Ranking the Italy Players on Their World Cup Group-Stage Form

Anthony LopopoloFeatured ColumnistJune 27, 2014

Ranking the Italy Players on Their World Cup Group-Stage Form

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    Andrew Medichini/Associated Press

    The 2010 World Cup was a disaster for Italy, and while they actually won a game in the tournament this year, they were really only a point better than four years ago. All that progress made during the intervening years was gone in two hours on Tuesday against Uruguay.

    Just two hours to lose a game, to lose a coach, to lose the president of the Italian football federation. The whole program, all the confidence, destroyed.

    Italy lost against Costa Rica, probably their worst World Cup loss since the 1966 defeat to North Korea, and they lost to Uruguay, despite the biting and the red card. The Azzurri were decidedly poor throughout the group stage.

    Coach Cesare Prandelli put together a talented team, but they were too conservative, and they lacked the killer instinct. Prandelli was responsible for those bashful tactics, but he built up the team from nothing, the ignominy of the 2010 World Cup still burning like a scarlet letter, and he deserved a better fate, a better reward. 

    Italy are not just a team in crisis; reports via Football Italia suggest that Mario Balotelli was ostracized by teammates. They are a nation in crisis. The economy is still struggling, the youth are out of work, and problems with immigration and racism exist. There's contempt for the country from its own citizens. The national anthem was jeered and booed during the Coppa Italia final, and Prandelli is aware of these fractures in the Italian identity. 

    Prandelli told reporters (h/t Football Italia): 

    We are one of the few national teams to leave for a tournament without the support of our fans. We always have to win them over, game by game. When we left, we were almost ashamed, as there were insults and jeers...We no longer have a sense of patriotism.

    No Italian player helped the cause. No one really stood out. Of course there was the dummy and a few fine (final?) saves from Gianluigi Buffon. It was a last hurrah without much oomph. And now, they're left picking up the pieces of the country's shattered soul.

    Here is a review of each player's performances during another shabby World Cup. (Alberto Aquilani and Mattia Perin did not feature in the tournament at all and were therefore not included.)

Gianluigi Buffon

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    Petr David Josek/Associated Press

    Buffon sprained his ankle, missed the first match and lost the two games in which he did play. But that is not all his fault. Buffon did hesitate on the goal scored by Bryan Ruiz to win the game for Costa Rica, and in the past, he simply didn't do that.

    But he made two crucial diving stops to keep Italy in the following match against Uruguay. 

    Rating: 6.5 out of 10

Mattia De Sciglio

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    Luca Bruno/Associated Press

    Mattia De Sciglio also missed the first game and only started in the final encounter, where he looked unsure of himself. He is only 21, and he appeared to be overwhelmed by the pace of Uruguay. De Sciglio is still learning but not yet good enough to start for Italy.

    Rating: 4.5 out of 10

Giorgio Chiellini

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    Hassan Ammar/Associated Press

    Luis Suarez left an impression on Giorgio Chiellini that many know too well. Another bite, another controversy. Luckily, Chiellini has a good sense of humour.  

    E ESSA FOTO DA CAMAREIRA DO HOTEL DA ITÁLIA?! COPA: VOCÊ É TUDO PRA MIM. pic.twitter.com/KhQAwEV083

    — Judão (@JUDAOcombr) June 25, 2014

    Chiellini started the tournament as a left-back but then returned to a more natural position in the middle of defence. He cleared away many balls and took a lot of physical abuse, but the 29-year-old was not the picture of certainty. He did not look entirely comfortable inside his own box, and he let Ruiz run off to score Costa Rica's winner.

    Rating: 6 out of 10

Matteo Darmian

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    Martin Mejia/Associated Press

    Matteo Darmian came off a breakout season with Torino, and he continued to impress with Italy. The 24-year-old full-back tried his best go forward, and that's when he plays at his best.

    He was especially good against England.

    "Not only did he show great enthusiasm, he quickly understood what I was looking for in that position," Coach Prandelli told FIFA.com.

    Rating: 7 out of 10

Thiago Motta

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    Frank Augstein/Associated Press

    Thiago Motta is a fine midfielder for Paris-Saint Germain, but he was not effective in this tournament. There are too many players of a similar defensive disposition in the blue of Italy.

    Even though he completed many of his passes, many of them were negative, sent backward. Besides that, he was slow. He simply did not fit into the system.

    Rating: 5 out of 10

     

Antonio Candreva

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    Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

    Antonio Candreva did some exceptional running on the flanks against England, pushing up with speed and delivering the ball that led to Balotelli's winner. But then he slowed down, was later substituted and benched.

    His sister told Rai Radio 2 (h/t Football Italia) that he had a fever on the day of the game against Costa Rica, but was left "sad and furious" after sitting out of the Uruguay game.

    Rating: 6 out of 10

Ignazio Abate

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    Hassan Ammar/Associated Press

    Ignazio Abate was responsible defensively, but he has trouble attacking the wings and delivering a good ball. That was an issue for him during the World Cup, and he only played one game.

    He made some great tackles, and he tracked back and used his speed. He is an incomplete full-back and is not good enough to start games.

    Rating: 5.5 out of 10

Claudio Marchisio

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    Claudio Villa/Getty Images

    Claudio Marchisio scored Italy's first goal in the World Cup, but unfortunately, it was just one of two. Marchisio distributed the ball well, but his presence faded with Italy's hopes, and his tournament ended with a red card, the first of his career. He is a deserved starter with the Azzurri who was unlucky.

