3 Things Italy Must Change Following Their Loss vs. Costa Rica

Adam Digby@@Adz77Featured ColumnistJune 21, 2014

3 Things Italy Must Change Following Their Loss vs. Costa Rica

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    On Friday night, Italy lost to Costa Rica in one of the poorest displays seen since Cesare Prandelli took over from Marcello Lippi back in 2010. The coach’s personnel changes robbed his side of creativity, whilst also damaging their chemistry, and the consequences of his decisions came at a heavy cost for the Azzurri.

    They now face the arduous task of taking points in their final game against a Uruguay side boosted by both their win over England and the return of Luis Suarez. The in-form Liverpool striker returned to resign Roy Hodgson’s men to defeat and looked to have recovered almost completely from his recent knee surgery.

    In order to accomplish that goal, Prandelli will need to make a number of key changes, and this time he must get them absolutely right, or risk seeing his Azzurri crash out at the group stage. Over the following pages, three of those decisions are discussed in detail, identifying where alterations are most desperately required.

Drop Ignazio Abate for Mattia De Sciglio

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    The decision to leave out Gabriel Paletta was undoubtedly the right one, the Parma man enduring a wretched outing against England last week. However, the man Prandelli chose to replace him with hardly fared any better. Ignazio Abate struggled for both form and confidence in much the same way former Liverpool man Paletta did in that opening fixture.

    Not only was Abate directly at fault for not preventing the cross which led to Bryan Ruiz’ winning goal for Costa Rica, but his inclusion also forced Matteo Darmian to switch flanks. While never neglecting his defensive duty, the versatile Torino full-back was a constant threat when he pressed forward, linking well with Antonio Candreva down the right flank.

    Prandelli lost that useful weapon as a result of the switch, but the return of Mattia De Sciglio should quickly remedy the situation. The 21-year-old appears to now be fully fit, and he can slot in at left-back, where he is arguably at his best, allowing Darmian to revert to his role on the opposite flank.

Restore Marco Verratti to Midfield

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    Italy’s lack of creativity was perhaps the most glaring issue against Costa Rica, and that can perhaps be attributed to Thiago Motta being given a berth in the starting XI. While the former Inter midfielder did just what was expected of him, the absence of his Paris Saint-Germain team-mate Marco Verratti definitely hampered the Azzurri.

    The 21-year-old is viewed as the heir-apparent to Andrea Pirlo, and his presence against England helped prevent Italy being overly-reliant on the Juventus veteran. Restoring him to the line-up would provide Prandelli with far more creativity and flair than was on show vs. Costa Rica.

Give Mario Balotelli Better Support in Attack

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    The idea of playing Mario Balotelli alone up front is one which paid off handsomely for Prandelli against England, with the Milan striker looking sharp and dangerous throughout the game. Against Costa Rica however, the 23-year-old simply looked isolated, growing increasingly frustrated as the match wore on.

    Italy dominated possession far more than they did in that opening match, stats site WhoScored.com showing 56 per cent vs. England, compared to 61 per cent vs. the Central American side. Despite that, Antonio Candreva and Claudio Marchisio contributing little to the attack, with the pair failing to get a single shot on target between them, according to WhoScored.

    The introductions of Antonio Cassano, Alessio Cerci and Lorenzo Insigne did little to improve that, as Prandelli shifted system in hope of an equaliser. One of those three surely must start against Uruguay if Italy are to advance, and it is perhaps Torino man Cerci who is best suited to that role.

    Already identified as a player who can help the Azzurri here, the 26-year-old possesses the versatility and creativity so clearly lacking on Friday. With him either alongside Balotelli or out wide, the Azzurri would be a much more formidable opponent and should secure the point they need to advance.