. It is the 8th oldest squad in the tournament and younger than the English squad. While I dont think they are good enough to win, it was a decent performance last night and I thought that old man Cannavaro was one of the better players.

  • Comment number 16.

    I disagree with this article.

    It was De Rossi not Cannavaro who was at fault for their goal but he made up for it by scoring himself.

    I thought Cannavaro had a very good game, was tight on their forwards and led the line well, he's still a top defender even at 36. Who's judgement shall we trust the writer of this article or Lippi who has won countless trophies?!

    We do lack a bit of creativity (hopefully Pirlo will be back soon) and Cassano may have made a difference but he's hard to manage off the pitch.......

  • Comment number 17.

    Isn't Italian squads average age the same as the England's and one year younger than the average for previous World Cup winners?

  • Comment number 18.

    strange one this. i'd have to diagree with your whole analysis. Italy started slowly yes, but a 1-1 with Paraguay is not a bad result at all. England could only scrape to a 1-0 victory over them in 2006 when they had a much better and younger squad. Don't forget how they breezed through the south american qualifying series.

    Cannavro had a good game last night in my opinion, and is still a player of the highest standard. I'd argue that De Rossi was more at fault for the goal. This is not to detract De Rossi at all, as he was superb and is the focal point of this team, and is one of the best central midfielders in world football.

    They should have started with a front two of Iaquinta and Di Natale. Di Natale must start after his fantastic season, is in form and always likely to take his chances. For me Gilardino does not cut it internationally.

    As for the "age" of the squad. How can this be considered a problem? If such players can compete at CL and Serie A level week in week out then playing New Zealand should not pose a problem.

    If it was down to me i'd still have the 30+ Del Piero, Totti, Inzaghi and Nesta in there too.

  • Comment number 19.

    no chance for italy this time . no chance in hell .. cant get past the quarters .

  • Comment number 20.

    this article is a stereotypical article about italian squad with no news whatsoever.

    with regards to paraguay's goal, de rossi openly admitted straigh after the game he was supposed to mark the paraguay player and not cannavaro. but hey... let's bang on about how old italy is that's much more fun!

    there were only 3 outfield players above 30 that started the game. Italy's squad is younger than brazil and england. I don't see anyone complaining about the age of these squads. Only 9 2006 world cup champions are in the squad. How many english players from 2006 are in the english squad?

    the comments about the italian press being very critical about the performance is just plain wrong. Gazzetta dello sport says: More lights that shades. (More pluses than negatives.). Whilst they are not happy with the performance it is an marked improvements from the 2 pre tournament friendlies.

    the only missing stereotype from this article is to have forgotten to call italians divers.

    I think part of italy's problems in the first half was in fact young players being a bit overwhelmed by the occasion rather that old ones not performing.

  • Comment number 21.

    Hi folks, thanks for your comments...

    To those of you who think it is far too early to write Italy off, I agree - I wrote exactly that here:

    "Italy are clearly not the only side to have stumbled while taking their first steps in South Africa - only Germany have looked completely convincing so far - and past tournaments show they are a country that has a horrible habit of showing the irrelevance of early form when it comes to World Cup finals."

    And yes, I'm aware they don't have the oldest squad in South Africa either - but are the younger players who are in the starting XI as good as their predecessors or good enough to win the World Cup?

    I'd say no on both counts, but I still think Italy will win their group and reach the quarter-finals - where they will probably play Spain.

    Now, Andrea Pirlo should be fit by then and might have brought some more creative ideas with him but Italy will have to improve a heck of a lot in attack and at the back if they are to trouble the European champions, or keep them out.

    And I'm not just going by last night either - Italy's recent form in their pre-tournament friendlies was far from great.

    I know that seems all doom and gloom and I'm ready to be proved wrong when Italy thump Spain to reach the semi-finals but I just can't see it happening.

    I did speak to Clarence Seedorf to bring some balance to the article though - he knows the Italian team a lot better than I do because he's played with and against most of them for the last few years.

    He thinks the critical Italian press and pessimistic fans back home (in Italy) are wrong - and a lot of you seem to agree with him. But, even if they do go further than the last eight (my prediction!), do any of you really think Fabio Cannavaro will get his hands on that trophy again in a few week's time?

  • Comment number 22.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 23.

    The article ignores the point that Italy have a reputation as slow starters in tournaments. I've lost count of the times they've been written off during the group phases of tournaments only to go quite far in the end. And you are wrong to blame Cannavaro (for 37 he still looks good) for the first goal: De Rossi was the spare man and should have attacked the cross and not backed off.

    Italy looked much better when they switched to a 4-4-2 last night and Camoranesi started to look like the player he can be. And Paraguay as was evident last night are a very strong team. Vera was excellent

  • Comment number 24.

    Italy's average age on the pitch last night was just over 28, which is just about the perfect age - the 11 who started last night have never played together before - the weather was atrocious and created a very heavy playing surface, leading to tired legs on both sides - Italy knew before the game that a draw would not be a disastrous result - they were without their most influencial player Pirlo, they lost Buffon at half time - they limited Paraguay to a single shot - Italy had complete control of the game

    Italy will qualify as group winners and probably make it to the quarter or semi final

    in truth the whole topic of this blog is a complete waste of time and based on the ususal (British journalists) stereotypical view of Italian football - i know the tournament is a bit dull at the moment, but can you really not think of anything else to write about?? Pathetic

  • Comment number 25.

    It seems like Mr. Bevan watched another match last night, or probably was just upset for having to move his van (very professional first comment for a world cup article). however, Italy did not play badly and the players were not pedestrians. I agree on the lack of creativity of the forwards, but Italy always controlled the match, and Paraguay scored on their first and only attempt(check the stats!)during the entire first half..wasnt that a gift as well? Mr Bevan should also consider that Paraguay qualified just after Brazil in SA, scoring 6 goals to Argentina in one occasion. BBC point of view on the Italian team was already clear watching the intro to the match (too old, too stubborn..etc.)...this blog makes me loose credibility on the skills of the BBC team in South Africa

  • Comment number 26.

    Firstly very good blog.

