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Does Prandelli really have the answers for Italy?

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Phil Minshull | 17:18 UK time, Monday, 11 October 2010

This was supposed to be the brave new era for Italian football. At least, that was the headline which appeared in World Soccer not long after Cesare Prandelli's appointment as coach of the Azzurri.

There were also plenty of similar ones in the domestic media back home in Italy. However, a series of unconvincing results, including last Friday's 0-0 draw against Northern Ireland in Belfast, has meant the knives are now out for the 53-year-old former Fiorentina coach.

There have already been calls for his head but, as everyone is well aware, at this time of year there are very few men who are available to replace him. So it would appear Italy are stuck with him for a little while longer.

That could all change if Italy fail to impress against Serbia in Genoa on Tuesday. With no competitive fixture until next March after that game, there have been suggestions that the men who run the Italian football federation may well contemplate appointing someone new in December or January.

To be fair, Prandelli seemed like a good choice after the World Cup debacle this summer, presided over by Marcello Lippi. Prandelli appeared to be a solid man able to steady the ship and, almost as importantly, to restore public faith.



The spotlight is on Prandelli after the 0-0 draw with Northern Ireland. Photograph: AFP

Despite winning Serie B with Hellas Verona over a decade ago, that is his only honour as a club coach. However, his five years at Fiorentina made him the club's longest serving coach and he constantly overachieved on limited resources without ever adding to their trophy cabinet.

"He does possess a warmth, openness and charm that make for a stark contrast with his predecessor," said The Guardian's Paolo Bandini before the Northern Ireland match.

However, a nice smile and good manners may not be enough to keep Prandelli in his job if Italy's strikers continue to fail so abysmally in front of goal as they have been doing.

Life has possibly been made even more difficult for Prandelli because Serbia inexplicably crashed 3-1 at home to Estonia to leave Group C wide open, although Italy are still in pole position with seven points from their three games.

"It makes Tuesday's game more complicated," said Prandelli after news of the result in Belgrade had been received and its implications digested. "I would have preferred a Serbia that was not wounded because they will do anything to overturn any forecast."

You cannot say that Prandelli has not tried to ring the changes since he was appointed on 2 July in a bid to give the 2006 World Cup winners a fighting chance of adding to their one and only European Championship success, which came in 1968. There were a whole host of new faces for his first game in charge as Italy went down 1-0 to Ivory Coast at Upton Park on 10 August.

Prandelli responded to the public clamour Lippi had ignored and brought back the so-called bad boy of Italian football, Antonio Cassano, after a fine season with Sampdoria. He also gave Mario Balotelli, another player with a controversial reputation, his debut, which might have played some small part in clinching his move to Manchester City.

It was ultimately all to no avail for Prandelli, whose critics received more ammunition when Italy opened their Euro 2012 campaign with a scrappy 2-1 win in Estonia. I have to confess I have only seen the goals from that game but, by coincidence, I was in Tallinn the following week and my friends there were feeling very hard done by.

Prandelli's men did better against the Faroe Islands in Florence, winning 5-0. While the Faroes are hardly the strongest opponents and no real measure of a top team's true ability, they came along just at the right time for Italy to restore their morale with an emphatic win.

Or that's what should have happened but where is the team's confidence now after failing to score for the second time in four games? Gazzetta Dello Sport said in its analysis of the Northern Ireland match that "the attackers can't see the net".

Taking the five goals against the Faroe Islands out of the equation, Italy have now only scored eight goals from their last nine games. It does not matter whether it has been Cassano, Marco Boriello, Antonio Di Natale, Alberto Gilardino, Vincenzo Iaquinta or Simone Pepe up front, the goals have not been going in with any frequency.

But Prandelli's efforts to change the make-up of the side that failed so miserably in South Africa have not been entirely in vain. He dispensed with the services of Cagliari's Frederico Marchetti, Gigi Buffon's back-up in South Africa, and Morgan De Sanctis, the other keeper in the squad.

Instead, he opted to use Palermo's Salvatore Sirigu against Ivory Coast and Estonia before giving the gloves to Bologna's Emiliano Viviano, who looked confident and assured against Northern Ireland even if he admitted he is probably keeping the place between the posts warm until Buffon has recovered from his sciatic nerve problem and recent back surgery.

Prandelli's decision to recall Stefano Mauri for the Northern Ireland and Serbia games - Mauri had not having played for the national team for three years - also looked inspired, although some might call it desperate despite the midfielder's great form for Lazio.

But let's leave Prandelli to have the last word, especially as the spotlight is well and truly on him. "When I see some report on the Azzurri that I do not like, I start reading a book. And these days I read many pages," he said on Friday.

How avidly Prandelli is browsing the bookshops across Italy later this week will be determined by his new-look team's ability to fulfil their abundant - but up to now wasted - potential on Tuesday.

Comments on this blog in the space below. Other questions on European football to: europeanfootball@hotmail.co.uk. I don't need your full address but please put the town/city and country where you come from.

