5 Things for Italy to Take out of Their World Cup Group Stage Games
Just like that, it was over.
After three games, for the second consecutive World Cup, Italy are out at the group stage following a performance almost as bad as that of four years earlier.
Cesare Prandelli has been in charge of the team since the embarrassment of South Africa saw a sad end to Marcello Lippi’s second reign. His hard work and the effort of building toward this summer’s tournament was expected to deliver more for the Euro 2012 finalists, but they head home following a dire showing.
Over the following pages are five things the competition highlighted, some positive aspects shown by analysing Italy’s performances more deeply than simply noting the negative results.
1. Cesare Prandelli Mistakes Were Avoidable
While the failings of the Italy coach have been discussed at length, Cesare Prandelli also made many correct decisions at this World Cup. Chief among them may have been his choice to field Marco Verratti from the start in two of the games.
He was rewarded with solid displays from the rapidly maturing playmaker, and the same can be said of Mattia De Sciglio and Matteo Darmian. Other young players will benefit from the experience, such as Napoli’s Lorenzo Insigne, even if his own performances were below par.
Prandelli’s errors—the Mario Balotelli-Ciro Immobile partnership and his constant tinkering with formations—were easily avoidable and are unlikely to be repeated by his eventual successor.
2. The Full-Back Issues Were Resolved
Entering the tournament, questions arose over both of Italy’s full-back positions. However, after trying three different combinations in Brazil, the Azzurri may have finally discovered the ideal solution. Matteo Darmian, particularly in the victory over England, was perhaps the team’s revelation of the tournament.
Against Uruguay, Mattia De Sciglio also stepped up, looking like the sharpest player Italy have fielded on the left flank in some time.
3. Marco Verratti Proved He Belonged
Marco Verratti has had issues with discipline and temperament in his career, but he put all that aside to shine in Brazil.
WhoScored.com shows the Paris Saint-Germain midfielder averaged two tackles, 0.5 interceptions and 52 passes per game—completing a staggering 92.6 percent of those attempts.
Featuring alongside Andrea Pirlo and Daniele De Rossi against England, the Italian midfield trio looked superb, with the 21-year-old proving he deserves to play alongside such excellent players.
4. Gigi Buffon Remains World Class
While the performances of Iker Casillas showed the Spanish captain may be finished at the highest level, Italy can rest assured that their own goalkeeper and captain remains among the best in the world.
Gigi Buffon performed admirably, despite the team around him struggling, with the two goals he conceded most certainly not his fault.
A number of saves, particularly against Uruguay, kept the Azzurri in the game. Squawka.com shows he was successful with 100 percent of his punched clearances and 90 percent of his distribution attempts.
Others may have faltered, but Italy’s “Superman” can still be called upon to deliver his best.
5. Giuseppe Rossi Will Return
Many of Italy’s problems were in attack, and there were a number of them.
Mario Balotelli struggled with the weight of expectation placed upon him, there was little cohesion and even less pace among Italy’s forwards. All of those issues can be resolved quite quickly and simply by adding Giuseppe Rossi back to the line-up when the Azzurri return to action in September.
The Fiorentina striker guarantees goals, can play well alongside Balotelli and has the pace the other forwards in Brazil lacked. Stephan El Shaarawy brings similar attributes, and he too can expect to feature prominently for the Azzurri in the future.