8 Biggest Mistakes Italy Made at 2014 World Cup
Italy bowed out of their own group of death having only picked up three points in a 2-1 opening match win against England.
The other two matches turned out to be defeats against Costa Rica and Uruguay, sending the Azzurri home early in a second consecutive disappointing World Cup.
Even though Italy wasn't considered a tournament favorite, they were certainly expected to get out of their group and challenge at least until the semifinals.
As with any tournament where Italy is knocked out, there will be plenty of questions and doubts raised.
Here are eight problems and mistakes that plagued the Azzurri during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil:
Switching Formation Each Game
Cesare Prandelli went with a four-man back-line in the in first two matches in the group stage against England and Costa Rica.
A defeat against the Central American side made Prandelli question the entire tactical formula and switch to a Juventus-like 3-5-2, which mirrors the Bianconeri and uses their three central defenders.
Needless to say, the team had little chemistry, and the constant switching of tactics showed. Making such dramatic changes right in the middle of a competition like the World Cup is not something many expected from Cesare Prandelli, as he bowed out in an unceremonious fashion.
Not Using Alessio Cerci Against Uruguay
Alessio Cerci could have been the perfect player to unlock Uruguay in a match that saw Italy play defensively, as they could have progressed to the next round with just a draw.
This type of play would have suited the speedy Alessio Cerci, who is used to playing on the counter with Torino and is one of the best players on the Azzurri roster at dribbling past an opponent using either pace or trickery.
Ciro Immobile and Mario Balotelli were used from the opening whistle against Uruguay and failed to get any semblance of chemistry going, as they aren't used to playing together.
Putting so Much Faith in Balotelli
Cesare Prandelli put his entire faith in the mercurial Mario Balotelli.
Apart from a goal in the first match against England, Balotelli was disappointing as he failed to make an impact against Costa Rica and then in the final outing against Uruguay.
More importantly, he didn't show the necessary level of work-rate for a player who is representing his country in a World Cup match.
While putting the blame on Balotelli for Italy's exit is harsh and unjustified, he didn't do anything to make a case to be a future starter for the Azzurri, and it'll be interesting to see how Italy's next coach handles the Balotelli dilemma.
Not Using a 3-5-2 Earlier
The 3-5-2 was the preferred formation in the early stages of the European World Cup qualifiers, but was dropped this calendar year by Prandelli.
Considering that the squad is built from the Juventus spine, it would have made more sense to use a formation that the players knew well. The 3-5-2 turns into a defensive-minded 5-3-2 when the opposition is attacking and is widely used formation in Italy.
The full-backs Matteo Darmian and Mattia De Sciglio are more useful in the attacking sector, so they would have welcomed such a change from the start.
Italy conceded two goals in the first two group stage matches using a four-man defense. It's worth noting that they only conceded one goal in their entire build-up to the 2006 World Cup final, which ended in historic celebration.
Squad Perhaps Too Inexperienced
Plenty of Italians asked for the likes of Luca Toni or Francesco Totti to be called-up to the squad after performing valiantly in Serie A.
Even the usual Prandelli-stalwart Alberto Gilardino was surprisingly left at home. He isn't flashy, but Gilardino is a player who has plenty of experience at the top level, and is a serviceable striker who can score as a poacher and is excellent in the air.
The coach opted to go for an attack that was largely inexperienced at the highest level, and the results showed when Italy needed them to strike in the most important moment.
Ciro Immobile wasn't even on Prandelli's radar eight months ago, but played his way into the team after leading the scoring charts in Serie A.
Leaving Giuseppe Rossi at Home
Giuseppe Rossi scored an astounding 14-goals in the first half of last season in Serie A.
Unfortunately, an injury derailed his season with Fiorentina in 2014, as he missed a few months of action after undergoing surgery yet again on his knee.
Rossi came back right before the World Cup and looked lively enough in Italy's friendly match against Ireland.
Despite this, Prandelli decided to cut him from the final 23-man squad, a decision that is deeply regrettable considering the performance of the attackers at the World Cup.
The Italian-American could have been the perfect player to not only score, but also to create and link-up with teammates up-front.
Approaching Uruguay Match with Wrong Mentality
Even though Italy only needed a draw against Uruguay to finish second in their group and move on to the knockout round, it was clear from the start that going for one point was the message.
Italy played a largely uninspiring match, unable to create much in the attacking sector and not showing the same type of quality that made them one of the most aesthetically pleasing sides in the Euro 2012 competition.
Going for the three points against Uruguay and showing more of an attacking flair could have been decisive for the nation to move forward in the tournament, considering that the attack was supposedly one of the strong-points.
Not Using Marco Verratti Against Costa Rica
Marco Verratti was one of Italy's finest performers in the World Cup, but he was inexplicably dropped in their second game against Costa Rica after a positive performance against England.
Thiago Motta took the place of the young deep-lying play-maker and slowed the play dramatically. Motta looked like a shadow of the player he was this year for PSG.
Verratti was inserted back in the lineup against Uruguay and was arguably the best performer on the day. His ability to create space using clever movements and guile is one of his best traits, and Verratti will undoubtedly be the natural heir to Andrea Pirlo.