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Grading the Tactics of Every Coach at Euro 2012

Sam TigheWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterJuly 2, 2012

Grading the Tactics of Every Coach at Euro 2012

1 of 17

    Euro 2012 is over and Spain have won.

    We saw some great football, some real shocks and got some genuine entertainment throughout the tournament.

    Sixteen managers faced off in a tactical battle and it's clear who prevailed. But who got the best out what they had and who proved inflexible in the face of failure?

    Read on to find setups and grades for each manager on a tactical basis, in addition to each manager's best and worst tactical moments.

    Remember, it's not about where you finish, it's about what you managed and what you created in relation to the talent at your disposal.

    Enjoy the slideshow!

16. Republic of Ireland

2 of 17

    Manager: Giovanni Trapattoni

    Formation: 4-4-2

     

    Typical setup

    "Trap" used a classic 4-4-2 in the approach to this tournament, with Robbie Keane dropping off the front two to help the midfield.

    Glenn Whelan and Keith Andrews, as a central midfield partnership, sat very deep in an attempt to continue the solidarity the Republic of Ireland showed in qualifying.

    The Boys In Green relied upon the solidity of Richard Dunne and Shay Given, but with both out of form and short of fitness, it turned out to be the wrong choice.

     

    Best tactical moment

    Having lost all three games in comprehensive fashion, it's difficult to pick out a defining moment for Trapattoni.

    Relying on experience was a good decision, though, as calls for the likes of James McClean to start were premature. The Irish were messy, but it could have been even more untidy had the old-timers not started.

     

    Worst tactical moment

    When the Republic of Ireland were drawn into a group with Spain and Italy, everyone knew they weren't going to qualify.

    Trapattoni's insistence on an archaic 4-4-2 seemed like a silly idea before the tournament, and has been proven silly when reflecting upon it.

    Fair enough for going for it against Croatiaa game seen from Irish eyes as a must-winbut against the ferocity of Italy or the dominance of Spain? Not a good plan.

    Ireland's lasting legacy from this tournament? The Boys In Green allowed Xavi to set a European Championships record with the most passes in a single game, whilst they themselves became the only ever Irish team to fail in recording a single point.

     

    Grade: D-

    Ireland aren't blessed with outrageous talent, but they hardly made themselves difficult to beat in the absence of attacking flair.

15. Netherlands

3 of 17

    Manager: Bert van Marwijk

    Formation: 4-2-3-1

     

    Typical setup

    Two years on from the exploits in South Africa, and "Oranje" have the same manager, same personnel and same tactical setup.

    Van Marwijk uses a modern 4-2-3-1 with one crucial, perhaps crippling difference—both central midfielders are destroyers, not ball-players.

    This is intentional (we think) so the likes of Gregory van der Wiel can fly forward without worrying about being caught out of position on the break.

    Wesley Sneijder—a world-class playmaker—pulls the strings in midfield alongside the ever-selfish Arjen Robben.

     

    Best tactical moment

    Another team who acquired no points whatsoever, so again it becomes difficult to pick out a decent tactical decision considering the amount of talent van Marwijk had at his disposal.

    Still, it could have been different had Robin van Persie not forgotten his shooting boots for the game against Denmark, and the team played well.

    Van Marwijk resisted the temptation to play van Persie alongside Klaas-Jan Huntelaar until he absolutely had to, thereby avoiding a disastrously unbalanced lineup.

    Van Persie is a goal poacher and doesn't function well coming in off the leftthe position he would be stuck out on should Huntelaar enter the lineup.

     

    Worst tactical moment

    The loss of Erik Pieters is tough, but van Marwijk had other options. He didn't have to thrust the woeful Jetro Willems in at the deep end and see him fail three games in a row.

    Stijn Schaars could have been played out of position at left-back, whilst Wilfred Boumaa natural left-backwas also on the bench the entire time.

    After Willems' questionable performance in the first game, van Marwijk should have bitten the bullet and made a change. Instead, he subjected the young PSV defender to pure torment at the hands of Mesut Ozil, Mario Gomez and Thomas Muller.

     

    Grade: D

    2010 World Cup runner-up? That team?

14. Poland

4 of 17

    Manager: Franciszek Smuda

    Formation: 4-2-3-1

     

    Typical setup

    The 4-2-3-1 utilised by Smuda was an attempt to get the best out of what he has in a solid, safe way.