    Then i would like to say that "First Half" was really really awful. If not for the error by captain courageous Cannavaro, that 1st goal would not have come.

    There was no spark until Camoronesi came, Marchisio is not fit to be included in the "Azzuri" squad and i really think Grosso must have been included as Criscito was also not that good since he did not charge ahead like Grosso in 2006.

    I have been a huge huge fan of the Azzuri's from 1994 (R Baggio inspired), they must really really improve quickly and Pray to god that Pirlo is up and running and is match fit within 2 or 3 days.

    One more point to be told is Lippi must start with the team he had in 2nd half in the coming games.

    One question for you Chris, why are there no creative young playmakers coming out from Italy? I mean Italy is as soccer crazy as Spain and Germany but when you compare the squads, there is no young playmaker from Italy.There is no worthy successor to Pirlo. WHY?

  • Comment number 27.

    - the age issue... England's squad has an average age of 28.7 (highest in the tournament). Brazil's squad has an average of 28.6. Italy: 28.2.

    - rather than criticising the inclusion of the veteran Cannavaro I'd like to see a suggestion for an adequate replacement... the truth is that a superior alternative simply does not exist at this moment

    - "If you think the English press is hard on our national side, spare a thought for Lippi."
    This is absolute rubbish. Today's headline from leading sports website is: "Italia, piu' luci che ombre". Literally, "Italy, more lights than shadows", meaning "more positives than negatives". Compare this to the English press' reaction to England's 1-1 draw!

  • Comment number 28.

    Chris none of the pundits had the knowledge of the real problem in creativity in the Italy attack.

    Italy started in what was essentially a 4-3-3 formation with Iaquinta, Gilardino and Pepe. Pepe is a regular left or right forward/winger in a 3 pronged attack for Udinese alongside a man who in a 4-3-3 style formation was top goalscorer in Serie A this year Antonio Di Natale.

    I and many other fans of Italian football cannot understand not starting with Di Natale if your playing 4-3-3. Especially as he kept looking for Pepe (remember the crossfield ball and little chips into the box from Di Natale when he came on) and Pepe wasnt there because they had switched to 4-4-2 and Pepe had to play more defensively.

    Yes Italy looked better when they switched to 4-4-2 and defensively did not look solid most of the match but I think a lot of credit for this has to go to Paraguay and their powerful forwards.

    But there is no excuse if your playing 4-3-3 and Pepe, you have to play Di Natale as the focal point of the attack where he has been playing for Udinese or left side. Then you will start to see intricate one touch football from Italy around the box and some attacking flair.
    If your going to play 4-4-2 by all means start with Pazzini or Iaquinta or Gilardino.

    Marchisio playing in the hole was also an incredible decision, of all the players to play in the hole in the Italian starting lineup Montolivo is the most qualified. Marchisio is in my opinion a very good player but is best played in a wide midfield role if Di Rossi and Montolivo are going to be played in the centre. Marchisio is actually a decent battler for the ball whereas Montolivo is not so playing Montolivo deep and Marchisio up top makes little sense.

    As for the defence I will not complain about the selection but they should have been better prepared on the set pieces.

    But Lippi's tactical choices currently seem to be totally mismatched to the type of players he is playing. Why play Di Natale in a 4-4-2 against a defence lying deep (they got deeper as the 2nd half went on)? Seriously...

  • Comment number 29.

    This is the Paraguay who beat Brazil and Argentina in qualifying right? And Italy are better off than most teams after their first game, 11 games played, with the exception of Germany, Ghana and Japan and Holland, there are where you want to be. Lippi had two game plans last night, the first was to score the first goal and then hit them on the break. The second was in case that didn't work, and that is what we saw. They didn't lose. They had more possession, were more creative, passed it well with the exception of one midfielder ( sorry I didn't get who he was), Their goalie didn't have a save to make in the second half. This is not a weak shoddy performance like say Cameroon, nor should it be seen as a shock. Beware Italians grinding out 1:1 draws...they will kill you on the penalty shoot out.

  • Comment number 30.

    However, it is true that there is a lack of creativity. Perhaps Lippi must be blamed for leaving Cassano at home and trying to force Marchisio into a playmayker role that he is incapable of fulfilling. However, after a positive performance from Pepe, Camoranesi returning to full fitness, Pirlo working his way back to fitness, Di Natale likely to force his way into the starting line-up and Quagliarella always an option from the bench, I wouldn't write Italy off just yet

  • Comment number 31.

    Let's not forget they started their 2006 World Cup Winning campaign with a draw against the USA!


    Sorry to be picky, but things like this irritate me. Italy started off their World Cup winning campaign in 2006 with a WIN v Ghana! They won 2-0, then drew 1-1 with the USA, with an OG and a player sent off.
    They then beat the Czechs 2-0. That doesn't seem like stumbling to me...

  • Comment number 32.

    If you win you are experienced if you lose(draw) then you are to old...

    I would add that maybe England would benefit if the press didnt heap pressure on the team by naming them as one of the favourites (on what basis?) Italy have a far better chance of going far in the tournament and this is probably helped by the squad becoming closer and more determined to prove their doubters wrong.

  • Comment number 33.

    #27 says everything I was going to say.

  • Comment number 34.

    I hate to say it but this year will see a great final for a change. Brazil and Spain.

  • Comment number 35.

    "The Italians always start slow! Let's not forget they started their 2006 World Cup Winning campaign with a draw against the USA!"

    No, they started with a 2-0 win over Ghana...

  • Comment number 36.

    isn't it more the case that Lippi has little to choose from? I mean they had no ideas in the final third and merely played on trained methods. No spark. A bit like some other team I have seen recently.

  • Comment number 37.

    RE to Chris: I dont think anybody is concluding Italy will win this world cup yet, so dont misunderstand us. By refeing to Canavarro liftn the trophy I think you are being too critical of the Italians. Concentrate more on Group C cos if England comes second in their group.. wow they will b battling it out with the Germans.

  • Comment number 38.

    They do lack a little creativity, but I thought they controlled the game yesterday for the most part and looked the far superior team. Not sure why you would criticize Lippi for bringing 9 players from the previous campaign? How many do England have, or would they have barring injury? I count 11 in the actual squad, and can think of a few more who would have gone, Ferdinand, Hargreaves, Beckham?

