Azzurri pass Spanish test with flying colours.

In Bari last Wednesday night, Cesare Prandelli’s Italy claimed their first major scalp, that of World and European Champions Spain. While there has been a great deal of praise for both the performance and the result, the Spanish camp has expressed some dissatisfaction at the result. Most forthcoming in expressing himself has been Spain’s goalkeeper and captain, Iker Casillas. In the aftermath of the game, the Real Madrid custodian revealed; “I don’t think they deserved the win, a draw would have been fairer.”
Regardless of how Casillas feels, the result speaks volumes for how far the Azzurri have progressed under Prandelli. The tactician has been praised for his intelligent game plan and meticulous approach to the game despite its status as a friendly by the media as well as a number of the squad.
A massive positive for the Coach was the performance of captain-for-the-night Antonio Cassano. Fantantonio was a thorn in the side of the Spanish defence and illustrated once again his importance to Prandelli’s Italy on the pitch. Prandelli also underlined the key role he expects Cassano to play off the pitch by handing him the captian’s armband in his hometown of Bari. ‘Keeper Gianluigi Buffon underlined this after the game when he said; “Maybe even Antonio doesn’t know how much he matters to us in the locker room and on the field.”
Another exciting aspect of the game for Prandelli was the way his midfield stood up to their Spanish counterparts. While they were without Barcelona duo Xavi and Andres Iniesta, the Spanish midfield still contained plenty of talent and would have expected to dominate the central areas much more than they did. The Azzurri midfield of Thiago Motta, Andrea Pirlo and Daniele De Rossi performed admirably in shutting down the Spanish and winning possession for their forwards.
Prandelli also continued to experiment with midfielders playing at trequartista and it seemed to pay off as players occupying that position scored both the Azzurri goals. The first was scored by Riccardo Montolivo with a delightful chip over Casillas and the Fiorentina man described his position in the side as a more flexible version of the trequartista, saying: “Trequartista isn’t really my role as I don’t tend to play with my back to goal, but I can do it for la nazionale when we have a lot of possession and rotate our positions frequently.”
Alberto Aquilani appeared equally comfortable in the role in the second half and pinched the winning goal late on with a deflected strike from just outside the box. Aqulani’s impact also illustrated the strength of the Italian bench, especially in the midfield area where the former Roma player was joined by Claudio Marchisio and Antonio Nocerino in enjoying a strong cameo. In attack Prandelli will also be pleased by the way Mario Balotelli acquitted himself on his fourth appearance for la nazionale.
All in all, Prandelli will be delighted by the way his team stood up to the test and will be confident that the improvement may continue into the competitive fixtures over the coming season.

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