Prandelli’s Azzurri go down to the Ivory Coast

Italy’s poor run of results in 2010 continued under the rain of East London on Tuesday night. Cesare Prandelli’s appointment as successor to Marcello Lippi was received with widespread optimism and his squad selection represented a much welcomed revolution  despite some questionable choices such as calling up Molinaro at left back.

The Italian media focused mainly on the new A-B-C attack of Amauri, Balotelli and Cassano, an attacking trio that Lippi chose to leave out of his squad for South Africa for various reasons. In the early stages of the game there were some promising signs in attack for Azzurri as Amauri got in some good positions, Balotelli came close with an explosive free kick, and Cassano showed some glimpses of the quality that he possesses.

However, as the game progressed, the Ivory Coasts’ physical superiority and what seemed to be higher levels of fitness gave them the edge in midfield, especially in the second half of the game. It was 10 minutes into the second half that the Africans took the lead through Kolo Toure who escaped the marking of Chiellini to head past Sirigu.

Chiellini may have been slightly blinded by his center back and Juve partner Bonucci but they are still getting used to playing with each other and their level of understanding will grow with their partnership both at club and international level.

It was in the center of midfield that Italy seemed to suffer most against the physicality and athleticism of the Ivory Coast. De Rossi and Palombo were outnumbered on occasion as the 4 players playing in front of them can be considered to be mainly attacking players and at times tended to neglect their defensive duties especially in the cases of Balotelli, Cassano and Amauri. 

Based on this, Prandelli may need to look at a change in personnel when using the 4-2-3-1 system with the possibility of Marchisio coming into the team.

Italy’s creativity in the center of the park also left a lot to be desired and no doubt with the return of Pirlo this will improve. Too much is expected of De Rossi when Pirlo is not in the team and with the return of Italy’s play-maker extraordinaire, De Rossi can concentrate on what he does best.

One also has to take into consideration the following factors when analyzing the result and performance:

  • This was a pre-season friendly game played in a half empty Upton Park.
  • This squad had 2 days training together to familiarize themselves with Prandelli’s system and ideas.
  • There were 5 debutants in the starting 11.
  • Most of the team are nowhere near match fit.

Many people will look at this as yet another negative result for the Azzurri but there are definitely some positive signs to take from the game. This will have proven to be a useful exercise for the Azzurri and with the return of some key players, an improvement in fitness and familiarization with each other this squad can progress under Prandelli and bury the nightmare that was South Africa 2010. The rain may have continued to fall on the Azzurri in London but brighter days lie ahead. Roll on Estonia on September the 3rd!

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