  • Comment number 39.

    To be honest I was a little dissappointed with Paraguay. Italy were really there for the taking last night but the South Americans - whether out of misplaced fear or respect - didn't seize the opportunity. Both goals were really shocking and neither team got out of first gear. Italy should have played their bus driver by the sound of it?

    Perhaps it was both teams knowing they should stroll past their other two group opponents that meant they both felt they'd leave plenty in the tank for the knock-out stages?

  • Comment number 40.

    Hi Chris,

    Although I don't agree with your article, I appreciate your opinion, which I don't think is unfounded. However, I think the press in general, and your article as well, was a little harsh on Italy last night.

    We played against a well organised Paraguyan team, who had come second (I think) in the South American qualifyer, beating both Argentina and Brasil. They have talented players, and were defensively well organised. This is in contrast to, for example, USA or Australia, who defensively were both woeful, or even Nigeria, who had little do to in a match where they still threatened an upset.

    I also think the age thing isn't the issue. The older players on the pitch last night (barring Gilardino) were good, Cannavaro had a good game, and left nothing to chance. Zambrotta played well. Unfortunately, we suffered in the first half because of the only mistake Lippi made, which was to insist on this 4231 formation. Iaquinta and Marchision were both playing in roles they are not used to playing, as a result we created very little. In the second half, particularly after our equaliser, we went back to the more traditioanl 442, and I believe we played better.

    I agree, as things stand, that I don't see us beating Spain. That doesn't mean that Spain can necessarily beat us - Inter-Barcelona is a case in point. For Italy to retain the Cup will take something extraordinary, and I must stay I don't think that's going to happen. But I don't think last night's match, or pre/tournament friendlies, allow us to judge quite how far this group can go (and I say the same about both France and England).

  • Comment number 41.

    Oh and I find it interesting that when England draw their first game, Every man and his dog criticise them, but when someone dares to criticise Italy for drawing (Against, imo, worse opposition) everyone starts laying into Chris and saying "The Italians aren't old" and "They always start slow".

    Just interesting to note...

  • Comment number 42.

    Any team that has to play Paraguay is going to havn a tough time, as Italy found out. Italy score very few but with Cannavaro, I would take him over any other cb I have seen here, they will not conceed to many either. Woe to Spain if they meet.

  • Comment number 43.

    Old squads can't cut it, eh?

    Italy are too old?

    And the second oldest squad is.... England!?


  • Comment number 44.

    I think Chris' blog entry wasn't as bad as some think, but a bit harsh given the weather and the fact that the opening game is usually edgy. Let's see how Brazil or Spain fare in heavy rain and against 2 banks of 4 for the whole game? But not surprising because the British media has been bashing the Italians for decades! I thought Cannavaro did ok. But I agree that Lippi is not the force he was. Why did he play 4-5-1 in the opening match against an average team? We were much better with 4-4-2 and he should have taken the game to them from the start. Also, why didn't he take Rossi or Grosso (who would have played better than Criscito) to South Africa? I don't expect us to go very far, but we need to rebuild and it will take a while. The same happened in 1986 - We were awful - but by 1990 new talent had emerged. Whatever happens, we're 4 time winners and it will take Spain and their envious fans (who have bottled every tournament I can remember) a long long time to beat that record! If Italy go out, so be it. What's the big deal? I'll support our B team from then on!

  • Comment number 45.

    Agreed i think you are being slightly harsh, only 3 of the team against Paraguay last night started the World Cup final (Cannavaro, Buffon, Zambrotta) and not 5 as you suggest. De Rossi was marking Alcaraz not Cannavaro so he was not to blame, I personally thought Cannavaro showed shades of 2006. Italy's team is not as old as we all believe it to be, it is just something we all stereotype with them, when in reality there are 4 or 5 older world cup squads including our England, we actually have an older squad with our average age of 29 compared to theres of 28, which surprised me although i think this goes back to us stereotyping the Italians as old, when in fact they are not. I think the Italians problem is attacking, their defence and midfield seemed very strong as good as anyones so far, the only real mishap was Paraguays goal, but the only player who started in attack that impressed was Pepe, they are misssing Pirlo who will come back and maybe Camoranensi will start next game although they are lacking a Totti, Cassano maybe even a Givinco to add more flair. Traditionally slow starters, last night was a big improvement from the recent friendlies, I think there capble of keeping a clean sheet against any team bearing in mind the cautious approach that all the teams so far have shown and will be tough team to beat. I dont think any team could convincingly beat Italy but my only real concern is if they were to go a goal down could they get themselves back into the game. If there attack was better or can be sorted I think they could go a long way, we will just have to wait and see how Lippi approaches the next game.

  • Comment number 46.

    "No, they started with a 2-0 win over Ghana..."

    Correct! My apologies.

    I do believe it wasn't just a case of Italy having no spark though! I know Italy have stumbled in recent warm-up matches but Paraguay played well and very compact! They are a team that beat Brazil in qualification and conceded the second fewest goals during qualification.

  • Comment number 47.

    the blog is pointless and inaccurate, as everyone knows italy are slow starters.. and in fact played well last night against a team who finished 1 point behind brazil in qualifying, a brazil team which people seem to rave on about as being the best in the world along with spain. and remember spain couldnt score against italy in euro 2008, it took penalties for them to beat us!

    italians are pessimists and the underdog tag suits us, when have italy ever been favourites in a tournment apart from the last euros after we won the 2006 world cup??

    most of the italian team have have a bad season apart from the odd few, di natale for example scoring 31 serie a goals. and dont forget this team are not accustomed to playing together as much as the other so called big teams.. lippi has introduced new younger players into the mix and seedorf is right when he says the blend of youth and experience is good in the italy squad. it makes me laugh every time i have to listen to the bbc pundits slate italy time and time again, jealous much lads?

  • Comment number 48.

    In relation to my other comment where i said Italy were playing 4-3-3, yes ok its 4-2-3-1 effectively. I was speaking of 4-3-3 as their being 3 central midfielders and essentially a 3 attacking players (as marchisio was hardly forward after 10 minutes was he).

