Italy | World Cup Blog | ESPN Soccernet
soccernet blog
World Cup home Blogs Home World Cup Blogs Home
Posted by Sumeet Paul on 06/21/2010

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 ©Getty Images

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!


Posted by Azzurri Tifosi on 06/22/2010

Sumeet, with all due respect, I'm doubting your understanding of Italy's style of play and football in general beyond the scope of a casual fan, which I personally am far from. Italy's issue lies not in their offense but in their defense. Let me remind you that Cassano was called by Donadoni to the squad for Euro 2008 and he contributed almost nothing. We also know of his cancerous presence in the locker room and I don't need to explain to you how harmful that can be as evidenced by Les Bleus' implosion. Please also cite me the instances when Totti and Del Piero where unlocking defenses. When we won the WC in 06, both were almost invisible. Here's the stark difference between last WC and this WC. Last WC, we conceded 2 goals throughout the whole tournament! 1 was an own goal by Zaccardo, Lippi's experiment at RB, another was a penalty in the finals, courtesy of a dive by Florent Malouda. This WC, we've conceded 2 goals already on set pieces! I rest my case. Let me know your thoughts.

Posted by Gob Bluth on 06/22/2010

A deserved penalty?! De Rossi felt a tug, took a step, and then dove! There is worse shirt tugging going on during any free kick. Though Italy deserved a goal, that penalty was a joke, and De Rossi's miming of a card is disgusting. He has no shame.

Posted by darryl on 06/22/2010

I agree completely, I think that people are overlooking the fact that this time might possibly be playing AT there potential. I would agree completely that 2 points is nothing to be proud of, but when you look at this team on paper, they are not the strongest team. They severely lack a predatory instinct. I bleed azzuro blue and hope they go far but we do need to keep our expectations in check.

Forza Azzuri ... Forza!

Posted by Carlo Mastrangelo on 06/22/2010

I dont blame the "team" for our woes; becasue they have played hard on the field. I blame Marcello Lippi. He has brought the wrogn players and has played the wrong players. Iaquints and Gilardino should have been left at home in favor of Cassano and Totti or Micoli. We have ZERO imagination/creativity and Cassano/Totti would have provided that. Canavaro is also to old and not the player he was 4 years ago - he has struggled. Maggio should also be strating, as well as DiNatale and Quagliarela... (who know eachother very well...)

Posted by Sumeet Paul on 06/22/2010

Azzurri tifosi:

In relation to being a 'casual fan' I can assure you that could not be any further from the truth.

Secondly with regards to your argument that we have defensive headaches rather than offensive problems. So you believe that 2 goals in 2 games, one from a set piece and one from the penalty spot are enough? If we are to progess past the group stages we need goals against Slovakia, something that has very much been lacking. I agree yes the defence needs improvement especially from set pieces, but having dominated both our group games the biggest problem is our strikeforce and midfield creating and finishing chances, not an underworked defence.

With Marchisio in an unfamilar trequartista role, Totti's 14 goals and the endless amount of assists & spark provided by Cassano this past season would be a very welcome addition in my opinion. This is 2010, and on the basis of current form, both were worthy inclusions. But as I said before, we have what we have...let's support rather than criticise.

Posted by forzazzurra on 06/22/2010

No doubt Gilardino and Iaquinta lack killer instinct, Di Natale, should not play outside the box, should be supplied by Montolivo and the other two forwards inside the box. There was a volley against NZ that Iaquinta let touch the ground, facing the goal, that Di Natale would never miss, at least he would have shot on goal.
Cannavaro has been involved in the two goals received so far, De Rossi took the blame on the first one against Paraguay, I disagree with him, Cannavaro did not jump, why didn’t he jump?, he is the reference in the defense.
So far, no goals from the strikers on open play in 180 minutes. In my opinion, if Iaquinta and Gilardino keep starting, we’ll see the same difficulties to score in the next WC games.
The glass is half full.

Posted by Paperinik on 06/22/2010

I tend to agree with Azzurri's comments. Cassano has shown several times that he can be big on the small stage and disappear on the big ones. If he was at least a team player he might have been worth a shot but given the fact that probably the only strength of this very average Nazionale team is its team spirit and will to win I do not see how Cassano would have been an improvement given his very poor track record in big matches.
Besides the defense is more worrying than the attack because defense has always been the base of our successes and I do not remember us creating many more opportunities in 2006. We did convert more because we had more talent, and yes both Totti and Del Piero, besides Pirlo of course did have an impact on that team's performance.

Posted by Alessandro on 06/22/2010

We have no real offensive strikers, Cassano an Totti were vital to this team, I also feel that when the changes in the second half are done, the team starts to advance, the first half is just a bunch of inconclusive plays.

