The Wake the F Up Italy Needed
Disgusted. Devastated. Despondent. And many other words beginning with the letter D could be used to describe Italy's performance in the Confederations Cup. "Dire" also springs to mind.
We are used to Italy being slow starters to tournaments. Most of the time we don't care. They always rally in the final group match. They always produce the goods, that final ball and goal that gets them through.
This time, they didn't. This time they gave little hope to any follower of the Italian game that they would be able to produce the goods come next year. A victory against a USA team that had two clear goal scoring chances before their indiscipline got the better of them. Fine. But a defeat to Egypt? I could understand if it was a defeat to England, but Egypt?
Sure, you may cry out that the Confederations Cup means nothing. I would counter that you should cry with the notion that a defeat is a defeat. The Italian team, don't forget, is the reigning world champion. Where was the pride that title entailed throughout the tournament? It was nowhere. And a lot of that is down to Lippi.
He took a 23-man squad that was clearly past its prime to South Africa. Gattuso wasn't match fit but played anyway. De Rossi was side-stepped more often than not. Zambrotta has lost his legs.
Up front Italy had Luca Toni. Brazil have Robinho and most of their team. Maicon could probably play up front, such was his speed, skill and endeavour to get to goal scoring positions. They have Kaka.
Spain have Villa, Torres Xavi, Iniesta et al. They have Fabregas taking up an expensive bench-warming role. England can rely on players like Gerrard, Rooney, Lampard etc.
Who can Italy rely on to dig them out of a hole? Gilardino? It just doesn't bear thinking about.
The simple fact is Italian football needs to rid itself of the notion that experience outclasses youth. Serie A has some outstanding products of youth coming through the ranks. Giovinco must be given his shot by Cerrara. Santon has already proven he can hack it with the big boys.
The Juventus board, loathe as I am to admit as a Milan fan, have a cracking academy system in place. They should utilise it. It looks likely they will provide the Azzurri with the majority of their next backline.
Maybe, something can also be done about the ridiculous laws in Italy which do not allow a player to sign a professional contract until he is 18. Guissepe Rossi was snapped up by Manchester United from Parma because he couldn't sign professional forms. A talent gone to Spain that could have been lighting up Serie A.
It is too early to say whether Macheda will go on to such heights. But he too fell victim to Italy's harsh legal system regarding football contracts.
One thing is for sure though: Lippi has a hard task ahead of him. Swallowing some pride and calling Cassano into the fold would be a start. Assigning positions for Santon, Giovinco and even the tantrum inflicted Balotelli would be a start.
A Nazionale follower waits with bated breath...
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