Euro 2012: Italy's Keys for Rocking the Irish
The Italians looked strong in the first half against Croatia but failed to adapt when the Croatians changed up their style in the second half.
Unlike Spain, Croatia pressed the midfield and attacked hard down the flanks, which seemed to unsettle the Italian defense. This may present a problem because more than likely, Giovanni Trapattoni viewed the film and saw the weaknesses that were exposed.
Ireland shouldn’t be a problem for the Italians, as long as they correct a couple of things and play up to the potential that they haven’t quite shown yet at Euro 2012.
1. Lock Down the Flanks
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One thing that was particularly troubling in the Croatia match was the lack of defending the wing-backs contributed against the Darijo Srna and Ivan Strinic.
This was particularly noticeable in the second half. Croatia looked to exploit Italy's lack of cover on the wings and sent in cross after cross, even if most were harmless.
However, the goal came from a cross as the back three simply failed to deal with the one quality cross Croatia sent in.
Ireland, should they decide to start James McClean, will attack down the flanks.
Christian Maggio and Emanuele Giaccherini must do a better job of preventing the crosses coming in. Ireland will try the battering-ram approach up front and it's better to keep the service lines cut off than open and flowing.
2. Help Pirlo in the Midfield
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We all know that Andrea Pirlo is the heartbeat of the Italian attack. Unfortunately, so does every team on the planet. One has to figure that Ireland plan to try and close down Pirlo at all times.
Italy has been using Thiago Motta and Claudio Marchisio to either side of Pirlo as a midfield three. The two players certainly can pick passes and it might force the Irish to change their tactical outlook if either made more threatening moves toward goal.
If Ireland invite the pressure on like they have in the first two matches, it will be imperative that the two midfielders move about to drag the Irish defenders this way and that.
3. Change the Attackers
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Italy's primary approach has been to attack the channels with Balotelli and Antonio Cassano in the first two group fixtures.
With Ireland sitting so deep in defense, it might be worthwhile to change both players. One idea is to bring in an attacking midfielder and a front man to create a 3-5-1-1 look, or, if Cesare Prandelli wanted to be bold, a 3-4-2-1/3-4-1-2 look.
The Italians need to be clever to break down the Irish defense, which has been overworked so far in Euro 2012.
Piling the pressure on and forcing the Irish to chase the ball and runners could just be a bit more than they're willing to stomach in the final group match.