Posted by Enrico Caesare on 06/22/2010

I wouldn't say that Gila and Vincenzo lack predatory instinct in the strict sense of the word. they can find the right positions in the penalty area no problem and score if they have service which they do not right now. in that sense they are definitely predators. we truly do need Cassano though for these group stage games in particular. my gosh he would have scored 2 and set up 3 against a squad like New Zealand because against unskilled, clumsy defenders like that he would be nearly unstoppable running into the penalty area. in the latter stages of the tournament though against better teams and better defenders i would see how cassano would not be as useful and definitely would prefer the classical Italian mentality of tight, skilled defense and overall organization to cassano's swashbuckling. however, totti's hold up play, incredible passing ability, shooting, and dead ball prowess would be indispensable for this team at ANY stage of the tournament. ci manca Totti

Posted by Tony Balogna on 06/22/2010

Well let me say this... Since the Azzuri of the 30s - Italy have been notorious slow starters in the first round. 2006 was a lack luster but better than usual start - so let's all take into consideration that the mentality is to 'come to life' in the knock-out stages. Secondly, please refrain from all the Totti, Del Piero, and now Cassano references, because these players have let the National Team down many more times over rather than live up to expectations. I don't care what you do in Serie A if you completely bomb on the International stage. With Pirlo out and Lippi's belief in Gilardino and Iaquinta, we are playing as if hog-tied. If we have Pazzini and DiNatale with a Pirlo I think we are in good shape. Overall, I think they have played well but have miss-fired on the attack. I have not seen an agressive striker since Schillaci in 1990 and we desparately need one now. We do not have the exact same team as '06, but we have a chance with the pieces we have.

Posted by aussie on 06/23/2010

hahaha @ Enrico Caesare:
those unskilled, clumsy defenders, managed to hold your (soon to be ex) world champion Italians to a 1-1 draw. De Rossi clearly got his man of the match award for his pathetic acting skills, a situation eerily similar to your game vs. Australia last WC. If there is any justice in the world, and with france's horible results it appears there is, Italy will choke vs Slovakia and NZ and Paraguay will progress to the second stage.

Posted by Eddy on 06/23/2010

id like to say this much. Firstly, to Azzurri tifoso you are mistaken when you say totti was not breaking down plays. Italy Czech Republic ; Totti's cross leads to Materazzi's goal, Ghana-Italy ; Totti's pass to Luca toni leads to break away miss. Ukraine - Italy ; Totti has both assists to Luca toni. Germany Italy ; Totti begins the breakaway that leads to the second goal. You should check out the youtube video of totti in germany 2006 it really surprised me too. Del Piero was clutch in the first round of 2002 before italy got robbed (as well as spain) by south korea. Cassano on the other hand played with all his heart in the euro but the team was just too old, again luca toni deserves a large share of the blame for highlights of him not seen. Cassano, like Totti 10 years ago and like Balotelli now, has done some porous things for his team but has not done so in a long time, Calciopoli is the reason why he and Miccoli were never even considered. Lippi=Italian soccer bureaucrat victim

Posted by Spagbender on 06/23/2010

I find it odd that no one on this string has mentioned Pirlo. What we really need is his generalship and confidence in the midfield and innate ability to pick out diagonal runs into the box. I am very hopeful that he will truly be at full strength for this match.....and the next!

Posted by Blue bath on 06/23/2010

Azzurri Tifosi - are you serious? Arrogance and ignorance go hand in hand.
Totti, Pirlo and Del Piero setup most goals at the WC2006 for Italy and they all scored.

-Ghana: Totti's assist for Pirlo's goal
-USA: Totti fouled from which resulting FK Gilardino scored, he also got Maschreano red carded after two yellows when tackling Totti.
-C. Republic: Totti's corner Materazzi headed in
-Australia: Totti comes on and Italy go from 433 to 4312 in his tranquesta position setups a brilliant pass to Grosso who drives through and you know what happens next. Totti also took that high drama penalty with a cool head.
- Totti assists Zambrottas goal with a flick, Totti assists Luca Toni's goal with a short cross.
- Germany: Del Piero takes the corner for which Pirlo's passes to Grosso to score. Del Piero cooly converts Gilardino's assist.

Totti also made the Team of the Tournament list.

Posted by Vincent on 06/23/2010

Part of the problem is the younger players adjusting to the international stage; they are grossly under-performing compared to their domestic efforts. All have struggled. When the (much criticized) veterans come onto the field they lack pure pace but they immediately make an impact, maybe feeling more at ease having been-there-done-that.

What is needed is better defense like we had in 2006, which starts with having an aggressive mid-field; something that at the moment we do not have.

I love our Azzurri and hope they pound Slovakia to boost their morale.


Posted by Marc on 06/23/2010

The fact is, Italy do not play well against weaker opposition that deploy the catenaccio strategy. The same strategy that the media is quick to criticize us for inventing. When New Zealand and Paraguay plant 11 men in their 18 yard box defending for the draw, the English commentators call it "organized". When Italy does it, its "negative". The weak teams that Italy play rely on this and then hope to get a lucky break on a set piece or counter attack. And to all of you Italy haters out there, give it up on the DeRossi call! There is so much "acting" going on in all of the games, but only the Italians get called "Cheaters" - and by real classy guys like Ruud Gullit on National TV. A lot of thanks to the country that paid your wages for all of your best years.