    Rating: 6 out of 10

Mario Balotelli

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    Claudio Villa/Getty Images

    He proposed to his girlfriend in Brazil, and he was the only striker to score a goal for Italy. It all started fine. But his actions again were frustrating at the least, and he forced Coach Prandelli in the final game to sub him off in fear of an inevitable red card coming his way.

    Balotelli lacked the necessary service, but he did not appear interested at all on the field, despite pleading in a written defence on Instagram (via Chris Waugh of the Daily Mail) that he had "given everything" to the national cause.

    Rating: 5 out of 10

Antonio Cassano

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    Claudio Villa/Getty Images

    Antonio Cassano played just 63 minutes in the World Cup, and his inclusion was debatable from the beginning. He was not a player who could handle the hot and muggy conditions in Brazil, and he hardly made any impression in his first and probably only World Cup appearance.

    Rating: 4 out of 10

Alessio Cerci

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    Claudio Villa/Getty Images

    Alessio Cerci was a bit part on this team, and that was not a surprise. The 26-year-old winger was not a big part of Prandelli's team in qualifying, and he didn't quite fit into the system.

    He was limited to a substitution appearance against Costa Rica.

    Rating: N/A

Salvatore Sirigu

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    Claudio Villa/Getty Images

    Salvatore Sirigu played without fear when Buffon went down with an injury before the opening match.

    "He did the right thing immediately," former Italy goalkeeper Francesco Toldo told La Gazzetta dello Sport (h/t Football Italia). "He began with energy and made a save to give courage right away and, at that point, assurance was given with his teammates, which for a goalkeeper is the thing that matters most."

    Sirigu made four saves against England and allowed a single goal, but the 27-year-old gave a glimpse of the future for Italy in the goalkeeping position.

    Rating: 6.5 out of 10

Andrea Barzagli

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    Clive Rose/Getty Images

    Andrea Barzagli is usually one of the smartest defenders in Italy, always positioned in the right spot. He did pull out of training, and there were suspicions about his health, but he was exposed in Brazil.

    Barzagli was far too slow, and Costa Rica and Uruguay took advantage. 

    Rating: 5.5 out of 10

Daniele De Rossi

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    Claudio Villa/Getty Images

    Daniele De Rossi said it was an "honour and pleasure" to play against captain Steven Gerrard and England, via Jonny Singer of the Daily Mail. After that, he struggled with a leg injury, and he missed the game against Uruguay.

    It is not a coincidence that Italy have not won games recently without him in the lineup. The 30-year-old midfielder was furious on Tuesday and urged the team to "begin again with real men," via Goal.com

    Rating: 5.5 out of 10

Ciro Immobile

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    Antonio Calanni/Associated Press

    Expectations were not as high for Ciro Immobile as they were for Balotelli. It was all a bit awkward for a player who finished as the Serie A top scorer who was recently sold for €19.4 million. And that's because Immobile has only played four times for Italy.

    He was not impressive in Brazil, and he strayed offside plenty of times. His inexperience at this level was obvious.

    Rating: 4.5 out of 10

Marco Parolo

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    Claudio Villa/Getty Images

    Marco Parolo made two appearances in Brazil as a substitute, and he dug in, worked hard and chased his man. But he played too little to make a difference. Italy have too many players in his mould (Marchisio, De Rossi, Thiago Motta).

    Rating: N/A

Leonardo Bonucci

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    Antonio Calanni/Associated Press

    Leonardo Bonucci made his debut in the World Cup in the final group game against Uruguay, and that seemed to happen only because Italy played with a three-man defence. He wasn't bad, and he tussled with some Uruguayans, but Prandelli really should have played him earlier in the tournament.

    Rating: 5 out of 10

Gabriel Paletta

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    Adam Pretty/Getty Images

    Gabriel Paletta was the man who replaced Bonucci in defence against England, and he was dreadful. It was shocking to see Paletta play so poorly, as he had a solid season with Parma. He looked lost, and he couldn't keep up with England.

    Parma president Tommaso Ghirardi hit back at critics, even if it was the truth: "These opinions are those given by journalists who had never seen him play," he told reporters (h/t Football Italia). "So they can't judge him. I repeat, it's a shame."

    Rating: 4.5 out of 10

Andrea Pirlo

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    Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

    Andrea Pirlo looked great in the beginning and old in the end. He lobbed the ball, spotted runs and played perfect passes against England.

    Against Costa Rica, he tried the same, but there was less invention.

    Against Uruguay, he had a hard time retaining the ball and making the transition from defence to offence. He struggled to be the fulcrum. It was sad to say farewell to the 35-year-old, but he said on Thursday to reporters (via Football Italia) that he would return to the national team if the new coach asked for him.

    Rating: 6.5 out of 10

Lorenzo Insigne

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    Antonio Calanni/Associated Press

    Lorenzo Insigne is a part of Italy's future, but he was largely ineffective in the role of the substitute in Brazil. He did not provide much width when he did play, but again, he was only on the field for 33 minutes.

    Rating: N/A

Marco Verratti

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Marco Verratti was easily Italy's best player in a shameful tournament. He often took charge of plays, made tough tackles, took lots of punishment and pulled off audacious spins and moves to get out of tricky situations. He slipped some great passes, and he was the perfect foil for Pirlo in midfield.

    Verratti is just 21, and he knows how to dictate the game. Italy's future could revolve around him.

    Rating: 7 out of 10