Another game, another disappointing draw. The world expected the Azzurri to overcome the All Whites with relative ease, while la Nazionale tifosi remained cautious as to whether they could chalk up their first win of 2010. Having dominated the opposition for the second game in a row, failure to break down a stubborn defence has cost Marcello Lippi’s men dearly and now a must win game against Slovakia lies ahead.
Smeltz opens the scoring
As Shane Smeltz opened the scoring on Sunday, fear of a humiliating early elimination began to creep into the mind. However, fear turned to elation as Daniele De Rossi earned Lippi and Co a deserved penalty having been tugged by New Zealander Tommy Smith. Vincenzo Iaquinta finished with aplomb and celebrated in suitable style, with De Rossi using the Juve hotshot’s rather sizeable nose as a vuvuzela.
What followed was possession football and an inability to find a winner. The impressive Riccardo Montolivo went closest with two fine long range strikes, and is now finally starting to recreate his form at Fiorentina and demonstrate his natural talent in Azzurri blue. The same cannot be said however for the likes of Alberto Gilardino and Claudio Marchisio. Both not played in their preferred positions, are finding life difficult in South Africa and will be a surprise if either were to start against Marek Hamsik’s Slovakia.
Despite the general criticism of ‘poor performances’, I would completely disagree. The Azzurri are performing beyond my expectations already, the results have been poor but the displays have been encouraging. Of course I would gladly swap 6 points and dire games for the 2 points we have, however there is no grounds for such ferocious criticism. What this Italy side lack is a clear cutting edge up front, and dare I say his name, a certain Signor Cassano.
A Francesco Totti/Alessandro Del Piero –less Azzurri are finding life difficult to unlock defences, and the lack of goals is down to Vincenzo Iaquinta and Alberto Gilardino’s lack of predatory instinct. With hope Giampaolo Pazzini will begin the game on Thursday, with Iaquinta partnering him to provide his traditional runs down the channels to create space for his attacking partner.
The one regret I think most will have of this World Cup, as was widely documented pre World Cup, is that many would have hoped to have seen Antonio Cassano in South Africa and not busy getting married in Sardinia. However, questa e la vita, we must make do with what we have. Let us hope that Thursday night will be a night of celebration, Forza Azzurri!