    Robert Lewandowski represents a versatile, dangerous target man, whilst the midfield was built on a solid base of two holders in Eugen Polanski and Rafal Murawski.

    The clear strength in Poland's side is the right-hand side, where Borussia Dortmund duo Lukasz Piszczek and Jakub Blaszczykowski combine with deadly efficiency.

     

    Best tactical moment

    Ludovic Obraniak is a very talented player. He plays on the left wing for Girondins Bordeaux and so to utilise him in a relatively free, attacking role in the centre of midfield was a bold move.

    It worked wonders, though, as he frequently looked like the best creative outlet in the side.

    His delivery from set pieces was phenomenal and several coaches around Europe will have sat up and taken notice of his wand of a left foot.

     

    Worst tactical moment

    Not utilising his most dangerous peripherals on a consistent basis was Smuda's biggest mistake.

    In the opening game against Greece, the White Eagles started as we hoped they'd carry onfull of life and enthusiasm.

    Pisczcek and Blaszszkowski combined well for 45 minutes on the right and fed star striker Lewandowski for their opening goal.

    Unfortunately, for the remaining 235 minutes of competitive play in the tournament, Piszczek barely overlapped and Poland rarely created overloads on the right.

    Lewandowski would have benefited indefinitely from this attacking method and his solitary goal is evidence of a lack of cut-throat creativity.

     

    Grade: D

    Had Smuda played to his strengths more often, Poland could have qualified from their weak group.

13. England

5 of 17

    Manager: Roy Hodgson

    Formation: 4-4-2

     

    Typical setup

    Hodgson employed the strictest 4-4-2 Europe has seen in a long, long while during this tournament and while the team were defensively solid, attacking was a rather different story.

    I liken watching England play football to watching any team play rugbypass it backward, sideways or just lump it forward.

    The two banks of four were well organised and moved forward and backward as a unit. While defensive structure was achieved, no passing lanes were open.

    The lack of diagonal options hurt players who weren't comfortable on the ball and meant true wingers couldn't function properly.

    The central midfield duo was put under a horrendous amount of duress and carried the load defensively and offensively. 

     

    Best tactical moment

    Theo Walcott's introduction against Ukraine dragged the team out from a deep position. He got the ball and just ran, ran until he ran out of pitch.

    His goal was a lucky deflection, his cross for the third only turned in thanks to Danny Welbeck's flexibility. But he breathed fresh air into a team who was struggling and allowed them to hold on to a vital win.

     

    Worst tactical moment

    The strict banks of four were defensively solid, but sat so deep they surrendered 70 percent of the pitch to the opposition. This was a real issue and Andrea Pirlo proved it so.

    The Italian regista's performance was perfect, as he positioned himself just deep enough to stop Steven Gerrard and Scott Parker closing him down. Wayne Rooney failed to keep on top of him so he had free reign of the park.

     

    Grade: D

    England aren't the best team in the tournament, but they're far from the worst. They were fortunate to get passed Ukraine and showed their own inferiority complex against Italy.

12. Sweden

6 of 17

    Manager: Erik Hamren

    Formation: 4-2-3-1

     

    Typical setup

    Hamren used a loose 4-2-3-1 in an attempt to make Sweden a little more solid than they showed in qualifying.

    They impressed during the preliminary period with some expansive, attacking football, but toned it down to face superior opposition

     

    Best tactical moment

    Freeing up Zlatan Ibrahimovic was a good move for two reasons.

    Firstly, it allowed him to do pretty much whatever he wanted and placed no burden on him to track back. He wasn't trapped in a line of four or a partnership of two, but simply allowed to do what he does best.

    Secondly, his free role forced teams to pay special attention to him. Ukraine man-marked him using Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, while there were times when three of England's players would be keeping an eye out for him.

     

    Worst tactical moment

    The Swedes have traditionally been pretty solid defensively, it's just scoring that's been the problem.

    To concede three against England and two against Ukraine was a travesty, but the worst bit about it is that they're no longer imperious in the air

    Olof Mellberg and Jonas Olsson are two dominant central defenders who are aerially superior to most, but Hamren's side were far from impressive in this department during the tournament.

