Despite Friday’s win over Estonia, it seems Italy Coach Cesare Prandelli is going back to the drawing board and ready to put his experimental gloves on ahead of tonight’s Group C qualifier against the Faroe Islands.
Amongst the first things to change will be the formation as Prandelli toys with the idea of allowing Fiorentina hitman Alberto Gilardino a chance to lead the attack, flanked by the exciting Antonio Cassano and Giuseppe Rossi in a ‘Christmas tree’ formation.
Having opted to stick with the 4-3-3 system favoured by previous Coach Marcello Lippi against Estonia, Prandelli realised his side were missing that elusive attacking midfielder who could provide the link between midfield and the front-line.
It was evident the only way the Azzurri could break though the Estonian defence was by directing all their passes to Cassano on the left, thus creating a lopsided attack. With the trequartista on the left, the players on the right side were largely ignored and Fanantonio was left shouldering all creative responsibilities in a role that does not fully exploit his vast array of skills.
As such it seems likely Prandelli will opt for the 4-3-2-1 formation that has long been thought of as Carlo Ancelotti’s preferred tactic during his time as Milan Coach. The advantages of this formation are that it has a good balance between attack and defence, and it inspires attacking creativity and fluidity as the two players chosen to play behind the lone striker have the license to move forward or drift out wide in search of goals or clever assists. It’s a system France used to great effect when winning the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000.
Cassano can enjoy a freer role in the middle to move around and exploit spaces. Faroe Islands Coach Brian Kerr will be demanding his team pay special attention to Cassano, who ripped Estonia to shreds in the second half on Friday, and Prandelli knows as a result it will be vital to place another creative player alongside il Talentino in order to pull defenders away.
Considering the formation requires technical players, it is perhaps a wise move to select Rossi to play alongside Cassano. The young Villareal forward’s ingenuity and penchant for scoring screamers from a distance will stand him in good stead in this Italian line-up. As a wonder kid that stunned the nation with his outrageous talent in the Confederations Cup, it is about time the American-born player is given a chance to showcase his talent in a system seemingly ideal for his skills.
With a centralised attack, the full-backs will be expected to provide the width, and it seems the Coach has already decided to test out new personnel by introducing Fiorentina right-back Lorenzo De Silvestri and Luca Antonelli, who briefly made an appearance in Tallinn, on the left.
De Silvestri is the ideal choice of player for overlapping the midfield and one Prandelli is familiar with having worked with him in Florence. The defender enjoys darting down the right flank, providing accurate crosses and neat passes to trouble the opposing defence, and it will be interesting to see how well he will cope with his defensive duties as the Azzurri’s style of play will make them susceptible to counter-attacks.
As the full-backs bomb forward, the midfield will be called in to provide cover and it seems the central midfield is the one area Prandelli has spared from any changes. As Daniele De Rossi is seemingly incapable of replicating his club form at international level these days, one has to wonder if he should not be given some time out to make way for a player more defensively inclined.
To make these tactics work, it is vital that Prandelli plays a defensive midfielder capable of breaking up play and producing those tough and timely tackles to frustrate the opponent. None of the three midfielders Prandelli is thinking of lining up tonight possesses the attributes needed to help secure the back-line, and all three are better at releasing the players who lie ahead of them. Bearing this in mind, it would make sense to sacrifice one of them for a ball winner who can give the team more balance and allow the more creative players around him space to do what they do best.
With renewed self-confidence, tonight’s match brings with it an air of excitement as the nation prepares to watch its young Azzurri line up in what will hopefully be a more effective formation. Considering they will be playing at home against one of the minnows of European football, surely a win is expected.