Key Selection Dilemmas for Italy Ahead of World Cup Clash with Uruguay
After the win against England gave Italy the best possible start to the 2014 World Cup, Friday’s loss to Costa Rica brought the Azzurri crashing back to earth.
While the Central American nation deserve every credit for their victory, it would be Cesare Prandelli’s men sitting atop Group D with maximum points if they had delivered a performance anywhere near their best.
In any case, they failed to do so, and the tinkering of the coach was undoubtedly a major factor in their collective collapse.
As has already been discussed at length, Prandelli’s changes from the first game robbed his side of chemistry and creativity, the absence of both glaring in this jarring defeat.
Yet, even as he understands his changes to the line-up were to blame for many of Italy’s shortcomings, the former Fiorentina boss will know more alterations are needed ahead of Tuesday’s meeting with Uruguay.
Here is a closer look at three changes the Azzurri must make if they are to progress to the last 16.
One of Italy’s biggest issues against Costa Rica was the display of Ignazio Abate at right-back.
The Milan defender turned in a performance he will hope to quickly forget.
According to WhoScored.com, Abate committed three fouls, turned the ball over and was even caught offside as he summarily failed to deal with the constant pressure.
In addition, his inclusion broke up the exciting partnership that Matteo Darmian and Antonio Candreva had built on that flank. The duo combined countless times to slice England to pieces in the previous match.
The pair were split by Prandelli’s decision to switch Darmian to the left-back spot, and it is here the coach must make a tough decision.
Having already shuffled his back line once, he may be forced to do so again, restoring Darmian to his original spot and installing Mattia De Sciglio on the left.
While playing him would be a gamble, the 21-year-old is at his best on that side of the field, and he can improve the contribution Italy gain from their full-backs.
Changing the Attacking Balance
As well as in defense, Prandelli must also make changes in attack. Striker Mario Balotelli has looked frustrated and isolated up front. The Milan man can play as a lone striker, but he must receive support from the midfield behind him in order for the system to work.
If the coach gives the Candreva-Darmian pairing another match in which to shine, perhaps Claudio Marchisio should give way. Alessio Cerci provides the perfect combination of width, creativity and scoring to trouble even the very best sides.
Replacing Daniele De Rossi
Italy have suffered a major blow ahead of their clash with Uruguay.
According to chief medic Enrico Castellacci, Daniele De Rossi has been ruled out of the match with a calf strain.
Per Football Italia:
“It is very likely De Rossi won’t be able to play against Uruguay. There are no lesions to the soleus muscle. It simply is an injury that requires a few days to recover from.”
Replacing the 30-year-old on Tuesday will be an extremely difficult task, which Prandelli must handle correctly.
Marco Verratti must return to share playmaking duties with Andrea Pirlo, while Thiago Motta appears to be the most obvious choice to replace the Roma midfielder between them.
However, while Motta is a much better player than many believe, the aforementioned change up front provides the coach with the ideal opportunity to bring a successful club recipe onto the international stage.
Claudio Marchisio might make way in attack, but he has proven this season that he possesses the ideal skill set to play in the holding role in midfield.
He featured there over an extended period this term, fully acquitting himself as he showcased new facets to his game, notably shining in a meeting with Sampdoria back in January.
According to the FourFourTwo.com StatsZone app, Marchisio led the team with five tackles, adding one interception and blocking a shot.
Once on the ball, his distribution was superb, completing 56 of 62 total passes. That includes eight of 10 long balls, which is more than double his usual efforts of 37.2 passes and 3.9 long balls per game, according to WhoScored.com.
Possible Italy XI to face Uruguay (4-3-3): Buffon; Darmian, Barzagli, Chiellini, De Sciglio; Pirlo, Marchisio, Verratti; Candreva, Balotelli, Cerci