     

    Grade: C-

    Hamren improved Sweden in one area, but allowed them to regress in another. Overall, no progress has been made.

11. Czech Republic

7 of 17

    Manager: Michal Bilek

    Formation: 4-2-3-1

     

    Typical setup

    Bilek set his side up with a prototypical modern day international formation, attempting to win the midfield battle and exert control with a 4-2-3-1.

    He rotated positions a lot, making his team difficult to track, as Petr Jiracek, Vaclav Pilar and Jan Rezek flitted all over the pitch.

    He found a gem during qualifying in Theodor Gebre Selassie and unlocked his potential to full effect—allowing him to roam the touchline and do some damage from the right-back position.

    Milan Baros was used as a lone striker and tasked with holding the ball up and helping the midfield play some good football.

     

    Best tactical moment

    Bilek's best moment actually came in the qualifying for this tournament when he finally settled upon the 4-2-3-1 that has allowed his team to overachieve.

    After playing with several different systems, he finally found the right one, then all he had to do was find the right player for each position.

     

    Worst tactical moment

    The Czechs lack depth in the striking position, but Baros was truly woeful throughout the tournament. He rivals Georgios Samaras for the most useless performance award across the entire competition and should have been replaced far earlier.

    Both Tomas Pekhart and Tomas Necid are unrefined, but considering Baros didn't manage anything remotely close to a goal, either should have gotten a start somewhere along the line.

    Persevering with Baros killed Czech Reublic's chances of outscoring anyone in the knockout stage, so the decision to keep starting him was curious.

     

    Grade: C

    Bilek allowed his team to overachieve by making them solid, but wouldn't have qualified from any other group. He's not a reactive manager, meaning he gets it right the first time, but then struggles to adapt to a changing game of football.

10. France

8 of 17

    Manager: Laurent Blanc

    Formation: 4-2-3-1, but subject to insane experiments

     

    Typical setup

    Blanc started with the convincing 4-2-3-1 he used during the warm-up games and dominated possession against England in their opener.

    Karim Benzema and Franck Ribery's attacking prowess and movement were key, but the team was clearly hindered by Yann M'Vila's injury-forced absence to start with.

    It was from there that Blanc started changing things around when he probably shouldn't have, but the win over Ukraine was comfortable.

    The loss against Sweden was perhaps the turning point in French fortunes, as the standard fallout began.

     

    Best tactical moment

    His setup against England in the first game was excellent and he deserves credit for trying to play football against a stoic, immovable wall of an English team.

    The free-flowing front three wreaked havoc and penned England's midfield back deep into their own half, while Samir Nasri scored a wonderful goal.

     

    Worst tactical moment

    Florent Malouda's selection for the squad was questionable to start with, but passed off with the notion he'd be there to provide depth.

    So to start him at the expense of Jeremy Menez or Hatem Ben Arfa was bizarre. Furthermore, against Spain, where midfield commitment and tracking is paramount, Blanc fielded the lazy Frenchman and was punished for doing so.

    Malouda was seen to be an astounding 21 metres away from Xabi Alonsohis man to markwhen the Spaniard put his nation ahead in the quarterfinal.

     

    Grade: C

    It could have been so much more for the French, but in-camp fighting and Blanc assuming the lead role as the mad scientist ended their chances of glory.

9. Russia

9 of 17

    Manager: Dick Advocaat

    Formation: 4-3-3

     

    Typical setup

    In stark contrast to Greece's 4-4-3, Advocaat's Russia played some beautiful, controlling football.

    Every player was comfortable on the ball and happy going forward, so the Russians effectively stifled the opposition on most counts. They used two inside forwards in Andrey Arshavin and Alan Dzagoev who could offer both width, guile and a shooting threat.

    Despite having at least two defensive-minded midfielders on the pitch at all times, however, Russia struggled when facing a counterattack and were unable to backtrack quick enough to cover their tails.

     

    Best tactical moment

    Allowing Dzagoev—Russia's best player—a relative free role coming in off the right flank allowed him to use his full arsenal of skills to punish teams.

    The midfielder was, at one point, the front-runner for the Adidas Golden Boot in this competition, having bagged three goals in two games.

    Time after time the young playmaker was faced with open space on the counterattack and his movement made him too hot to handle.

    He could have had a hat trick against Czech Republic.

