Following their 1-0 loss to Uruguay, Italy coach Cesare Prandelli announced that he’s stepping down from his position after the Azzurri were eliminated in the group stage for the second straight tournament at the World Cup.
To make it even crazier, FIGC president Giancarlo Abete also resigned. Heads have already begun to roll, the blame game is being played, and rightfully so. It’s just the third time that Italy have been knocked out of the group stage in back-to-back tournaments.
However, it would be a major mistake to let Prandelli walk out the door.
Firstly, the former Fiorentina boss took over the national team when they were in a deep, dark period. The squad consisted of several older players and it didn’t appear as if there was a clear plan for the future. So Prandelli came in, transformed Italy into a positive, free-flowing, attacking side, on route to a Euro 2012 final appearance.
They only scored six goals, but were a lot more pleasing to the eye of neutrals compared to the past. Mario Balotelli was the star, veterans like Gianluigi Buffon and Andrea Pirlo were still crucial to the system, but younger and more deserving players were able to get chances.
There was a vision and it was working.
The Azzurri may have flopped at this World Cup, but they were missing two key players in Giuseppe Rossi and Stephan El Shaarawy. The latter was on his way to becoming an integral part of Prandelli’s plans, as was Rossi, but both were unavailable and out of form. Riccardo Montolivo’s broken bone didn’t help matters either.
That forced Prandelli to rethink his tactics. Andrea Barzagli, Gianluigi Buffon, Mattia De Sciglio, and Daniele De Rossi all suffered scares during the tournament as well. There wasn’t a set formation or group of players due to all of these issues. Prandelli can say that he failed, but he was a victim of bad luck when it came to this World Cup.
The Costa Rica and Uruguay losses were abysmal and definitely shouldn’t have happened. Prandelli got it tactically wrong in the latter match. When facing a deep defence, it’s important to utilize the midfield to spray quick passes and get the strikers involved. Ciro Immobile and Mario Balotelli make surging runs if they can get the service. It was there, so there’s no excuse for not upping the tempo, but all managers make mistakes.
However, travel has been excruciating for Italy during the World Cup. They have had to travel the third longest distance out of any team (13,600 kilometres), that’s roughly the same distance during an entire Serie A season. Not only that, the Italians had to play in the third highest average temperatures (32 degrees Celsius).
Also, Prandelli wasn’t responsible for that first exit, so it shouldn’t even be referenced when discussing his performances. He made mistakes, but he was at a large disadvantage, as many teams have experienced during the World Cup. If La Nazionale were fully fit, still had no variety or options, and still flopped, then clearly a change was necessary, but not this time.
Even if someone like Luciano Spalletti or Roberto Mancini took over, the team would be starting fresh. There was a set plan with Prandelli and it was 10 minutes away from paying off. Because of one goal, everyone is up in arms. There’s no way this would’ve happened if Italy qualified for the knockout stages and everyone would’ve been happy to see the coach stay for another tournament.
If the FIGC were smart, they would convince Prandelli to stick around and tell him that some of this wasn’t his fault. It was down to bad luck, a hard travel schedule and inclement weather. The Azzurri will be in more disarray without him than with him.