    I'm aware there is a tactical difference, just clarifying my comment.

  • Comment number 49.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 50.

    Last night only strengthened my feeling that Slovakia will win this group. They are unheralded and underrated but on the evidence of last night, their energetic, teamwork ethos will be anough to see off two pretty average sides. Paraguay and Italy will end up scrapping for the runners up spot.

    I've baltently cursed them now and they'll probably lose to New Zealand....

  • Comment number 51.

    #45 totally agree. i think lippi's faith in gilardino is a bit of a problem and i think lippi might have subbed him out for pazzini had buffon not got injured and he'd had an extra substitution available. I think a 442 with pazzini an di natale up front and pepe and camoranesi could be better.

  • Comment number 52.

    I don't get the point of this article. You go off saying one thing, the quote Seedorf who dissmisses your opinion out of hand.

    Very strange article. I could do better with mi eye closed, alas i have a REAL job.

  • Comment number 53.

    Mr Bevan, you'll note from the majority of these posts that your article is considered complete trash

  • Comment number 54.

    This is lazy journalism – nothing more. The media picks up on an incorrect claim – that Italy are an ageing squad – and decide to run with an article that doesn’t hold any water. They are a younger squad than both England and Brazil and yet age doesn’t seem to be a factor for the “Three Lions” or the South American favourites.
    I don’t think the Italian team had a great game last night but in the second half they improved significantly and whilst there was room for criticism, using the age argument was weak and unfounded. Italy have always played the same way and their start this time around is in keeping with most of their previous World Cup openers.
    And so what if they have players from the last World Cup in their squad – weren’t Gerrard, Lampard, Ferdinand, Cole, Terry, Crouch, Joe Cole, Carragher in England’s last World Cup squad? Where is the difference?
    At least the Italians can claim they have a proven, champion’s foundation to move forward with.
    Chris Bevan should do his research first and then write a piece based on fact rather than borrow a well worn misconception about age and structure an unfounded argument around it.

  • Comment number 55.

    Lippi has never liked flair players, preferring the kind of footballer that Brian Clough once derided as 'robots'. According to Roberto Baggio's autobiography, Lippi never appreciated his skills at Juventus and pushed him out of the door as soon as he got the chance. There are players who could have provided creativity and attacking ideas to the side, like Antonio Cassano and Fabrizio Miccoli, as well as exciting young players like Mario Balotelli, who might have emerged as a world great in South Africa, but Lippi left them all behind.

  • Comment number 56.

    Italy are poor, no chance of winning it! germans will beat them, as will dutch, spanish, brazilians, i even think the ghanains and south koreans will beat them, they are poor

  • Comment number 57.

    I agree with a lot of these posts that this blog is premature in saying how Italy will perform. I would not say last night was the worst I'd seen them play and there has definetly been worst matches during this World Cup!

    I would say that as an Italo-Scot living in England, I rarely watch Italy play on a UK channel as the comments are always negative, the commentators can never compliment what is being done on the pitch and to me always put a negative spin on how Italy are playing, this is reflected that it is not only the commentators who have a problem with Italy but other people in the media who just wait on them to fall at the first post.

    I think you have to remember yes we are an aged team but this brings skill and a team that work well and are very familiar with each other, they play like a well oiled wheel.

    I have to admit that even as an Italian, with a lot of national pride, I do not expect to see us in the final but at least I do not go around proclaiming that we have already won (which is what England seem to be doing at the moment)...

    I think you have to remember we have won this four times in the past, and well it would be rude top win it every time, hang on when did England last win oh yes 1966 (how could I forget, they would print it on toilet paper just to continuously remind the public!)

  • Comment number 58.

    Italy are not very good, certainly on last nights performance. They wont win it this year because theyre too poor. Theyre missing some of the names from 2006 and the replacements arent as good.

  • Comment number 59.

    I disagree with the blog too. Watching the game here in Madrid the Italian mates I have felt Cannavaro played like he was 25 y.o. Like someone commented he ´would walk into the England side´. Did this blogger watch the match?

  • Comment number 60.

    Lippi has chosen his best players. It shouldn't matter how old the players are. Obviously a play at 36 is likely to be slower than he was at 32, but he still might be better than any of the younger players.
    You also have to give Paraguay some credit, they might not be one of the fancied teams, but they are quite good. They beat both Argentina and Brazil in Qualification. Additionally the weather was awful last night in Cape Town. Teams rarely play as well in such conditions, even in the premier league the better teams play better when the conditions are better.

  • Comment number 61.

    I think you need to relax a bit here sir!! To be honest it wasn't an overly great performance, however to write them off now is crazy talk as 90% of the comments have said to you. If we think back Spain only managed to become Euro champions after putting out Italy(with a manager who had only managed the equivilant in Sere A Wigan or Burnely)on penalties. I mean they hardly played them off the park, with the supposed flair players they have at their disposal! As Inter proved albeit with no italians against barca. you can have all the skill in the world but when you have a "team" who play for each other the results will come!maybe if England had the same ethos they would have done better against a country who in 2004 wanted to scrap the game of 2 halves and change it to the games of 4 quarters. It has taken an Italian manager to teach the English players manners in the sense of waiting for the last person to finish dinner before leaving the table and going to play computer games!!

    Forza Italia

  • Comment number 62.

    I'd say Cannavaro has a better chance than most to lift the trophy to be honest. I struggle to understand why you are paid to do this blog, you are really as much use as Hansen and Dixon on the couch, cliche after cliche.

    You did one thing right and that was speak to Clarence Seedorf, the guy wipes the floor with the rest of the pundits on tv (both channels). What you didnt do was actually take on board what he said, which considering he is currently still playing top flight football is a bit of a school boy mistake. I've found more insightful discussion on tactics and analysis from football forums than from this 'journalist'

  • Comment number 63.

