Proud Cesare Prandelli Right to Resign After Italy's World Cup Exit

Adam DigbyFeatured ColumnistJune 25, 2014

NATAL, BRAZIL - JUNE 24:  Head coach Cesare Prandelli looks on prior to the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group D match between Italy and Uruguay at Estadio das Dunas on June 24, 2014 in Natal, Brazil.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Clive Rose/Getty Images

"The shambles!" proclaimed the front page of Wednesday morning's La Gazzetta dello Sport, the pink paper branding Italy’s exit the previous evening "a failure."

It is impossible to argue with that assessment after the Azzurri lost two matches in which they performed woefully to bow out at the group stage for the second successive World Cup.

The discussion in the immediate aftermath of their 1-0 defeat at the hands of Uruguay has centred on the reasons for their collapse, and numerous excuses are readily available. The more obvious ones include the weather in Brazil, Claudio Marchisio's red card and, of course, Luis Suarez biting Giorgio Chiellini on the shoulder.

Mario Balotelli's almost non-existent contribution factored into Italy's exit heavily, but there is little doubt that the main problems surrounding the team's elimination lay at the feet of its coach.

Cesare Prandelli had done a marvellous job since taking over the Azzurri bench back in 2010, transforming both their style of play and the whole ethos of the team.

After replacing Marcello Lippi, the former Fiorentina boss has made the national team a source of pride, using them as a force for good across the peninsula. Introducing a possession-based formula which played to the strengths of his players, the coach made good on the promises made upon his initial appointment.

NATAL, BRAZIL - JUNE 24:  Head coach Cesare Prandelli of Italy consoles Gianluigi Buffon after the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group D match between Italy and Uruguay at Estadio das Dunas on June 24, 2014 in Natal, Brazil.  (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty
Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

"Let's entertain. Let's be nice. Let's be likeable," Prandelli said at his initial press conference (h/t ESPN), and before travelling to Brazil ,he had clearly achieved that goal.

Prandelli's Italy were fun, a joy to watch and even brought the three-man defence back to top-level international football.

But now, after finishing third in Group D, his plans lie in ruins and his position may be untenable. After the final whistle in the Arena das Dunas, he looked a broken man and succumbed to the pressure, offering his resignation to the Italian FA.

"The technical project failed," Prandelli told reporters per Football Italia, "and it's only right I take responsibility."

With a number of his decisions failing to bear fruit, his sentiment is not only a noble one, it is also a sadly accurate analysis of the situation.

While Balotelli must be blamed for failing to deliver when the coach had placed his faith in him, a number of other players chosen by Prandelli were simply not up to the task.

Antonio Cassano was a disaster in his first World Cup. Stats site showed that the 31-year-old managed just a single shot on target in his two appearances combined.

The same source also highlighted his poor passing. The Parma striker's 59.5 percent success rate made him the worst in the squad by some distance. The decision to field Ciro Immobile from the start against Uruguay made little sense, as the 24-year-old is clearly incompatible with Balotelli and the pair limited the space in which each could operate.

Prandelli—who had previously admitted pairing the duo would be "forced" per Football Italia—only appeared to compound that error in the second half against Uruguay, withdrawing Immobile just as the striker was beginning to shine.

Leaving Giuseppe Rossi at home left the Azzurri attack blunt, and as time expired in Natal, his absence was most keenly felt as Italy failed to score.

Breaking up the Antonio Candreva-Matteo Darmian partnership that destroyed England was another poor choice, one with huge ramifications in the match with Costa Rica. There Prandelli tinkered with the side, robbing it of the creativity and chemistry which had punctuated their opening-match victory.

Jon Super/Associated Press

Indeed, Prandelli appeared to be guilty of making changes without reason, over-thinking his selections as he pursued an unattainable goal.

"I have a dream of winning the World Cup by using seven different formations in seven matches," Prandelli told reporters last year (h/t The Guardian), and his constant switching in Brazil hindered rather than helped the Azzurri.

However, even with this embarrassing exit and the retirement of Andrea Pirlo, it is not all doom and gloom for Italy.

Prandelli's accomplishments should be a huge source of pride for him and his players. There are also finally a number of young talents developing, with Mattia De Sciglio and Marco Verratti in particular looking like cornerstones of the future.

FIGC President Giancarlo Abete also quit his role yesterday (h/t Sky Sports) but urged his board to "persuade Cesare to reconsider."

Whether or not Prandelli is the right man to mould those emerging stars remains debatable; perhaps the pressure now upon him is simply too great for him to continue.