Q) I wondered how you thought SC Frieburg might do this season and whether the goals of Cisse might be enough just to keep Die Breisgau's heads above water?
Alex Massey, Nottingham

A) Well, seven goals in seven games is a great return for Papiss Demba Cisse, who leads the Bundesliga scorers at the moment. He has certainly filled the vacuum that some people thought would be left by the departure of Mohammadou Idrissou. A lot will depend on the usual variables of injuries and suspensions further down the line as Freiburg do not appear to have much talent in reserve on the bench. But even though they may slip down from their current fifth place, I don't see them collapsing and getting relegated.

Q) Hi Phil, was wondering if you could provide us with an update on the form and progress of Aquilani for Juventus this season?
Chris Bamford, Sheffield, England

A) I have not been too impressed with what I have seen of him so far in a Juventus shirt. Of course, it may be that he is taking time to adapt to his new team after playing only four games in Serie A since being signed on loan from Liverpool. I saw some of last week's 0-0 draw with Inter Milan and he appears to be struggling to gel with his team-mates, with too many passes not finding their intended man.

Comments

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  • 1. At 7:51pm on 11 Oct 2010, yousef738 wrote:

    I feel that the Italian press were harsh towards Prandelli against Northern Ireland. Remember that NI have an excellent home record and have beaten the Czechs, Poland, England, Sweden and the famous 3-2 victory against world champions Spain, which I remember fondly when Fabregas kicked the ball away in digsust at the final whistle.

    But Italy are a team in transition but if Italy lose against Serbia or do not qualify then the knives will surely pierce what goodwill Prandelli has left with the Italian FA.

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  • 2. At 8:04pm on 11 Oct 2010, JoC wrote:

    Interesting blog Phil..A draw in Belfast isn't such a bad result though and coupled with Serbia's propensity to self-destruct Prandelli might actually consider the 'open' nature of the group to be a blessing in the long run as that point might prove crucial. The Azzuri do seem to be missing that spark of imagination in attack, with no new Baggio or Zola on the horizon but they have a habit of sneaking through the qualifiers no matter what..just ask Scotland and the Republic - I hope Northern Ireland can capture the other spot this time around.

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  • 3. At 8:09pm on 11 Oct 2010, ozza33 wrote:

    Great Blog as usual Phil.
    I generally think that the problem with Italy is that the standard of Serie A has rapidly declined over the last 5 years (The match fixing scandal didn't help things either). This has had a knock on effect to the national team, which isn't producing the talent that was so amazing beforehand and culminated in them winning the World Cup in 2006, as well as this the brand of football that is played in Italy is setting them back, compared to other countries like Spain and Germany.

    About a decade ago I would of ranked Serie A as the best league in the world, nowadays IMO it is fourth behind La Liga, Premier League and Bundesliga. The Italian authorities have to sort it out before it starts to stagnate.

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  • 4. At 10:25pm on 11 Oct 2010, U14357625 wrote:

    Agree with all the comments so far. Drawing in Belfast is no disgrace, regardless of the standard of the current Italian team. They will qualify, but will probably do it the hard way.

    http://footballfutbolfitba.wordpress.com/

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  • 5. At 11:20pm on 11 Oct 2010, Ferry_Arab wrote:

    Prandelli has, I believe, been making noises about bringing back Francesco Totti. I love Totti (criminally under-rated for many years, especially by large sections of the British media, in my humble opinion), and although I'm sure he'd score and/or create a few goals in the short term he's getting on a bit now and I doubt he'll be anywhere near the peak of his powers by the time the Euros roll around.

    This is indicative of the problems facing Prandelli and Italy. I really don't see many quality young players coming through - the amount of debutants they have had recently in their late 20s shows that these were players not good enough to play when the likes of Totti, Cannavaro, Del Piero et al were regulars, who are now being selected because a new generation hasn't really come along.

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  • 6. At 05:45am on 12 Oct 2010, Tony wrote:

    While I agree that the Italian league has gone down a notch or two compared to La liga and the
    IPL, I disagree regarding Italy not having rising young talent. I watch the Serie A and IPL weekly and all
    of Italy's national team games, Including the U21's. The U21's, despite having a high turnover, always seems
    to produce quality football. I watched them play against Belarus (who are actually very good) and quite a few players stood out. Santon was outstanding and really stood out, but Fabrini, schelotto, De silvestre were
    also outstanding. Lets not forget that Italy's U21 team has won the European championship 5 times within
    the past 7-8 years. A feat, I believe, unrivaled by any other nation. Moreover, I really think Prandelli is doing
    a decent job with the senior squad. He has them playing some quality attacking football. They just need to brush
    up on their finishing. They created many chances against N. Ireland-that's important. If they continue creating
    as many chances in their upcoming games, they will eventually find the back of the net.