     

    Worst tactical moment

    Russia will feel hard done by after losing to Greece and it's difficult to pick holes in a side who performed well.

    If there is one question mark, though, it's dangling over the head of Aleksandr Kerzhakov.

    How was he allowed to start all three games, let alone participate in them, after missing a glut of chances against the Czechs?

    Even in Russia's do-or-die game against Santos' Greeks, it took until the 46th minute for Advocaat to haul the underperforming hitman off.

     

    Grade: B-

    Should have qualified, but at least played some good football during the three games they played. Most will agree Russia did not deserve to go out.

8. Denmark

10 of 17

    Manager: Morten Olsen

    Formation: 4-2-3-1

     

    Typical setup

    The Danes are ranked ninth in the world, so the fuss about them performing was unwarranted to say the least.

    They have an excellent coach who set up a solid formation containing some good players. Nicklas Bendtner, Denmark's favourite striker, played up front on his own alongside two out-and-out wingers.

    William Kvist was very effective alongside Niki Zimling in a holding midfield role, meaning the Danes were tough to get past, but ready to score.

     

    Best tactical moment

    Denmark's star of the show was not Bendtner, nor was it much-hyped Ajax playmaker Christian Eriksen. It was Michael Krohn-Dehli, a winger plying his trade with Brondby.

    He scored twice and set Bendtner up against Portugal for two, cementing his place as Denmark's most valuable player and most creative, potent threat.

    Many won't have known his name before the tournament, whilst those who had were doubting his ability to make a splash.

    Olsen got the very, very best out of Krohn-Dehli.

     

    Worst tactical moment

    If Denmark were to improve upon their performances, there was only one logical way to do it—utilise Eriksen as the playmaker.

    Much to my fantasy football team's disgust, the Danes largely ignored Eriksen in their buildup play, instead opting to go straight to the wide areas with Krohn-Dehli and Dennis Rommedahl.

    As he develops as a player, he should take the lead role on offence. Olsen should have introduced him more heavily here, though.

     

    Grade: B

    Solid performances, good individual players. Proved hard to beat and finished well above Netherlands in the group.

7. Ukraine

11 of 17

    Manager: Oleg Blokhin

    Formation: 4-4-1-1

     

    Typical setup

    Ukraine used a strange but entertaining brand of football which had no typical setup due to the fact that Blokhin adapted his team to whoever he played.

    They actually ended up playing some great footballa stark contrast to Blokhin's early concerns that his defenders can't tackle and his strikers can't shoot.

     

    Best tactical moment

    There are a few candidates for this, but allowing Oleh Gusev a free role from right-back just pips the decision to stick Anatoliy Tymoshchuk on Zlatan Ibrahimovic in a man-marking role

    Gusev is a quick, explosive right-winger who played out of position in defence, but was frequently found the furthest man forward.

    He allowed Ukraine to dominate play and also let Andriy Yarmolenko play as an inverted winger, cutting inside on his favoured left foot to cause damage.

     

    Worst tactical moment

    Ukraine were unfortunate not to qualify after outplaying England in their final group game, but the loss against France is what did the damage.

    Gusev bombing forward against the French left Franck Ribery very much in the clear, but not enough was done with regards to a contingency plan for this.

    Tymoshchuk is slow so he was never going to be able to cover the winger efficiently, so he should have been double-covered or tracked by someone more mobile.

     

    Grade: B

    Blokhin did well with what he had at his disposal, and things turned out much rosier than the dark clouds he cast over his team's chances to begin with.

6. Croatia

12 of 17

    Manager: Slaven Bilic

    Formation: 4-4-2

     

    Typical setup

    Bilic is another manager who changed this around a great deal, showing no loyalty to a particular tactical system whatsoever.

    He mostly started matches with a 4-4-2 or loose form of it, but by halftime he would switch to a 4-3-3 or an adaptation of a 4-2-3-1.

    The great thing about Croatia is that they have some unbelievably versatile players, so no substitutes were necessary when he changed things from top to bottom.

     

    Best tactical moment

    Bilic's finest moment in this tournament was his instruction to man-mark Andrea Pirlo with Mario Mandzukic.

    Croatia are the only team in the tournament who have successfully shut the pass master down—albeit for a brief time, not a full 90 minutes—and that should be commended.

