After six matches in charge of Italy, veteran coach Giampiero Ventura is proud of his team’s versatility and sees a bright future for them even if his compatriots are still not convinced.
Ventura, whose side drew 0-0 with world champions Germany on Tuesday, already seems to have found his ideal striker in 22-year-old Andrea Belotti and is confident that other parts of the team are also clicking into place.
“The way we have approached matches, our attitude and our reading of situations have been positive,” said Ventura.
“We played in Israel with a 3-5-2, in Liechtenstein with a 4-2-4 and against Germany with a 3-4-3, all with two just days’ training.
“The compliments go to this team which has started on its journey; there is so much to do but the future is much rosier than anyone could have thought,” he said.
It has certainly not been an easy ride for the 68-year-old, who had enjoyed a long steady career but had never coached at any of Italy’s big three clubs, nor won a major trophy, before he was appointed.
Having begun with a 3-1 home defeat to France in a September friendly, Italy have drawn at home to Spain and won away to Israel, Macedonia and Liechtenstein in the World Cup qualifiers.
There was heavy criticism last month for their first half performance against Spain, when they were outplayed, and their second half against Macedonia, when they fell 2-1 behind before hitting back for a late 3-2 win.
Injuries to Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini meant that Ventura has lost two thirds of the so-called ‘BBC ‘defence that took Italy to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016.
Striker Graziano Pelle is in the doghouse after his angry reaction to being substituted against Spain and a long-term knee injury has deprived Ventura of midfielder Riccardo Montolivo.
But Ventura has a good reputation for developing young players and intends to put that ability to good use as he rebuilds the team.
He has already given debuts to defenders Daniele Rugani, 22, and Alessio Romagnoli, 21, who played alongside Bonucci in a three-man back line against Germany on Tuesday.
Other debutants under Ventura have included 17-year-old Gianluigi Donnarumma and right back Davide Zappacosta, plus Belotti himself.
Ventura has also resisted the temptation to recall Mario Balotelli after his resurgence this season at Nice, preferring to give the likes of Ciro Immobile and Nicola Sansone their chance.
Former Italy coach Marcello Lippi agreed that Italy are on the right path.
“The feeling is that they’re building something important,” he said in an interview given before the Germany match.
“There is a wave of interesting young players, and more importantly they’re playing (for Italy). Romagnoli has improved a lot, and Belotti is really strong.”
“I would say the national team has found its striker for the present and the future.