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  • 7. At 06:22am on 12 Oct 2010, tony palumbo wrote:

    Dear Sir,
    Would you kindly show me one single Italian newspaper, magazine, TV or radio program that suggests Prandelli should be sacked?
    I have not seen any.
    Many thanks

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  • 8. At 07:45am on 12 Oct 2010, Ronnie_McFall_And_His_Talented_Toupee wrote:

    Having attended last Fridays game, I thought the Italians played a rather controlled game, but rarely did it look like they ever really wanted to push on for the victory. A formation that allowed the classic regista, Pirlo, to excel at his usual intricate probing and build-up play. The deep lying Pirlo caused NI problems in that one of the forwards ended up dropping deep to try and subdue his midfield tinkerings. But whilst the formation allows Pirlo to prosper, it hasnt really worked further up the field - whether thats down to tactics or playing staff is hugely debatable.

    However, whilst the likes of Pirlo, De Rossi & Mauri couldnt be faulted for their build up play, invention and industry on the night - the same cannot be said for the 3 forwards picked on the night by Prandelli. Cassano did offer some threat as he pulled wide left, often beating McAuley at right back, but yet either cut back into traffic or found there was no ball to play into the box. Boriello had one great chance which was saved by the imperious Maik Taylor, whilst Pepe just ran.

    Therein lies the problem, whilst we were able to 'enjoy' holding one of the true giants of world football historically to a draw - many of the locals left the ground feeling that it was a chance missed to take another big scalp under the Windsor Park lights. A chance that was lost because this Azzurri side is one that is truly lacking a world class finisher, a player that can really hurt defences with his striking abilities. The NI defence once again held firm, playing above themselves once again yet at the same time, never being fully stretched to their limits by the azzurri front three.

    I think that the lack of quality forwards is more indicative of serie A itself, as most the top sides in the division are playing with stranieri in their forward lines as opposed to top class Italians. I'm not sure if Prandelli is the man for the job but one things for sure, any coach would struggle currently with the personnel available to them for the Nazionale.

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  • 9. At 08:55am on 12 Oct 2010, signori wrote:

    Italy are still in pole position with seven points from their three games.

    im not too worried for my team yet as this sentence clearly shows.

    Youth is needed to be brought in and fast, I dont care what people say i want Mario Balotelli in my squad, hopefully Prandelli will give him that chance. Cassano, Marco Boriello, Antonio Di Natale, Alberto Gilardino, Vincenzo Iaquinta or Simone Pepe........the list is long but we lack a top class striker to score goals on the big stage. Im a big fan of Iaquinta and Cassano but getting the balance right is a tough job.

    Our team performnce against Northern ireland wasnt all as bad as the press made out to be, as previously mentioned NI home record is strong.

    Disagree with the Serie A being in decline in the last 5 years, the current holders of the champions elague may disagree with that. The common lazy journalism of Serie A is all you hear in the UK about it being slow etc etc and without the TV coverage here then thats all people rely on sadly.

    Prandelli HAS to bring Totti back in my opinion, the guy to me is a legend and a n amazing player, one that could inspire greatness among his team mates, he has his moments on and off the pitch which has lead to heavy criticism but largely he is know for his talents on it. Whether he has the legs for the next Euro's we will see,

    I also would like to see the evidence for the so called 'sacking of Prandelli'......

    I think that the lack of quality forwards is more indicative of serie A itself...........

    while this is mostly untrue, I do agree that the top strikers are sadly not Italian.

    The next game against Serbia is so crucial.......


    Signori

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  • 10. At 09:08am on 12 Oct 2010, stiffpilchard wrote:

    Have to disagree with you Tony when you say Italy created many chances. I was at the game on Friday night and can only recall one clear cut chance for Italy and one for Northern Ireland. There were other half chances but neither side created many openings. Italy played OK and Windsor Park is not an easy place to come to, so a point is not a bad result for Italy. I think they still should have enough to qualify and I can only hope that it is alongside Northern Ireland.

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  • 11. At 09:42am on 12 Oct 2010, tomefccam wrote:

    Cheers there Phil.

    If we think we lack talent in England compared to the past. Then Italia is having an Horror. Considering they won a world cup just 4 years.

    What they wouldn't give for a new Inzaghi, Ravanelli, Vialli, Del Piero, Zola, Casiraghi boys who were never an automatic striker for the Azzuris.

    The talent isn't there no more. Chiellini is average, no Cannavarro, Nesta, Maldini, Baresi, Costacurta.

    The only deep lying playmaker they have is Cassano, who is an unfulfilled talent. Years ago they could pick from Beppe Signori, Mancini, Baggio, Totti, Del Piero, even Paolo Di Canio would walk into this side. Who could not win a capo.

    Who is generalising the midfield, a player from a top club? A Albertini? A Dinio Baggio? A Damiano Tommassi? A Ludvigio Di Biagio? NO, this is poor.

    How about your full backs? It just is not there i'm afraid.

    Cheers though Phil but problems lie mucho deeper

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  • 12. At 10:00am on 12 Oct 2010, signori wrote:

    tomefccam

    rather the last 4 years than none in over 40..............anyway

    What they wouldn't give for a new Inzaghi, Ravanelli, Vialli, Del Piero, Zola, Casiraghi boys who were never an automatic striker for the Azzuris.

    couldnt agree more on this point though, what i would give for any of these in there prime. I have my fingers crossed for Balotelli....... but many dont want to even see him near the squad.