    It did sacrifice a crucial attacking piece in Bilic's puzzle, but the game ended 1-1 so there were no complaints from Croatians.

     

    Worst tactical moment

    Croatia played well in their three games and would have qualified from another group.

    The only criticism I can level at Bilic is the vast amount of changes he made during the second half against Spain.

    Whilst he had to win, and so change was absolutely necessary, Croatia were coping well with the score at 0-0. He brought on Nikica Jelavic to provide more of a goal threat, but bring Eduardo on was a step too far and the team became unbalanced.

     

    Grade: B

    The Croatians were great, but their fate was sealed when they were placed in a group with Italy and Spain. Bilic proved he is tactically aware and not afraid to make changes—something you should be able to say about every coach at an international tournament, but you can't.

5. Germany

13 of 17

    Manager: Joachim Low

    Formation: 4-2-3-1

     

    Typical setup

    Germany is a different animal. They certainly exert pressure and an element of control by passing the ball around nicely and press when out of possession, but they don't pass for the sake of it.

    Everything they do is tidy, careful and meaningful. It starts in the engine room, so Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira are integral to their progress, but "Schweini" has an injury that's held them back.

    Mesut Ozil pulls the strings from behind a single striker, drifting in and out of space and creating overloads in the wide areas to allow Germany to overpower their opponents.

     

    Best tactical moment

    Low had been quite consistent with his team selections during the three group-stage wins, with only Lars Bender coming in to replace Jerome Boateng due to suspension.

    It was a surprise, then, to see him start Miroslav Klose, Marco Reus and Andre Schurrle against Greece. It turned out to be a masterful change, as the pace rinsed Greece's sturdy defence and Mesut Ozil worked even better with Klose than he did with Mario Gomez.

     

    Worst tactical moment

    After literally just acclaiming him for his astute decisions for the Greece game, I now condemn him for a shambolic team selection against Italy in the semifinal.

    Gomez was reselected at the expense of Klose, while the underperforming Lukas Podolski re-entered the fray at the expense of the excellent Reus.

    Bringing those two on at halftime signalled Low's admission of his mistake, but the damage was already done and Italy shut up shop.

     

    Grade: B+

    It was all going so well until they met Italy. With the correct starting XI, it could have been very different. The maximum nine-point haul from the group stages is impossible to ignore, but Germany should have overcome Italy and made their way to the final.

4. Spain

14 of 17

    Manager: Vicente del Bosque

    Formation: 4-3-3 / 4-6-0

     

    Typical setup

    We all know how Spain playpass, pass, pass.

    They took it a step further this tournament, sacrificing the limited directness they had in favour of a strikerless, six-man midfield approach.

    They've effectively bossed the tournament in second gear, and whilst criticism floods in saying they don't look impressive, no one actually made them step into second gear.

    Fernando Torres was an option from the bench when a switch was needed, but del Bosque generally started with six players in the middle.

     

    Best tactical moment

    Del Bosque's finest tactical moment was the one which repaired the damage he'd originally done against Italy in the first game.

    As this article explains, Cesc Fabregas was flailing in a "false-nine" role and Italy's three-man defence was under no pressure whatsoever.

    Bringing Fernando Torres to linger on the shoulder of Giorgio Chiellini was an astute move, as the Italian back line had become accustomed to defending high up the pitch under no threat of a direct, incisive attack.

     

    Worst tactical moment

    Again, it remains difficult to pick holes in an unbeaten side leading up to the final.

    The selection of Spain's right-back was left me puzzled for a while, though, as the players clearly do not trust Alvaro Arbeloa on the ball.

    Jordi Alba represents a fine outlet on the left, but you can see the reluctance to pass to the right in each player. While Sergio Ramos is a certified, full-time central defender now, I'd have been tempted to play Ramos on the right and introduce Javi Martinez in the middle.

     

    Grade: A-

    He was on a B+ before the final, but some astute tactical switches and planning for the 4-0 thrashing of Italy won me over.

3. Greece

15 of 17

    Manager: Fernando Santos

    Formation: 4-3-3

     

    Typical setup

    It wasn't quite the Greece of Euro 2004, but it wasn't far off it, either. The defensive, conservative 4-3-3 Santos set out was incredibly successful during qualifying and conceded just five goals.

