When the Italian Football Federation announced that former Fiorentina boss Cesare Prandelli had replaced Marcello Lippi at the post of the Italian national team, there were few who disputed the decision. Despite being untested at the highest level, Prandelli brought what most managers in Italy lacked, with that being an exciting approach that was well adapted to the changing style of the international game.
Irrespective of Lippi’s thoughts and decisions in South Africa, Italy were never going to win the 2010 World Cup, as they simply lacked the structure, talent and enthusiasm on the pitch required to succeed. Hopefully for their sake however, under Prandelli these issues will all be a thing of the past, as they look ahead to their upcoming fixtures.
The Azzurri meet Slovenia in a crucial European qualifier this weekend, whilst they square off against Ukraine in a friendly a few days later in Kiev. In terms of his squad selection, Prandelli has opted to exclude key midfielder Daniele De Rossi, and the promising Mario Balotelli, after both succumbed to respective bans at club level, allowing Prandelli to send yet another clear message on his zero tolerance policy towards violent behaviour.
Whilst his decision to leave the star duo out may seem harsh to some, it can only be of benefit for the future of the national team, as it allows Prandelli to prove his lack of favouritism irrespective of names and experience, and it also shows that everyone has to work hard for a place in the team, which has and will continue to restore the enthusiasm amongst the squad.
Recent reports have suggested that Prandelli has proposed the idea of having an Italian Under-21 side playing in the peninsula’s second division, in order to help develop and promote the talented youth of Italy. Italians have generally been supporters of home-grown talent, illustrated by their dominance of local players playing in the majority of Serie A’s top clubs. Whilst the development of home-grown talent is key to the success of the national team, Prandelli has been open to the selection of those regarded to as ‘Oriundi’ in Italy, similar to some of Europe’s other top nations. Thus far in his tenure, Prandelli has called up four ‘oriundi’, including Thiago Motta, Cristian Ledesma, Mario Balotelli and Amauri.
Italy have never been renowned for having the strongest attacking line-up in the world, something which the forwards of 2010 can attend to. However under Prandelli, this is certain to change. Having no grudges against the talented Antonio Cassano, having patience with the troubled youngster Balotelli, and also having faith in the pint-sized Sebastian Giovinco, yet again proves that the tactician has the smarts required to succeed. No disrespect to Lippi, but although Italy were never going to win the recent World Cup, had he actually taken a moment to review the list of strikers he selected, perhaps the Azzurri would have emerged from what looked to be one of the easiest ever groups assembled. Instead, his pride and narrow-mindedness interfered resulting in one of the most embarrassing performances in their history.
With the European championships looming, Prandelli and the Italians will consider themselves a big chance to pose a threat. Whilst the likes of Spain and Germany may be amongst the strongest international sides in the world at present, with Prandelli at the helm, the future of Italian football is looking bright, for the first time since their triumph in Germany in 2006. There are still three years until Brazil 2014 gets underway, and so the former Viola tactician still has plenty of time to make his mark and lead the Azzurri back to the top.
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