    Chiellini is average...........disagree with this point though, I respect all peoples opinions but I beleive he is a quality player.

    De Rossi and Pirlo are still world class........maybe the recall of Totti? there is new blood coming through, just very slowly. I have hope in Prandelli but the future is a bit scary considering its all a bit silent on the future young stars...........

    Full backs.........not sure im too worried about full backs, its scoring goals thats the problem.

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  • 13. At 10:44am on 12 Oct 2010, Vox Populi wrote:

    Where is this team's Roberto Baggio? Where is this team's Maldini, or Baresi?

    Italy cannot call upon such talents at the moment so it is worthless blaming the coach. The fact that del Piero and Totti are still two of the best forwards in the Italian game should make people realise that the 'special' young players are not coming through. This is an average Italian generation compared to their predecessors, which is why a successful coach Lippi allegedly failed with them. Don't blame Prandelli. The gap between the supposed 'large nations' and the small nations in world football is diminishing. Italy don't have great players at the moment to make them a special side.

    Italy should keep faith with Prandelli as sacking him would achieve little.

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  • 14. At 10:57am on 12 Oct 2010, Hovig wrote:

    Can Mr Minshull reveal his sources with regards to the knives being now out for Prandelli and that "there have already been calls for his head"? I've seen nothing in the Italian media or public opinion that evenly remotely suggests such extreme and premature sentiments.

    Italy is top of its group still, and as others commented already, a draw in Belfast is better than the achievement of other top teams at that venue. After the disaster and utter humiliation at this summer's World Cup for the Italian team, everybody realizes Prandelli needs time to rebuild the team.

    The quality of the analysis and reporting in this particular blog is very poor and weak. Maybe Mr Minshull should just focus on writing on Spanish football.

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  • 15. At 10:59am on 12 Oct 2010, matteobaggio wrote:

    I have to say going to Ireland and getting a point is not a bad result. They are a good team and at home will cause many a shock, the important thing for my beloved Azzuri is getting the three points at home against Serbia. I watch Italian football and support Napoli, i don't think our problem lies with skillful players as Italy have many talented young players coming though. Where we lack is up front, we don't have a top finisher at the moment the last good finisher we had was Vieri in my opinion.

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  • 16. At 11:52am on 12 Oct 2010, Azzurriblade wrote:

    Give the guy a break, 7 points from a possible 9 and top of group is no bad return, neither is a draw in Northern Ireland...where other teams have visited and come unstuck!
    Agreed Faroe Islands are cannon fodder but Estonia and the other old eastern bloc countries are no mugs and coming away with 3 points from these places is a great result.

    Not sure where the 'knives' are coming from, I follow italian football closey and havent seen anything??

    Italy will come good, the talent is there...Balotelli, Ranocchia, Bonucci, De Silvestri, Cassano, they just need time along with their coach to gel.

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  • 17. At 12:21pm on 12 Oct 2010, Stevat wrote:

    Ravanelli, Casiraghi? Are people only going to mention players who played in England as not being replaced? What of the likes of Vieri who was arguably the best striker in the world at one point? Or as a few have mentioned Totti, such a superb footballer and sorely missed by Italy. I'd argue it's almost impossible to replace players of that ilk, but Italian football hasn't helped itself.

    Ultimately, English football is going the same way and for the same reasons. When the league took off financially speaking, all and sundry wanted a piece of the action. So suddenly teams were importing players as they didn't necessarily have to undertake the arduous task of actually developing a player. Ten years later and some of the young players have carved out decent careers but most have fallen by the wayside having not been presented the opportunity to learn and develop at a critical time in their careers.

    Here's hoping the likes of Balotelli, Giovinco (now at Parma for the same reasons listed above) and Santon for Italy, Wilshere, Shelvey and Rodwell for England push on and achieve good things.

    By the way, does anyone know what happened to the young lad who played for Napoli and Treviso, (Russotto maybe?) heard he was to be the heir apparent to Roberto Baggio.

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  • 18. At 12:27pm on 12 Oct 2010, Flan1 wrote:

    Looks like you've spent too long in Spain Phil. Calling for the coach's head? He hasnt lost a competative game, I like others, would like to see your sources for Italians wanting him sacked. At least he'll have till December though?

    As for recalling Mauri, it does seem absured that a manager would pick players based on form.

    Please dont write about subjects you have not done enough research into.

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  • 19. At 12:39pm on 12 Oct 2010, helicon1 wrote:

    My knowledge of Italian football isn't so great but if the national team are struggling for goals then shouldn't Giuseppe Rossi be given a chance in the starting team?

    For a young striker he has scored well for Villareal over the past few seasons and seems to have had a good start to the current season.

