After the humiliating experience in South Africa, la Nazionale arrived home with little left intact. Finishing bottom of a group containing Paraguay, Slovakia and New Zealand, it is the latest in a line of embarrassments that face the Azzurri. With Marcello Lippi and several of his old-guard hanging up their national boots, it is well and truly the end of an era.
Lippi makes way for Prandelli
Criticism and anger have surrounded the side since the full-time whistle sounded in Johannesburg, with the coach accepting full responsibility and blame for their shortcomings. On one of the rare occasions in Signor Lippi’s glittering managerial career, questions were asked of both his tactics and ability to get the best out of his side.
Lippi admitted that he had not prepared the players appropriately, that they were struck with fear in their heads, hearts and legs. Add to this his never-ending chopping and changing and tactical re-shuffles, it would be a surprise if they players even knew their roles in the side. The key absences of Gigi Buffon and Andrea Pirlo will not have helped his cause, but much more was rightly expected of this side.
What can be said of this supposed Italian defence? After decades of being the focal point of any Azzurri side, it has been accepted that Italy are the masters of defending. In the space of twenty second-half minutes this reputation was destroyed by the likes of Robert Vittek. Despite having to chase the game, the back-line was laid bare and just underlined the shortage in genuinely talented defenders. One can only hope that the next generation of stoppers such as Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Ranocchia can re-establish this damaged reputation.
However, the positive to come out of South Africa is that things could not possibly get worse. With Cesare Prandelli ready to take on his national duties, the former Fiorentina coach is the right man to lead the Azzurri into Euro 2012. After such a disastrous tournament, Prandelli’s ethos of developing gifted youngsters will prove to be the correct approach. With Fabio Cannavaro and Gennaro Gattuso set to call time on their international careers, it is time for a new beginning.
So fratelli, here's to a successful and hopefully rather more exciting qualifying campaign for Euro 2012, and a new era being ushered in by Signor Prandelli. Buona fortuna Cesare!