    I disagree that Italy are too old. Experience is vital in doing well in a competition like this. The outfield players over 30 are all quality players. Cannavaro can play at 36 if Maldini could play for Milan until 40. You have said yourself that Pirlo will bring some creativity into the team. Gattuso is Italy, there wont be a single Italian fan who wouldn't have taken him - look at who Di Rossi went to when he scored. At 33 Zambrotta gets up and down the right still like an 18yr old and is still one of the best full backs around. Camoranesi is lively, one of Italys few genuine right wingers, and has scored some important goals for them. Di Natale and Iaquinta have scored goals all season in Serie A.

    I liked the look of some of the younger Italian players, but you can't make an assesment after one game. It would be better to assess their club form. In Engand we hype up young players and up to Capello, managers have always played them too early. Montolivo has been a quality player for years, I was very impressed with Pepe, Chiellini is already world class.

    If young players like Santon, Giovinco and Balotelli can't get into the squad then players like Marchisio and Criscito must be doing something right.

    As for Cassano, the fans love him but managers have often found him to be a troublemaker.

    Lippi is a quality manager and Italy tend to come good in the World Cup - They would not be scared of Spain in the knockout stages.

  • Comment number 64.

    Lazy article... trite and misleading. The average age of the Italian team was the same as that of the England team... 28 years old.

    You have the privilege of attending the World Cup at the license payers expense, perhaps you should find something worth writing about instead of the obvious cliche.

    From your picture you look like a prepubescent Paul Weller fan, if Italy are showing their age, perhaps you are too.

  • Comment number 65.

    I normally enjoy the blogs on BBC, but find this one a bit of a joke. To be fair any time you hear any English journo or comentator attempt to discuss Italian Football, id rather they talked about something they do know about rather than sticking to the stereotypes. Italys average age is younger than Englands and Brazils, and I think Paraguay were far tougher opponents than the mighty USA. Please blog on subjects you understand and are knowledgable about.

  • Comment number 66.

    I am sorry Chris but i would have to completely disagree with the large majority of this entire blog. Having liked several of your blogs over the season, this comes as a surprise.

    Firstly, Cannavaro was absolutely excellent last night, first to the ball, sniffing out Paraguayan passes and first to head everything away, like he has throughout an excellent career.

    Secondly, only around 40% of the squad in Italy were at the last world cup, and besides, what does that even mean anyway? Are they all worse players that at that time? Surely more experience counts for something and four more years of playing together.

    Thirdly, Seedorf is still a fantastic player who would walk into any Premier League side.

    I for one would love to have a Cannavaro partnering Terry at centre half at this tournament now Rio is out, or a Gattuso, or a Gilardino to partner Rooney up front, or Buffon in goal, or Camoranesi to come on for half an hour. All of these players point to the fact that you are talking a complete load of tosh and all were at the last world cup - case closed!!!

  • Comment number 67.

    I go along with the general consensus here that this blog is lazy and premature.

    Yesterday, I was pleased to see Seedorf actually defending the Italians and becoming borderline annoyed with the frankly pathetic 'age' argument which has surrounded them for as long as I can remember.

    Italian players are some of the most intelligent and tactically astute. But of course everyone knows this anyway yet still refuse to take it into account. If a team doesn't contain a Messi or Rooney they are automatically written off. Haven't our minds evolved?

    Granted, Italy were pretty poor in the first half. This is not really a coincidence. Despite being traditional slow starters their prior friendlies were pure experimentation. Over the course of the game Italy deserved to win, but a 1-1 draw is no biggie.

    I make no claims that Italy will win the world cup, as I did 4 years ago, but can we please grow up and stop this futile (and largely unfounded)age argument? I feel We may be approaching the day when the English media becomes as ridiculous as its Italian counterpart.

    The pundits are dire, Hansen above all along with most of ITV.

    Italy 1-1 Paraguay- "Italy are old, no creativity and definitely won't retain the world cup"

    England 1-1 USA- "England drew their opening match in '66"

  • Comment number 68.

    So the essence of the blog is 'Italy weren't that great last night, they will most likely get through the group anyway but will struggle if they meet Spain later'.

    Wow. Informative.

  • Comment number 69.

    Your blog is total rubbish from start to finish. Every World Cup I hear the same tosh. Italy are defensive, no creativity, no chance, England, Brazil, Spain will win blah blah blah. Well the same rubbish was spoken and written in 1982 and 2006 and look where that ended. Lets just wait and see shall we.

  • Comment number 70.

    Italy are poor, no chance of winning it! germans will beat them, as will dutch, spanish, brazilians, i even think the ghanains and south koreans will beat them, they are poor
    Its ignorant comments like this that make me smile.
    I don't beleive for one minute that Italy can win this WC,however,i see all the usual stereotypes being wheeled out(usually from England fans,and as if England are exciting to watch!).
    The Germans are afraid of us(we always beat them),the Dutch ? Ask them about Euro 2000 in their back yard v 10 men. Brazil ? I think Italy last lost to them in the WC 1978 in open play. Spain ? They are the best,but they won't want to meet Italy either.
    This Italy team lack a flair player,pace and the defence is now a bit rocky,but only a fool would write them off.


  • Comment number 71.

    To be honest, this just further highlights a real issue I feel the majority of BBC journalists have.
    Similarly to last night when the commentary was particularly patronising to Paraguay, no credit was given to them in how they played the game, or how they qualified when compared to Italy, but rather said it would be a major shock if Italy lost, and how delighted Paraguay would be with a draw, showing no knowledge of how good Paraguay actually are...
    Also, Alan Hansen was complaining about having to be a pundit for the New Zealand V Slovakia game today, well Alan, i'm more than willing to trade places and wages, and i'll even have a look at who actually plays for each team as well so I could maybe impart a bit of useful knowledge to viewers

  • Comment number 72.

    Right then, quite a few strongly-worded comments on here so I'll try to clarify the points I was trying to make in the blog.

    The common consensus here from aseems to be that Italy are not too old to win the World Cup, which is fair enough. Yes, I do think Cannavaro is past his best (he's retiring from international football after this tournament and is leaving Serie A to play in Dubai) but I don't think the same of every player over 30.

    That's why I brought Seedorf (who, as 66 says is still a top-class midfielder at the age of 34) into my blog: to say that age isn't a factor - performance is all that matters.

