Italy played its first game of the World Cup today and came away with a 1-1 draw against Paraguay. The Azzurri trailed in the game but were able to even the score in the second half on a Daniele De Rossi goal.
The Azzurri controlled much of the game from a possession stand point, yet they were unable to come away with a win. More often than not, when a team controls the game as much as the Azzurri did today, they get the W. Unfortunately for Italy, they were unable to create many scoring chances during their time on the ball.
As the game progressed, it became clear Italy lacks a true playmaker who can create for himself and his teammates. They were missing someone all game that could make a bit of magic.
The Azzurri played a 4-2-3-1 with Simone Pepe, Claudio Marchisio, and Vincenzo Iaquinta in support of the lone striker Alberto Gilardino. This surprisingly left the only true creative player on the roster, Antonio Di Natale, on the bench.
Marchisio played in the central attacking midfield role. This clearly is not a role that suits him. He is a good player but is not suited to play in a trequarista type role. He belongs in a more central role of a four-man midfield—like the one he plays with Juventus.
Simone Pepe had a good game at left wing and provided some fairly good service for the Azzurri. He was really the only bright spot of the four attacking-minded players manager Marcello Lippi put on the pitch. He assisted De Rossi's goal on a well taken corner kick.
On the right wing Vincenzo Iaquinta was quiet all game and didn't have much of an impact. Alberto Gilardino had only one chance that I can recall: a shot blocked in the box. It is true that Gilardino wasn't provided enough service from the players around him, but you rarely saw him working back to connect with the midfielders.
This game showed the same thing that the previous friendlies showed us. Italy lack a true creative player. They had Francesco Totti playing the trequarista role during their Cup-winning run of 2006, and Totti was directly involved in a number of Azzurri goals. It was widely thought that he would be brought to this year's tournament. Instead he was left out.
If Lippi felt that Totti wouldn't have been able to hold up over the course of the tournament with his physical problems, this is somewhat understandable. He excluded several other creative options as well. Antonio Cassano and Fabrizio Miccoli had great seasons for Sampdoria and Palermo, respectively, providing plenty of goals and assists. They seem to have both been left off because of previous problems with Lippi.
Mario Balotelli was also an option and can play almost any attacking role, but his problem seems to have been his attitude. Then there was, of course, Giuseppe Rossi, who was one of Lippi's last cuts. He had a great Confederations Cup last summer and provides plenty of creativity and energy. He would have been an ideal option off the bench today.
All of these players were left off the team and consequently Italy lacks creativity. De Rossi said after the game, "We are a different team than 2006. We have no Totti and no players like him."
This quote is the truth and something many Azzurri fans have been saying all through qualifying and even more so in recent months. Italy clearly has to find a way to create more next game and Lippi should certainly make some personnel changes in his next starting XI.
Personally, I would go with a 4-4-2 next game, keeping the four defenders the same. I would then go across the midfield with Pepe, De Rossi, Montolivo, and Camoranesi. De Rossi and Montolivo would sit further back like they did today while Camoranesi and Pepe open up play on the wings, something they both did well today.
Up front I would go with Di Natale playing with Giampaolo Pazzini. DiNatale can score goals as well as set up teammates. He can connect well with the midfield and provide service for Pazzini. I would choose Pazzini over Gilardino because he is a harder working striker than Gilardino and will trek back harder to connect with the midfield.
Italy is usually a team that starts slow in big tournaments and then builds up, but if they don't start creating more chances they won't get too far in 2010. What a shame this will be when one thinks of the players left home that could have provided that creativity.