What we learned from Italy’s Confederations Cup performance…
The so-called “warm-up” to the World Cup, provided the Nazionale with several lessons that every member of the squad have seemingly grasped and are applying, in order to gear up for Brazil next summer.
It’s now apparent that the national team, and even the Serie A itself, have undergone a metamorphosis. This is no longer the traditional score early, sit-back and defend catenaccio system from the past, it’s a far more entertaining and attacking.
The Italians scored 11 goals over five matches and had no fewer than two goals in each of their games in the tournament. Clearly coach Cesare Prandelli’s wishes to make the team an attractive one to watch is reaching its heights.
However, the change in philosophy has taken its toll in defence. The four man back line accounted for all 10 goals conceded, but Italy completed over two hours of football with a clean sheet against reigning two-time European Champions and World Cup holders Spain.
The change to a 3-4-2-1 (or 3-4-3 hybrid) worked wonders for the Azzurri as they performed brilliantly against the Spanish. Had it not been for Leonardo Bonucci skying his penalty over the bar, Italy may have won the entire competition.
The switch to a 4-3-3 for the third place playoff will worry some fans, but there’s some positivity to Prandelli’s tinkering.
The tactical flexibility that the coach demonstrates benefits the Nazionale. The 3-5-2 or 3-4-3 has proven effective against most teams, but when there’s a chance to dominate a match, then a 4-3-3 or 4-3-1-2 could work out better.
With some vital World Cup qualifiers coming up, it’ll be interesting to see how Prandelli performs when it comes to his tactics.
Lots of players have also given themselves impressive auditions to make the Azzurri squad for 2014 as well.
Emanuele Giaccherini won over a lot of his critics, Antonio Candreva blossomed in the latter part of the tournament, and Mattia De Sciglio showed signs of becoming an all-around solid full-back on both sides of the ball.
Mario Balotelli also demonstrated that he’s indispensable. If Prandelli had to pencil in his top five players, Balotelli would surely make the cut. His finishing ability, strength, and improved composure have contributed to his development.
The most important lesson learned from the Confederations Cup, however, is staying in top mental and physical shape.
Prandelli claimed that Stephan El Shaarawy wasn’t in a strong state of mind and that, in turn, affected his performances.
Add on several outside factors to a fatigued Azzurri side (according to Prandelli) and it’s a miracle that they progressed as far as they did.
The humid climate definitely took its toll on the players. The most shocking part is that it’s winter in South America! Something easily forgettable due to the heat exhausted sight of the Azzurri during the second half of the Spain match.
With a few extra days to acclimatise before their opening group game, surely Italy will be more accustomed to Brazil next year. In all, the Azzurri and the supporters should be proud of what they accomplished given all of the issues they faced in Brazil.
They may not win the World Cup, but will be in the mix and won’t be easy to defeat as they proved against the likes Spain, Japan, and Uruguay.