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  • 20. At 1:26pm on 12 Oct 2010, Mikey wrote:

    This is mental... top of the group and the only points dropped come at a place where (as pointed out many times above) a lot of similar sized nations have either been beaten or dropped the same points.. I don't understand what more a manager can do..

    People asking where are the Baggios, Maldinis etc.. There is a reason these type of players are called World Class and thats because they only come round once in a while..

    I will disagree on one point though and that is the re-introduction of Totti.. Sublime player but too much of a risk for a new coach trying to gel a team together.. him coming in on the supposed white horse could cause fractions between existing squad members and to be completely honest when I saw him play live on tv last he looked unfit and slightly overweight to me.

    One thing the Italians should be happy about is the fact that a certain Paddy McCourt was not playing!!!

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  • 21. At 1:42pm on 12 Oct 2010, Chris Wilby wrote:

    Hey all, I get to watch the Italian league now and then, and although my knowledge of the league and Italian football in general isn't that great, I must say there are a few things which really got my attention:
    the crowds are so small! I watched Udines against (can't remember against who) and I noticed just a few hundred people in the main stand oposite the camera. Is this usual for matches in the Serie A? And, if so, could this not be a problem? Playing in front of such small crowds, generating little money, it can hardly be motivating for players, right?

    Also, the matches I have seen have been really dull and slow-paced. Nothing really got me on the edge of my seat and gagging to see another match.

    Again, my knowlegde of the Italian league and Italian football in general is nog great, so my points may not be valid at all.

    I do miss all those italian legends though, Baggio (one of my heroes), Maldini (best defender ever imo), Costacurta, Zola, Vialli, Totti, Mancini, Signori! Glory days with fantastic players!

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  • 22. At 1:55pm on 12 Oct 2010, Ahad Shaukat wrote:

    Great blog Phil. Please reply to the comments and arguments posted by the readers .

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  • 23. At 2:17pm on 12 Oct 2010, matteobaggio wrote:

    Chris Wilby- Italian football has for a while been down in attendances that is due to economic reasons which has effected football in general, even in England attendances are down and disillusionment in football i.e high wages for players etc. Saying that Napoli have been getting big crowds this season and last season i was at 4 home games were the atmosphere was electric.

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  • 24. At 2:34pm on 12 Oct 2010, tomefccam wrote:

    17. At 12:21pm on 12 Oct 2010, Stevat wrote:
    Ravanelli, Casiraghi? Are people only going to mention players who played in England as not being replaced? What of the likes of Vieri who was arguably the best striker in the world at one point?
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Hey well listen Stevat, You didn't read my point did you. I didn't mention a Vieri, Baggio, because they were the automatic 1st choice players. Casiraghi, Ravanelli were never 1st choice my friend. But if you want to just get Italian let's look at Lentini, how about Marco Simeone, tell me about a player like Dario Hubner who would walk into the team today. Pippo Maniero too, hey even Morris Ganz would get a game. They are struggling all the way there pal.

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  • 25. At 2:47pm on 12 Oct 2010, matteobaggio wrote:

    tomefccam- i agree with you about the quality players we have had in the past, we had a conveyor belt of talent once. I regard the Italian team of 1990 the best team i can remember never to win the world cup.
    But i also think there is a lot of up and coming talent in Italy, it takes time for a team to bed together and become a unit and believe we will still be capable of competing in the future.

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  • 26. At 2:54pm on 12 Oct 2010, Angelo Trofa wrote:

    To say that Prandelli is underfire is ridiculous, Italy are renowned slow starters. Indeed it was Lippi's side who lost to Iceland on his national duty debut, and laboured to wins in qualifying, if there is one thing that history has told us its that you can never write off the Azzurri.
    The comments about Italys lack of future talent is absolutely ridiculous, in last years U21 championships I cant remember seeing a better side with huge names, sure what they lack at the moment is the Vieri, but there is no lacking in future 'fantasisti', I just cant believe how a player with the quality of Rossi is being written off, give him 2 years and I am sure he will make the no.10 jersey his own. As for other young talents have people forgotten Santon, Ranocchia, Giovinco, Bonucci, Poli, De Silvestri and Kiko Macheda? the 2 newly bled keepers look like reassuring figures behind buffon who still has a world cup in him.
    With regards to Balotelli does any other nation have such a talent, although a tad crazy he is a man who at 18/19 could win a game on his own for Inter. I think that the future looks bright from here.

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  • 27. At 3:49pm on 12 Oct 2010, mayn wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 28. At 3:55pm on 12 Oct 2010, carlbyronrodgers wrote:

    The knives were already out before he was appointed.
    Case in point:
    When Donadoni was manager and though his contract was extended before the UEFA European championships it was not respected,as it had already been promised to Lippi (Post scandal)
    He lost in the Quarter final to the final winners Spain on penalties.
    Italy played against Spain without two key players Pirlo and Gattuso who stupidly got booked for senseless tackles and so missed the game.
    This is the tragic story of Italy and they have already promised the position to some one else.
    As for the team they are a bunch of mediocre players playing due to some hidden economical interest.
    After 25 years in the country I know only too well how things work.

