By Durgesh Haridas
The Azzuri had a disastrous World Cup campaign in 2010 exiting the group stage without even winning a game. Their 2006 World Cup winning coach Marcelo Lippi had selected mostly veterans leaving out young guns and it proved to be Italy’s undoing. Lippi stepped down after the group stage loss to Slovakia in 2010.
Cesare Prandelli was appointed successor to Lippi and he has given this Italian side a more attacking mindset, without compromising on their traditional strong defense. Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Nesta and Fabio Cannavaro were the more popular players of the past squads but in this new-look team the midfielders and strikers have been playing a vital role in the team’s success.
Prandelli was willing to take risks and it payed off as Italy finished runners-up in Euro 2012 and beat fellow World Cup group mates Uruguay 3-2 on penalties to secure the third place in the Confederations Cup in 2013. Calendar year 2013-14 though has been patchy and the team has not won a single game. Prandelli has retained the old guards in defence and at goal but gone for young blood on the flanks and the strike force with the likes of Darmian, De Sciglio Balotelli, Immobile and Insigne.
Italy’s road to Brazil was flawless, unbeaten while getting 22 of a possible 30 points in the qualifiers, brushing aside minnows like Malta, Armenia and Bulgaria while the Czechs and Danes could not do enough the upset the Azzuri.
FORMATION & TACTICS
Prandelli has played around with the many versions of the 3-5-2 formations and often changed it mid game to suit the situation and the opposition. The 3-5-2 formation allows Prandelli to play Andrea Pirlo as a deep lying play maker with Daniele De Rossi and Claudio Marchisio on his right and left. The essence of the team is to keep the defense and central midfield as tight as possible and create chances from the flanks with the Milan pair of Mattea Di Sciglio and Ignazio Abate as wingers.
PSG’s Marco Verrati and Lazio’s Antonio Candreva are more than capable replacements as wingers with mercurial pace and great ability to get the ball into the penalty box. The versatility of the squad to adapt to any formation and quickly settle into their roles is what makes this Italian side a hard nut to crack for any opposition, the 3-5-2 can easily become a 5-3-2 with De Sciglio and Abate falling back into their half and the midfield trio of De Rossi, Pirlo and Marchisio get into more attacking roles.
AC Milan Skipper and ace midfielder Ricardo Montolivo was ruled out of the world cup after he suffered a broken leg in a friendly against Ireland and in continued…