Italy vs. Luxembourg: 6 Things We Learned
Italy took on Luxembourg on Wednesday evening, their final appearance before they depart for South America to continue preparing for the World Cup.
Eight changes were made to the starting line-up which faced Ireland in their last outing, giving a number of players who had been left out an opportunity to impress.
Italy are notoriously poor in non-competitive matches, which makes reading into what such a game can tell us about the Azzurri very difficult. But here's a look at six things we learned from this 1-1 draw.
Marco Verratti Shone Again...
Just a few days removed from his impressive display against Ireland, Marco Verratti turned in another excellent performance here. The Paris Saint-Germain midfielder was involved in the buildup as Claudio Marchisio opened the scoring and looked like he fully deserved to retain his place.
That continued throughout the match, with the 21-year-old setting up good chances for both Mario Balotelli and Antonio Candreva.
...And He Can Play with Andrea Pirlo
On Saturday, Verratti filled in well for Andrea Pirlo (a performance detailed at length here), as he ensured the side did not miss the Juve man’s precision at the heart of midfield. Both men were named to the starting line-up against Luxembourg, which opened up an intriguing possibility in the future.
With two creative players who also protected the defence, opponents will not be able to focus solely on Pirlo, freeing the 2006 World Cup winner to cause even greater damage. Add in the underrated quality of Daniele De Rossi’s passing, and the Azzurri suddenly have a wealth of creative options.
Alessio Cerci Continues to Impress
Introduced as a late second-half substitute, Alessio Cerci once again impressed for Italy, continuing his fine domestic form on the international stage. There is a growing belief the Torino star should be included in the starting XI, and he only added to that argument on Wednesday night.
Going closer than anyone to extending Italy’s early lead, the 27-year-old added a different dimension to the Azzurri attack, bringing qualities the other forwards lacked.
Mario Balotelli Shines in the National Team
There is little doubt Mario Balotelli’s very best performances have come in the blue shirt of Italy, Cesare Prandelli regularly coaxing the 23-year-old's peak form at the perfect time.
He did so again in Perugia, creating the opening goal before forcing a string of excellent saves from goalkeeper Anthony Moris.
Cesare Prandelli Has the Options He Craves...
Cesare Prandelli has long discussed the need for tactical variety at the highest level, telling La Gazzetta dello Sport last week (h/t The Telegraph) that "being able to change becomes a resource. For this reason we will work on two or three formations."
Those positive performances from his attacking players will ensure that can become a reality in Brazil, making Italy a difficult opponent for the sides they face.
...But Italy Must Improve Their Concentration
For all the positives, Prandelli will be concerned at how Italy faded after an hour, with Luxembourg making some good attacking chances in the final 30 minutes. Had Aurelien Joachim been able to meet crosses from both Mathias Janisch and Dwayn Holter, the team ranked 120th in the world could have scored earlier than they did.
With just five minutes remaining, they did shock their prestigious hosts, with Maxime Chanot rising above Alberto Aquilani to head beyond Gigi Buffon and stun the home crowd. The coach remained unfazed however, telling RAI Sport (h/t Football Italia) that “there are a few things that we need to improve on.”