    Bringing this into the tournament, it proved its mettle despite Germany slotting four past them. A clean sheet against Russia was unthinkable, and they probably should have grabbed three points off Poland.

     

    Best tactical moment

    The introduction of Dimitris Salpingidis against Poland at halftime was the closest thing to a master stroke this tournament has seen.

    Poland were playing a ridiculously high defensive line whilst 1-0 up in the Group A opener and suffered the consequences.

    The White Eagles' central defence is a weakness and Salpangidis exploited it. He scored one and got Wojciech Szczesny sent off thanks to an incisive, darting run. From there, he started each game for Greece and was one of their best players.

     

    Worst tactical moment

    Santos didn't do a lot wrong because he didn't have a lot to work with, however, Georgios Samaras was arguably the most useless footballer at the tournament and the decision to persevere with him was questionable.

    He may have scored a classic counterattacking goal against Germany in the quarterfinal, but he nearly messed that one up and he was inside the six-yard box.

    He was poor in possession, lazy when tracking and generally slow throughout the four games Greece played.

     

    Grade: A-

    Seems like a high grade, but you can't deny Santos got the very best out of a shocking bunch and put two past Germany in the quarterfinal despite unjustly losing talisman Giorgos Karagounis to suspension.

2. Portugal

16 of 17

    Manager: Paulo Bento

    Formation: 4-3-3

     

    Typical setup

    Bento favours a controlling 4-3-3 formation with flying full-backs and solid midfield battlers. Joao Moutinho really stood out this tournament with some excellent, commanding performances, but Miguel Veloso is just as important.

    The key man is Cristiano Ronaldo, though, so everything threatening goes through him. He plays as a left forward opposite Nani, so the whole formation becomes a little bit wonky, but that's not so bad when your reaching semifinals, is it?

     

    Best tactical moment

    It is important to be reactive as a coach, so when Ronaldo wasn't being brought into the game by his teammates, Bento made subtle switches each game to allow his star man to become more involved.

    Bringing Ronaldo more and more into the proceedings allowed Portugal to get the better of Denmark, storm past Netherlands and simply carry his team over the line against a stubborn Czech Republic.

     

    Worst tactical moment

    Portugal were awful for 70 minutes in their opening game against Germany, but there wasn't anything tactically wrong with them, they just didn't start playing until they went 1-0 down

    It's tough to pick holes in Paulo Bento's extremely impressive campaign, but the loss of Helder Postiga in the quarterfinal against Czech Republic should have paved the way for a start for either Ronaldo up front or Nelson Oliveira in his place.

    Using Hugo Almeida was the wrong choice and his contribution to the tournament was as follows: several sitters missed, greed stopping him from playing in others in a better position and overall lethargy whilst running.

     

    Grade: A-

    It could have been even more for Portugal, but it wasn't to be in the Iberian derby. Bento gets a top grade which is shy of perfect purely because of his decision to use Almeida for the semifinal.

1. Italy

17 of 17

    Manager: Cesare Prandelli

    Formation: 4-4-2 (Diamond) / 3-5-2

     

    Typical setup

    For the first two games, Italy used a 3-5-2 formation, then switched to a diamond-shaped 4-4-2 after the 1-1 draw with Croatia.

    Both formations saw Andrea Pirlo in the traditional "regista" role, while Daniele De Rossi switched between central defender and midfield shuttler. 

     

    Best tactical moment

    Despite it being injury forced during the buildup to the tournament, the switch to 3-5-2 for the opening game against Spain was incredibly effective.

    The system proved defensively comfortable against Spain's strikerless approach, whilst they still used the ball well when they managed to acquire it.

    De Rossi would step up and pressure Cesc Fabregas when he drifted forward and both Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini looked surprisingly assured despite having no one to mark.

     

    Worst tactical moment

    Unfortunately, Prandelli dropped an absolute clanger against Spain.

    No manager should use all three substitutions by the 60th minute of a game, even if it is 2-0 in the final and your staring at defeat.

    Thiago Motta had been on the pitch a matter of minutes before pulling his hamstring, so the Italians played half an hour with 10 men against ball-hungry Spain.

     

    Grade: A

    The tactical switches were no minor feat, and Prandelli deserves praise for knowing what his squad can and can't handle. The final wasn't good for him, but for me, Prandelli was the manager of the tournament.

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