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  • 29. At 4:28pm on 12 Oct 2010, dallew wrote:

    Italy seem to be doing just fine, look like qualifying with ease despite experimenting, though it's still early, and I suspect you are greatly overstating the pressure Prandelli is under although the Italian press is certainly impatient in some quarters. Then again, which national press isn't? They ARE a team in transition, but with some excellent talents years away from their prime to build on; De Rossi, Chiellini, Viviano, Bonucci, Criscito, Montolivo, Pazzini, Balotelli, Rossi etc. A lot of older players actually retired over the summer I think, which seems to have gone largely unnoticed. I don't quite get how the fielding of Mauri could be seen as "desperate" though. He may not be a household name in England but he's made an impressive start with Lazio, who have themselves started very strongly in Serie A.

    In any case it seems underestimating Italy and Italian football is a time-honoured British tradition (probably the case for every other nation) that has not let up even as Inter won the Champions League. Yes, with no Italian players and a great coach, but they weren't exactly comfortable in winning the league last season, and Roma were very unlucky not to take it from them. The decline of Italian football over the years has been greatly exaggerated, and successes will be treated as an aberration and below average results against teams like Northern Ireland will be treated as significant as long as this is the case.

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  • 30. At 4:32pm on 12 Oct 2010, tomefccam wrote:

    25. At 2:47pm on 12 Oct 2010, matteobaggio wrote:
    tomefccam- i agree with you about the quality players we have had in the past, we had a conveyor belt of talent once. I regard the Italian team of 1990 the best team i can remember never to win the world cup.
    =========================================================================

    For me throughout the early 90's to early 00's Italy produced an amazing amount of talent. I can't really see it, despite success of underage national teams.

    The big thing about your Antonio Conte's Roberto Baggio's, Vialli's, Ravanelli's, Zola's is that they came from lesser clubs and applied their trade, proved themselves through the lower Serie's and earned their big moves.

    Also what was unusual in Italy was players moving around the big clubs, moving with the better teams. And also players returning back to a club after maybe dropping down a division or standard of team.

    Baggio played for Inter, AC, Juve, Fiorentina and Bologna all in the peak of his career.

    Players aren't prepared to do this any more

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  • 31. At 4:43pm on 12 Oct 2010, Stevat wrote:

    Poli is quality, it's interesting that the one type of player that England have struggled with since Hoddle is the one that Italy produces so many of.

    Tom, I can listen all you want, but I'm unlikely to hear you type from here. Or speak for that matter. Was a massive fan of Lentini at Torino, proper winger to match Figo or Donadoni in my opinion, such a shame that his career was curtailed by that accident. What would you like me to tell you about Hubner?

    What have these players got to do with the current team? I get that you're saying that even the third choice strikers a decade ago were quality, but I think there are still some good options now. Rossi is a fantastic talent, a sniper of a striker but so dangerous. Quagliarella was a massive disappointment to me as a Napoli fan, to see him come home was fantastic but to see him limp off to Juventus is tragic. He is still a very gifted player though, just didn't fit into our system as well as I'd hoped. I think Pazzini is quality too, technically superb, but can drift in and out of games. I look at the players coming through and still think that the future looks brighter for Italy than it does for England say.

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  • 32. At 4:44pm on 12 Oct 2010, patomanoooo wrote:

    As some of the comments posted above have now started to draw out, this article is both wholly superficial and, in some respects, factually incorrect.

    Your analysis is based on the premise that Prandelli is fighting for his job. He is not. A brief flicker through the pages of the Gazzetta will tell you as much. The performance against NI was actually applauded for the positive mental attitude shown by the players. At no point was the position of the manager even remotely called into question.

    You then sight the profligacy of Italy's forwards, forgetting that they are the same forwards who were available before Prandelli was introduced and who found it equally tough to hit the net back then. Can this truly be construed as a fault on the part of Prandelli? The simple answer is no…at least, not by anyone other than yourself.

    Which brings me on to the 'abundant potential' you speak of. Where exactly have you encountered this? For a number of years Italy has systematically schooled footballers who fit into the rigid tactical systems favoured by the majority of its coaches. The result is that the country's top teams invariably rely on foreigners in key attacking positions. None more so than those prepared by Prandelli, whose expansive, exciting Verona and Fiorentina teams relied heavily on unearthing creative gems like Mutu, Camoranesi, Vargas et al from supposedly lesser foreign markets because the italian equivalents simply didn't exist. The fact that the few genuinely creative italian players of the current generation - and this is stretching it a bit -Pirlo, Del Piero, Totti, Cassano etc. are so heavily prized, often despite their age, ultimaltely underlines the dearth of attacking talent and potential at Prandelli's disposal.

    What Prandelli has done - and the only thing he could possibly have achieved in his role up to now - has been to foster the development of the positive mental attitude the press have picked up on. He has achieved this by immediately identifying the most talented young players at his disposal (Bonucci in central defence, Montolivo in central midfield, Balotelli and Cassano up front) and throwing his confidence behind them in an effort to rejuvenate and refresh Italy’s brand of football. These are changes which flow right through the spine of the team. Even the Italian press recognizes that he is doing the best he can with the tools available to him, which in turn is why his position is not even close to being under threat.