    But I do feel that the side is too reliant on it's 2006 stalwarts - not enough of the new faces Lippi has brought in have done it at international level yet, for all their success domestically (a good example of this is Antonio Di Natale). That might be down to Lippi, though?

    So the headline to this piece might be slightly misleading because the more pressing concerns I raise are the Azzurri's lack of ideas going forward - not just in Monday's game, but in their recent friendly matches... this is what has led to the criticism and pessimism back home in Italy before the tournament (not from me, but from Italian press and fans).

    On that note, I'm also looking forward to Andrea Pirlo coming back, because I thought last night's performance (against a largely unambitious Paraguay side, who still created a number of chances) was a bit one-dimensional, save for the excellent Pepe (again, this is in the blog).

    I'll also point out again that I am not writing Italy off, merely saying that on current form (pre-tournament and in that first game) they are no better than a quarter-final team at best (losing to Spain is my prediction - what do you think?).

    That's not a bad thing - I'd say 75% of the teams in SA would bite your hands off if you offered a last-eight spot now - but, for me, the defending champions should probably have loftier ambitions.

    Apologies too for failing to foresee the Gazzetta della Sport's take on the match but that wasn't my intention either - all I can report is that the Italian journalists I spoke to after the match were less than impressed with what they had seen.

    I'm not expecting anything other than an Italy win against New Zealand on Sunday (and still think they will top their group) but let's hope they show a little bit more imagination going forward. Oh, and Lippi needs to decide on his best formation and best team - quickly!

  • Comment number 73.

    Poor blog, why?

    Marchisio - Centre of the park is 24
    De Rossi - Stalwart is 26
    Criscito - Full back is 23
    Montolivo - Centre of the park is 25
    Forwards Pepe and Gilardino are 26 and 27
    Chiellini is 25

    Who are these creaking bodies? Cannavaro and Buffon?

    Ridiculous. This is one of the youngest teams in the competition.

    Zambrotta and Cannavaro are getting on a bit, but all the other positions are filled by relatively young players.

    Average age of the Italian starting XI has to be below England, Brazil, Spain etc

  • Comment number 74.

    As a football lover, I just can not stand the Italian team. For decades now what the Italians play is anti-football, despite having real creative talents in their cadre (most of the times anyway). Many will argue that results is what matter, i agree, but killing football is not ok. Building a defensive wall in the field, waiting for the opponents to make a mistake and zero initiative are some of the enduring characteristics of Italian football. No other major footballing nation is so negative in their approach to the game. And God help the football fan if Italy takes a 1-0 lead. I mean every team at some point need to revert to defensive tactics, given the circumstances and availability of talents. But Italy is permanently negative. They go out into the match to defend and wait for the others to make a mistake. This extreme conservative outlook on football makes the Italian team completely unsympathetic to me. So i wish, no i know, the Italians will be out in the knock out stage. Bring on the young, the cool and the risk-takers. Long live football.

  • Comment number 75.


    I think the reoccuring theme here is that you are continually referring to "Italy show their age", "reliance on 2006 stalwarts" when this is clearly wrong.

    just compare the staring line up yesterday and that of the berlin final in 2006. it's clearly a much rejuvenated team yet you keep saying the opposite.

    nobody is claiming we are going to win the world cup but lippi has actually gone to great effort to replace key players of the 2006 team like totti, del piero, toni, grosso and materazzi. if these guys, the real stalwarts of 2006 were still there then yes you would have a point.

  • Comment number 76.

    I remember the EC 2008. The combined age of their starting 11 was probably even higher then. They lost 0:3 in the first game and played dismally. But they improved and were the only team to give Spain a fight and were very unlucky to lose to them in the quarter finals.

  • Comment number 77.

    Sorry Chris but your still totally wrong. This Italian is backing them all the way on what I have seen so far.

  • Comment number 78.

    The BBC seem to be collectively ignoring the fact that Paraguay are a decent side. How would England have coped against them if they played like Saturday?

    Lazy journalism - the story was written before the game.

  • Comment number 79.

    the only team to have won more world cups are brazil, yet Italy have still never been favourites!! Could you imagine it was England that had won 4 Cups they wouldnt only be favourites every 4 yrs they'd be getting medals of honors just for getting into the squad!!!

    King or Cannavaro?
    Green or Buffon?
    Cole or Zambrotta?

    I rest my case!!
    take the england glasses off, a draw for england means they will win the WC and a draw for Italy means they have nothing upfront? I'm sorry, "best player in the world" rooney, how many shots did he have on target? lampard, gerard were about as square in midfield as the guys in the studio!!

    How old is Puyol? he's still good enough to be in the spain team?

    The reason England (the premiership) isnt going to win the world cup is because they are unable to spend SKYs' money to have the foreigners in an england shirt!

    forza italia

  • Comment number 80.

    I don't think Italy deserves such a bad review. It's true that the first half of the game was unimpressive, but this is usually a time when teams study each other. The second half was pretty good though; the Italian team tried brilliant solutions. Besides, England vs. Usa has been far more a shameful match...I wasn't sure which team was courting the other more!

  • Comment number 81.

    LOL just at the beginning ... and some bla bla bla. For a BBC's journalist I was expecting something more, or if you like something less cheap.

    But however no beats around the bush.

    Yes, Italy always had a lot of detractors. Why??? For the most part, jealousy and envy. Yes we never had that kind of champagne football that Barcelona or Brazil can show, but we always have been tough. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the last Champion League won by MANU, was practically won applying that "dirty" Italian module "contain and strike back". The Multinational Inter FC Milan won the last one applying the same dirty module, proposed by a coach who, there in England, is revered and respected like a guru. That Jose Mourinho has displayed how can be possible to win without playing football. Don't even think to mention "but Inter FC Milan is an Italian team", because is simply not true. The 11 on the pitch were foreigners plus the coach Portuguese.
    However, even if you don't like these Italy's squad, and I bet the 2006 one's too, it is the most prized team in Europe when it comes to talk about World Champion Cup.

    Note 1 on the match. Paraguay scored in the only one occasion had during all over the match, taking advantage on a non-existent free kick.
    Note 2 on the match. Paraguay should remained in 10 men after just 1 minute, when one of their players just fouled one of the azzurri.

