Chris Sermani takes at look at Italy and gives his thoughts on a World Cup Victory for Gli Azzurri.
There are few teams around who can match Italy’s World Cup pedigree, and Coming into this tournament as outsiders is nothing new for Gli Azzurri. Prandelli’s mix of youth and experience has the potential to go far in this tournament, but few if any have picked them to take home a fifth World Cup. The Italians had a seriously poor World Cup in 2010, coming bottom of a group that included New Zealand (complete with star striker, Chris Killen), but since Cesare Prandelli has taken charge of the side after this tournament, Italy have been impressive. Indeed they made it to the final of Euro 2012, and whilst his side was eventually brushed aside by an awesome Spanish outfit, they were forced to play the last 30 minutes with ten men due to the early use of all three substitutions. Italy is being dismissed in this tournament, but should they be?
Road to Rio
Italy qualified for this World Cup without breaking sweat in a group with Denmark, Czech Republic and Bulgaria. Prandelli’s side was undefeated in qualifying, and the crushing disappointment of the Euro 2012 final did not affect this group of player’s attitude. Mario Balotelli was top scorer for Italy in qualifying with five goals, and Pablo Osvaldo second with four (though the mad Argie missed out on the final squad). Their qualification was never in doubt from the outset. Most importantly, Italy added some new talent to their squad that was not present at Euro 2012, introducing some players that have made the final cut for Rio including Marco Verratti, Ciro Immobile, Antonio Candreva and Alessio Cerci. This Italian squad is stronger than the one of two years ago.
Italy was drawn in a tough group at this World Cup with England, Uruguay and Costa Rica. The English press have analysed this group as thus:
“Pirlo’s dead old now, and Suarez is dead good” and have come to the conclusion that Italy may have to be content with third place.
I firmly believe that Italy have the best squad in the group. Make no mistake, it’s a tough group, and Uruguay have by far the best front pairing (Suarez and Cavani) but Italy’s midfield is comfortably better than any other team in the group, and at the back they have the goal stingy Juventus backline protected by Daniele De Rossi. If Italy performs as they should, they should win the group. With Prandelli in charge, I don’t envisage another 2010, but I also thought Evander Sno would be a star, so take everything I’ve said with a kilo of salt.
Italy’s success at this tournament hinges on the midfield for me.
Marco Verratti: I don’t know if Verratti will be a key player, but I feel it’s time he stepped up, and I know he is capable. Whilst Pirlo is still a world class operator, age catches up with everyone and the Italian press has anointed the PSG midfielder his heir apparent. With Ricardo Montolivo’s nast leg break just prior to the tournament starting, there is a space in midfield and Verratti should shine if chosen.
Andrea Pirlo: Still class at 35, l’architetto is capable of dominating games and opening defenses with a single pass. As with Juventus, Pirlo shines when he has hard working midfielders next to him, which give him the freedom to express himself. Likely to be his last World Cup, Pirlo still have the talent to lead them to glory.
Daniele De Rossi: De Rossi plays second fiddle in the minds of most to Pirlo in this Italy side, just as he does to Totti at Roma, but the truth is De Rossi is no less important than either of these players. Capitan Futuro plays the all important role in protecting the backline, and starting attacks. De Rossi’s versatility was shown in the Euro 2012 group game against Spain, when he filled in at centre half and turned in a world class display.
Formation/Possible starting XI
It is difficult to predict what line up Italy may choose given Prandelli utilises a number of different systems
My prediction is a semifinal berth for Gli Azzurri, though that is admittedly a big ask. I’ll start with a comprehensive Italian victory over England, and we’ll take it from there.
Do you agree with Chris? How well do you think Italy will do? Can they beat England and Uruguay to top their group? Comment below or tweet us @90minutecynic
Follow Chris on Twitter: @IAmInAgreement