    All of which begs me to ask precisely what species of journalistic research you could possibly have embarked upon to come up with your arguments? Wait, apologies, I’m forgetting…you’ve answered that one yourself…’I have only seen the goals from that game but, by coincidence, I was in Tallinn the following week and my friends there were feeling very hard done by’…

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  • 33. At 4:48pm on 12 Oct 2010, Chris Wilby wrote:

    Hi MatteoBaggio,
    Cheers for the response! Agreed, attendences in England are also down, yet it really struck me how few people there were during that Udinese game. Isn't Napoli one of the proudest teams in Italy though, and therefore always have high crowds? At least, that's the impression I get from them, seem a faithful bunch of supporters.

    What did you think about my comment of the Italian league being a tad dull tough? I might also be very much mistaken on that one, but the teams that represent them in europe don't really play eye-catching football either. Curious to see what somebody with inside knowledge of italian football thinks! Thanks!

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  • 34. At 5:12pm on 12 Oct 2010, matteobaggio wrote:

    I would love to disgree with you Chris but i can't, my opinion is that you have to watch at least five Italian league games to find one entertaining encounter. While with the premier league there is far more entertaining games on a regular basis. I think this has to do with the style of play more than anything, in Italy they play a more patient passing game while in England it's much faster and teams seem to press futher up the field.
    Napoli do have an a very loyal support even when we were in Serie b our crowds were very good, but then i'm biased being that's the team i support.

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  • 35. At 5:34pm on 12 Oct 2010, Chris Wilby wrote:

    Good comment, matteo. Still, despite the lower level of entertainment, I''m gonna do my best to catch a game in Italy next year. Off for a holiday in Florence, so hopefully catch a Fiorentina game! If the game's dull, at least they have cool football kits ;-) I'll keep my fingers crossed for Napoli this season, if you do the same for Arsenal (and my how we need a lot of crossed fingers!)

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  • 36. At 5:41pm on 12 Oct 2010, Czechmate wrote:

    Although I can see the reasons why he wouldn't and maybe shouldn't but I know if I was manager of Italy and struggling for players who don't seem to know where the goal is, there is certainly one man I would turn to. That is F. Inzaghi. I don't care if people say he is too old, becuase his game has never been based on attributes that diminish with age. He can still do a useful job with someone along side him doing the running.

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  • 37. At 6:19pm on 12 Oct 2010, Czechmate wrote:

    matteobaggio


    I will be going to Napoli v Parma in four weeks, I have heard soemtimes they refuse to sell tickets to people with a foreign passport, do you know if this is true? I think for big games they only let foreign visitors people buy two tickets maximum. I love the Italian league and actually like the style, a 0-0 can still be exciting Inter - Juventus was a good game last week. I'm going to Napoli v Parma, Rome v Fiorentina, and the Milan Derby, surely they will provide some entertainment. I'm looking forward to seeing Hamsik and have bought a Hamsik shirt in preperation.

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  • 38. At 6:21pm on 12 Oct 2010, redandblackT-Save 606 wrote:

    Absolute rubbish.I remember sometime ago asking this blogger why he was only concentrating on only Spain and why not on all the major European leagues.Big mistake!Stick to Spain Phil because this was tosh of the highest order!

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  • 39. At 6:22pm on 12 Oct 2010, Kevin wrote:

    Hi Phil, great article, very insightful.

    I think Italy's biggest problem for the last few years (ever since Euro 2000, really) has been a lack of goals from midfield. Considering the way Italy tend to play - very skilful in possession, but opting not to commit many bodies forward; swallowing up pressure when necessary - most of their goals down the years have tended to come from reliable strikers (take Roberto Baggio, Francesco Totti and Paolo Rossi from previous generations). I can't remember a goalscoring midfielder to play for Italy in years. And, now that the strikers currently around aren't as high in quality as those mentioned above, the onus has to be on the midfielders to be more ambitious in terms of breaking forward. After all, when you play against a midfield of Pirlo, Palombo, Montolivo, Gattuso, De Rossi and the like, your defence isn't instantly concerned with rampaging runs in front of you; your midfield isn't massively worried about having to constantly track people into your own box.

    Maybe it's time Italy changed their philosophy; it has proved very successful for another once defensive-minded Germany, who now look able to score freely whilst also staying well organised. But is Prandelli the man who will look to implement the change?

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  • 40. At 6:23pm on 12 Oct 2010, Kevin wrote:

    #38 - I've just had the pleasure of giggling uncontrolably at your "gem" of a post there: comedy - 10; insight - 0; and rationality - 0.