Posted by LGM on 06/23/2010

I feel that alot of where Italy is situated on the table does fall on the shoulders of Lippi.I could not beleive that he would persist in the second game against New Zealand with Gilardino and Pepe, which I thought was there undoing and lack of finishing in the game against Paraguay. I find it it strange Di Natale leading goal scorer in seria A is sitting on the bench.Is he scared to play someone as young as him?

Posted by Vincent on 06/23/2010

I totally agree with Marc (above) about the De Rossi penalty. No one is calling the NZ goal off-side and no one mentions the multiple stretchers needed in other games to carry off players that subsequently wastes copious amounts of time. Yet the Italians get blasted by the biased English commentators constantly, because they must be boiling that their 2nd rate team has one ONLY ONE World Cup.

And! Gullit and Co. at ESPN can go get lost with their comments that 'Italy needs to show they deserved their last World Cup'...WHAT? They won it with class 4 years, and having to prove it 4 years later is the comment of a jack-ass.


Posted by Ibrahim on 06/23/2010

Lets us keep our heads up. If we do go through our chances going farther will be high. I think 2012 and 2014 Azzuri will be a better team because of the new coach as well as talented team. World cup without Italy sucks, truly sucks. We are the best team in Europe continent.

Posted by Luigi Tollis on 06/23/2010

Well at least there were two people on this string whom I can agree with. It was odd that the first mention of Pirlo's absence and its affect on the team's offense took so long to be mentioned. One would think that a healthy Pirlo would open more opportunities for the likes of Iaquinta and Gilardino. I do find it a bit interesting that Gattusso hasn't been brought in at the 65th minute in any of these matches.

Further, Totti was instrumental in 2006. There is no victory in 06 without his remarkable play on the field and ability to drop the ball on a dime and create offense.

Posted by Anthony on 06/24/2010

Hey Eddy,wat do u mean Italy & Spain got robbed by South Korea in WC 2006? Why dont u open up ur brain and ur eyes 2 accepted that we lost fair and square rather than giving any stupid excuses.The bottom line, we'r sucks this year,disgraceful and shameful soccer. I want the old times Italian soccer, i did missed Totti& Del Piero,Buffon 2!!!Italy team can not go any further even they advance in next round,thats all i can say....Ciao .

Posted by Tony Bologna on 06/24/2010

Totti, Del Piero - please. Del Piero's goal vs Germany '06 was his only real redemtion. And Totti's goal against Australia is a gimme penalty. Please indeed - asisde a few flicks and good passes their international performances is a mass of failures compared to what they have notoriously delivered in club play. Del Piero's 2 missed goals in Euro 2000 and Totti's red card in Asia for spitting on a player are just the tip of their disappointment icebergs! How many WC matches did they play and how many goals? Very few if you count them given their Serie A resume. Well maybe unless they were never that good to begin with :) Like Bagio a little over inflated.

Posted by antonio on 06/24/2010

This team has allowed only two shots on net in the two games played so far. That's it. Both of these have gone in and we've had to play against teams defending with everything they have. I think our main problem is we are missing key positional players. We are asking Iaquinta and Marchisio to play where they don't are we are missing a natural trequarista and Regista.

We need to move Zambrotta to the left, play Maggio on the right. Cannavaro hasn't been excellent, but better than I thought he would be. Insert Gattusso to chase down balls, and cover for deRossi who will then have more freedom to roam. Montolivo has been our best attacker, Dinatale, pepe and quags should be allowed to rekindle their form from 2 years ago, and Pazzinni should start over gila who has had more than a fair chance to prove himself. Pirlo will sub in at some point, so will camoranese.

Posted by Renato on 06/24/2010

well said Marc.too many Italy haters out there.I blame it to jealousy,yes, jealousy indeed.
so many acting done by so many teams.and De Rossi had his shirt pulled.yes there was some overacting ,but THAT is done by almost all players who get tricked.
we'll see what happens.the fact that Italy has won 4 WC's says all.and they almost go far in the WC's.maybe not this time .we'll see.but stop with that stupid hate.

Posted by Jonathan komuko on 06/24/2010

He!! I think the italians need improve on their team work and they need a bit of luck to get to the next round.

Posted by Paulie on 06/24/2010

G'day people im from the land down under, dnt stress i actually think it was a penalty 4 years ago so im not on here to Azzuri bash haha. I think u guys are going well, both teams u have played have had next to no chances, my only two concerns for Italy are defensely on set pieces u guys arent the tallest unit down there that worries me, and up front giraldino should not be starting the man cant play, DiNatale should start for sure.
My dad's Italian so yr my second team. Good Luck!!!!

Posted by milly on 06/24/2010

I'm so, so, so sorry! I still can't believe! My favourite team's crashed! It's better to say has been crashed!The two goals were all rignt, there was no an off side, nor any penalty!!!Poor boys! I'm so sorry! There's no point to watch the World Cup any longer!

Posted by Alex on 06/24/2010

No one mentions not picking Mario Balotelli, the racist Italian press would have never tolerated it. Get with the times Italy and arrivaderci!

Posted by Josepe Caccholvolani on 06/27/2010

TOUGH LOSE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  Post your comment
Email Address:
characters left
© ESPN Soccernet 2009