    Italians media have been always against the Italian team, since 2006 and the Calciopoli scandal, because of Lippi and his history with Juventus ... these "journalists", which of course I have no respect at all, they did it 4 years ago and they will eventually "jump" on the bandwagon in case of winning ... 4 years ago, they asked to the FIGC (Italian Football Association) to force out Lippi. So in your next encounter with one of the Italian "journalists" just do not loose your perspective. Analyze the fact.

    I will do that.

    Yes we have "seasoned" players and a bunch of kids less experienced, but it is the exact reflection of the Italian football championship. When you have destroyed a team like Juventus (do not open the pandora box here, otherwise you could discover a truth that anyone is mentioning), always offered to the Italian team 5-7 top players (1982 - 7 players Zoff, Gentile, Cabrini, Scirea, Causio, Rossi, Tardelli ... 2006 - Buffon, Cannavaro, Zambrotta, Del Piero, Camoranesi), when you have the Champions League winners made by 11 not-Italian players (but Inter FC Milan almost always did that), you can understand that could be difficult, assembling a top national team.

    Once I said that, yesterday's match was just the first one. I do not think we played in a bad way. I did not see any of the "bigs" to play a great match except for Germany (but honestly we have to say, Australia was very very very poor).

    I completely agree with the irrelevance to have an early form or how we like to say "running at 1000 km/h the first 2-3 matches and finish the fuel when the game becomes interesting".

    Regarding the age, if you look better there are a mixed group of very experienced and new kids on the block. What I think is except for Marchisio and Chiellini, we do not have potential champions there, but only good and very good players.

    I believe that, if we pass the first round, we will say something in the World Cup Tournament... as always has been, as always will be. Hopefully.

    Nicola from Dublin

  • Comment number 82.

    You chose an ill thought out headline(if indeed you did choose it) but it has had the desired effect and you illicited lots of comments.

    Clearly, the Italian squad is not too old, if you compare it to the other contenders.

    Second two players were at fault for the goal that Italy conceded; Cannavaro did not track the run and Di Rossi failed to see the danger and attack the cross. However, Cannavaro and Di Rossi, the goal aside, were two of Italy's best players and Di Rossi returned to a more defensive role almost as soon as he secured the equaliser.

    Paraguay were a much more difficult opponent than the UK press expected but not so those who are more outward looking and had studied their record and previous performances.

    Italy played well as a team for long periods of the match in difficult conditions and they certainly wanted to win the match as was seen by their attitude in the second half. More worrying for Italy, who do tend to start slowly is who will create goal scoring chances? If Pirlo plays will he be the answer? Not entirely in my opinion. He needs a fantasista to play in front of him. PIrlo usually picks the ball up deep and needs someone further up the park to link with. Unfortunately for Italy, Cassano seems to cause more trouble than he is worth and no suitable no 10 with the skills of Baggio, Mancini or Totti has been uncovered.

    The team has some decent forwards but they need amunition, none of them will win you a game on their own. When a game is tight and two good, well organised teams are cancelling each other out you need a player who can create from nothing. Does Italy have a suitable player in the squad? I doubt it but time will tell whether Monolivio or Marchisio or someone else can rise to the challenge.

  • Comment number 83.

    The way I saw it: Italy looked very ordinary against a average team, they lacked invention in midfield and looked very slow in defence ( if that's even possible for an Italian team!) You are right to say Italy always seem to come good but will they this time? .. Age doesn't really matter, Italy just don't seem to be at a level of previous WC so I hate to say I really do think they will struggle this time. Finally, I notice alot of you seem to take a dig at the England team .. well if it makes you feel better then carry on it doesn't change the fact that the Italian team this time is not in Spain, Brazil, Argentina or even Germany's league... this is a fact.. by the way how can Italy not include Mario Balotelli he frightens teams with his pace and quality ...seems strange to me!

  • Comment number 84.

    Chris Bevan wrote the obvious! ... sometimes it hurts! if Italy have the luck of previous compititions then they will go far... but luck runs out sooner or later! ... by the way... Italy won two of their 4 WC when no one was interested in it!... Italy like England will be lucky to get to the quarters, look at Holland, Germany, Argentina ... Spain & Brazil do you really think Italy can compete against these teams?... me thinks not!

  • Comment number 85.

    This piece is naive at best.

    1) Average age of Italy team was 28, the same as England's

    2) Who would you have picked in place of the 11 selected last night?

    3) You were surprised at the Italian press reaction to the selection of Cannavaro. Do you remember what the English press were like when Beckham was recalled?

    4) As numerous others have said, this was Italy's first game. Are you perhaps reading too much into it? Do you remember the lessons of history and Italy's slow starts in 1982 and 1994?

  • Comment number 86.

    Average age of the Italian squad is 28. Good grief - is that old? I'm 50 and can still kick a ball about! LOL

  • Comment number 87.

    Italy may have an aging team but we also have the best manager in the tournament on the bench. Lippi is quite simply a genius, and if anyone knows how to get the best out of the current crop of players it is him.

    I thought we were OK last night. Gilardino, Di Natale, Pazzini - all have the potential to spring into life and with Pirlo to come back we have plenty of reason to hope things will improve.

    My biggest worry before the competition started was our defence rather than our attack.

  • Comment number 88.

    Constant references to the age of Italy's team are at best hackneyed and derivative and at worst fatuous. Italy drew, not lost (let's clarify), against Paraguay for three reasons: (1) they lack quality in a number of key positions (2) they lack a creative player in midfield who could pick out the 'off-the-shoulder' runs of Gilardino, Pepe and Iaquinta and (3) the formation failed to get the best out of the players they have and to compensate for a natural (not age related) lack of pace. Iaquinta is too slow to play wide and would have been more influential from a central position. Similarly it is instructive that the team looked more balanced once Camaronesi was introduced

    Despite the fact that the average age of Italy's first eleven is a reasonably sprightly 28, there seems a clear media agenda to make 'age' the story of Italy's World Cup. Of course Cannavaro isn't the player he was in 2006, it would be ridiculous to think that he could be. He may have had a poor season in Seria A but at international level he is still extremely competent and, as others have suggested, a cut above what many of the other leading contenders can offer in the same position - particularly England. Cannavaro has been, arguably, the best defender in the world for a number of years, certainly in what may be termed the post-Maldini (Maldini's prime anyway) era.