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  • 41. At 6:47pm on 12 Oct 2010, capercat wrote:

    as was mentioned earlier Italy has a pretty good finisher--Giuseppe Rossi. unfortunately Lippi left him off the squad since he doesn't play in Serie A. His finishing at Villarreal this season so far has been fantastic--we just hope we can keep him.
    Prandelli needs to play him and drop Pepe who is useless. But I don't sense any knives out for Prandelli right away either. NI drawing in the Faroes today won't hurt Italy's chances at all.

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  • 42. At 9:05pm on 12 Oct 2010, GigiBuffon1 wrote:

    As some others have said Prandelli's job does not appear to be under threat, and there's no reason for it to be. Italy is suffering from a generation gap of players. The team that won the 2004 European Under-21 Championship has not fulfilled its potential with the likes of Barzagli, Zaccardo and Gilardino all becoming bit part players after that triumph. They have nothing on the likes of Nesta, Cannavaro and Vieri who were key players in the past.

    The one player from that generation with genuine world class ability is Cassano, but his difficult character has meant he's hardly been picked. The Italian people, and the FA recognise this problem, and therefore Prandelli will be given time to mould a team from the new generation like Bonucci, Criscito, Marchisio and Balotelli, in the hope they become the players the 2004 Under-21s didn't.

    He'll need help from the clubs though who don't show enough faith in young players. I see articles on Italian football where players aged 24 are considered too young. They should be regulars at that stage, and should be considered young when they're 19.

    A reserve league has been suggested and that would help as it isn't healthy for 19/20 year olds to still be in the Primavera when in other countries they'd be playing first team football.

    Italy will rise to the top again, but it'll need patience and sensible thinking. Sadly those 2 things have been lacking in the thought processes of those in charge of Italian football for a long time.

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  • 43. At 11:21am on 13 Oct 2010, mattyc_14 wrote:

    Some very interesting comments throughout, would have to agree that most of the attackers available to Italy are barely one goal in two games strikers even for their clubs, and many of them have proved unable to make the step up to the national team and produce the same quality. Of course, I understand that Rossi, Quag, Pazzini etc haven't been given a run of games for the national side, but if they were that good they would be given the chance surely.

    I will be attending the November friendly in Klagenfurt on the off chance that Totti is playing, but it looks as if this will just be a one off appearance, as it's not really a long term solution. I do hope that Balotelli comes to fruition, because in my humble opinion, Cassano, Pazzini, Gila etc are all useful but nowhere near world class.

    As for Iaquinta and Borriello. I dearly hope they never get to wear the Italy shirt again, they are both absolutely terrible. I've spoken to friends, family, acquaintances, etc, and the comment on this page saying 'I'm a fan of Iaquinta' is the first time I've ever heard someone say anything good about him. He is utterly shocking.



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  • 44. At 2:25pm on 13 Oct 2010, Phil Minshull wrote:

    I think the first thing to say is that obviously the events of last night in Genoa mean that Prandelli will almost certainly be in charge next March for the next round of matches, when Italy have a trip to Slovenia.

    Any questions over his future are now moot.

    If, as I expect, UEFA award Italy a 3-0 win over Serbia then they will have a three point advantage over Slovenia. I don’t think Prandelli will be completely let off the hook, I’m sure he still be the subject of considerable media scrutiny and bar analysis, but I can’t now see the Italian football federation replacing him.

    JoC: “Serbia's propensity to self-destruct Prandelli might actually consider the 'open' nature of the group to be a blessing in the long run as that point might prove crucial.” Keeping what happened last night in Genoa to one side, I now think you may be right. After Northern Ireland’s draw with Faroe Islands last night, that point in Belfast is now starting to look a little like one won rather than two lost.

    Capercat. “Prandelli needs to play him (Guiseppe Rossi) and drop Pepe who is useless.” As it happened, it looks like Prandelli might be coming to the same conclusion after leaving him and Boriello on the bench last night and opting to start with Palombo and Pazzini. What a pity they never got an opportunity to show their skills.

    ozza33: “About a decade ago I would of ranked Serie A as the best league in the world, nowadays IMO it is fourth behind La Liga, Premier League and Bundesliga.” The current quality of Serie A is obviously something that can be debated until the cows come home. I’ve mentioned it before, it’s worth considering that the Bundesliga leapfrogged over Serie A in the UEFA national league coefficients at the start of the season.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UEFA_coefficient

    The construction of the coefficients can also be debated but it does give a sense of the way things are going.

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  • 45. At 8:39pm on 13 Oct 2010, GigiBuffon1 wrote:

    mattyc_14, I will defend Iaquinta. Frustrating at times, but he's been a reliable goalscorer for most of the past decade in one of the toughest leagues in the world. That deserves respect. He's missed most of the last year through injury and therefore hasn't shown his best form when playing.

    Prior to his serious knee injury though he'd been Juve's best striker in 2009/10, and was playing a crucial role in the team. I remain convinced that his absence was one of the key reasons on a tactical level as to why the 2009/10 Juventus was so bad. His running off the ball was vital to the formation, and none of the other forwards possessed his movement.

    Absolute nonsense to suggest he is "utterly shocking". If he was that he'd be in Serie D.

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