Brazil-Italy: First Half Defensive Nightmare Sees Azzurri Sent Packing

Danny PenzaSenior Writer IJune 21, 2009

PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 21:  Brazilians players celebrate as goalie Gianluigi Buffon #1 of Italy sits on the pitch dejected during the FIFA Confederations Cup match between Italy and Brazil at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium on June 21, 2009 in Pretoria, South Africa.  (Photo by Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

It was pretty simple for Marcello Lippi and his Italy squad if they wanted to advance in the 2009 edition of the Confederations Cup. You win, you go on to the semifinals but if you play poorly, you're going home.

The problem was, the team the Azzurri faced off against was one that thumped them just a few months ago in Brazil.

And the 3-0 result showed that this Italy team is not the same that won the World Cup three years ago.

To say the first half was a disaster would be an understatement. After coming out with some kind of fire lit underneath them, Italy were actually the more dangerous team.

But then the Brazilians started to find their mojo as we got deeper into the first half.

Free-flowing, attacking football started to take place at the expense of the Italy defense and there was no stopping anybody. With acres of space to work with, the Brazil attack galopped forward with basically no challenge at all.

Both Italian centerbacks, Giorgio Chiellini and Fabio Cannavaro, looked like they had barely played on the field with such talent before. The Brazilian attack was making it look easy—dribbling, passing, and basically doing anything they wanted to against the Azzurri backline.

Add a struggling defense to a non-existent midfield and Brazil had tons of space to work with.

The way that the Italian defense was playing, other than goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon who made several crucial saves when the game was still scoreless, it was surprising that the first goal of the match came with just under 10 minutes to go in the first half. Luis Fabiano took advantage of a Maicon mishit and launched a rocket into the left corner of the net.

There were appeals for offside, but everything looked good when replays were shown.

For Brazil, the fun was just getting started.

Just four minutes later, it was Luis Fabiano again, this time after Robinho took advantage of running freely down the left side of the field. Fabiano easily slotted it past Buffon and from then on, any visions of seeing Italy advance were fading fast.

Italy put its own nail in their coffin just seconds before the first half ended when Andrea Dossena, who replaced Fabio Grosso on the left side of defense, put a Robinho cross past Buffon and all signs pointed to the route being in overdrive.

Forty-five minutes with some of the worst football many Italy supporters had ever seen came to an end. Many could understand why Buffon could do nothing but walk off the field as if he was about to explode. His defense had left him out to dry and he could do nothing about it.

The backbone of Italian football was crumbling in front of our very eyes.

The second half was better than the first 45 minutes. The Italy defense didn't get beat as much as it they did in the first half—which isn't saying much—and they did tighten things up a considerable amount. Brazil got their chances, and you had to think they wouldn't take their foot of the pedal that much, but so did Italy.

Simone Pepe, one of Italy's few bright spots, brought much needed energy to the right flank. His crosses were dangerous and his pace caused some problems for the Brazilian defense.

Giuseppe Rossi also had a positive impact after coming on for Vincenzo Iaquinta after Brazil opened the scoring. It took him awhile to get going, but when he did, he was getting loose and shooting lasers on goal.

But still, the deficit from the first-half debacle was too much to overcome. If Italy had played like they did in the second half for the majority of the game, you would have to think the scoreline wouldn't have been so significantly big.

Looking back is not a good thing to do and all Lippi can do now is look forward and figure out how exactly he can make the Azzurri a legitimate contender again. Whether it is through changing his tactics or changing his personnel, something has to be done.

There's just under a year before teams come back to South Africa for the World Cup and Lippi will have to decide whether he will introduce new blood of stay with the crew that won him the world championship in Germany.

If the showings in this so-called dress rehearsal for next summer were any indication of a team needing a change, this had to be a big red flag.

Maybe the talk of the Confederations Cup not being a high priority in the Italy camp was the truth.