    Rather than pick up on the slight defensive failings of the Azzuri, why not congratulate Alcaraz for getting between two markers and into the only position in which he could have scored, and then for finishing with aplomb. Further, Cannavaro was clearly coming across from a position on the right to try to cut out the cross and it was De Rossi who was tasked with challenging the header.

    Italy always start slowly, lets save the eulogies for a time when they are more appropriate.

  • Comment number 89.

    I think you're judging the Italians by English standards. They always do best when they they have low expectations, start slowly, disappoint, frustrate and scrape through. When they get to the knock out phase however their love of the dramatic kicks in and I would back them against anyone. Remember in '82 they knocked out the mighty, unbeatable Brazil on the way to winning the tournament after a very poor group stage. England by contrast always start with high expectations, stutter, regroup, scrap through and then go out in predictable fashion to one of the more fancied teams.

  • Comment number 90.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 91.

    "by the way how can Italy not include Mario Balotelli he frightens teams with his pace and quality ...seems strange to me!"

    Same reason Cassano isn't included, he's an ego that has the potential to disrupt unity in the camp. One reason Italy have been pretty successful at these tournaments is that they are totally united, and every player puts Italy before their own ego (something England's players need to learn to do).

  • Comment number 92.

    Oh dear, it's the cliches and steroetyping I can't stand.
    As so many people have already pointed out Italy are NOT the oldest squad or team - so why bring it up as an issue?
    The second boring, repetitive stereotype is the 'negative' tag that is constantly labelled at Italy. Shearer trotted that one out so many times during half time last night that all I could shout at the TV was 'show us your medals, Shearer' . . .

    Last night is was teaming with rain and Paraguay defended very solidly - or in the words of Mourinho, they 'parked the bus'. Italy were not electric and I don't think anyone here expects them to win the World Cup. (But then they've already been in six finals so we can wait)
    Just please stop the cliches - no more mention of age and no more mention of 'negative' football or 'killing the game'. It's lazy, it's stereotyping and it's far from the truth. Being the second most succesful nation in World football after Brazil is not negative.

  • Comment number 93.

    It's not particularly surprising that the Italians have been critisized for their performance against Paraguay by the media and the fans considering they are renowned for not getting behind their side unril the quarter finals at least.

    I guess it's just the Italian mentality, especially in football, - they expect success.

  • Comment number 94.

    A blog about an Italian manager's misguided decision to fill his team with over the hill thirtysomethings, resulting in a disappointing 1-1 draw against some no-hopers?

    Can't we have a blog that ISN'T about England for a change?

  • Comment number 95.

    You've taken a fair bit of stick for your blog so I won't add to it - in essence this Azzurri team has what it takes to go the distance in Sth Africa....I accept that with Pirlo injured it lacks a creative spark in the mould of Baggio, Del Piero etc but I still believe this team can beat most of the competition in this World Cup. The first half they began ok but soon petered out as Paraguay's organisation paid dividends - the 2nd half was a much better performance particularly once Camonaresi and Di Natale came on. I'm amazed that barely any mention was made by the Beeb's pundits over the appalling challenge on Montelivio early on which was a potential leg breaker or indeed that the freekick that led to the goal was not a freekick....that said for a period of the game I thought Paraguay would "out Italy" Italy and win 1-0.....but trust there's considerable life in Lippi's "old dogs" yet

  • Comment number 96.

    I would like to see Lippi fielding this formation against New Zealand:

    Zambrotta, Chiellini, Cannavaro, Criscito
    Camoranesi, De Rossi, Montolivo, Pepe
    Di Natale, Pazzini

  • Comment number 97.

    Chris, your blog isn't too bad at all - fairly accurate I would say being Italian myself.

    However, you are being just as negative as the Italian press you so happily criticise in the fourth paragraph.

    The lesson to learn really is that it was the newer players who didn't really do Italy justice - not necessarily the older ones so the blog is flawed in that respect. Apart from Montolivo I was quite disappointed. Pepe is quick but not a good reader of the game and was on a different wavelength to the rest of the team. He kept giving the ball away.

    But Cannavaro did have an overall good game and the goal was quite bizarre. But hey - we won it last year and you can't win it all the time - quarter/semis and we should be happy.

    PS Don't think England were any better!!!

  • Comment number 98.

    I do think the whole thing re age etc is completly misleading - The article is correct in most of the things that it says - Whether you are the oldest or third oldest squad is irrelevant, if you are not playing decent football then you will win nothing.

    I am the son of Italian immigrants, I speak the language fluently and my two best sporting moments have been in 1982 and four year ago when we lifted the throphy. However this team in my opinion does not have the guile to win the trophy this year. The gane last night showed a true lack of flair or invention, we were too easily knocked off the ball, our passes didn't go where they should have done and why Lippi uses Gilardino ahead of Di Natale I will never know.

    I do think we will get better, i do think we will beat Spain if we meet them in the quarters as I think our spoiling game will do for them. Win it? well after beating Spain you can never say never, but I need to be convinced by some better displays, like always lets just wait and see with Italy.

    For all of you who keep going on about Cassano, if he was any good he would have been here.Lippi left him at home for a reason and unlike most of you I am still to be convinced that he made the wrong call here - to me leaving Rossi out is a much stranger decision.

    Lets get behind them and Chris Bevan keep that mind open and keep questioning the performances - I like you wait to be convinced about this Italian side - old age or not it is simple fotballing skill that I want to see

  • Comment number 99.

    Welcome to all the Italians commenting on this blog - makes the discussion nicely international. It would be nice too if they would contribute sometimes to blogs about countries other than Italy. People from other countries too - it would broaden the debates here out from the narrow British-centred view of the footballing world. Benvenuto!

  • Comment number 100.

    Italy dominated yesterday, Paraguay made one shot on goal, they are big cheaters in my opinion, and there was a straight red card for a foul against Montolivo in the first 10 minutes.
    Don't write off Italy....


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