It was not a vintage performance but long summer holidays coupled with a late August start to the season meant that the Azzurri were unprepared, unfit and unmotivated. La Nazionale have a long standing poor history with the month of August – the squad never performs well and Cesare Prandelli, with his shiny new squad and numerous debutants, is not about to change history.
All in all, it was not a bad game and it certainly allowed the Coach to experiment with new talent to observe how well they fit within the team. This was never a match Prandelli desperately wanted to win and he proved that by making several changes, allowing 17 players to have a run around the pitch. His real concern lied in trying to find a solution to the Azzurri attack that has been called uncreative and dormant amongst other things. Marcello Lippi’s squad lacked a fantasista who would roam around the pitch unleashing his magic, but in addition to the creative spark, what that previous team lacked, is still lacking today for Prandelli – a true striker.
La Nazionale is in desperate need of a forefront player who possesses the magical touch and clinical finish to deliver goals time and time again, in the mould of David Villa or Luis Suárez. Amauri was by no means disastrous as the lone striker but whether it be poor support from the team or his inability to find and exploit open spaces, the friendly match demonstrated that Prandelli cannot solely count on the new Italian to lead his attack, especially with the lack of crosses that were offered to the tall striker. The formation calls for quick and short passes and a slower build up of play and a striker who is as fast as he is strong. Last night was not a true adaptation of the formation’s philosophy, but it must be said that it is early days. Different formulas and experiments need to be conducted to find a way of solving the attack’s conundrum and with the players deployed in front of the defence – neither Daniele de Rossi nor Angelo Palombo was truly able to afford help to the attack. Perhaps Amauri and Mario Balotelli could switch places to allow the Bianconero a chance to be unpredictable when playing on the outside. Or perhaps the formation needs to be changed to create a more compact unit and allow two strikers at the top who will work together with Antonio Cassano behind.
The 4-3-1-2 formation could prove interesting for the current crop of players the Coach has picked considering that Cassano is the perfect trequartista to play in the hole. With Giampaolo Pazzini ahead of him, the duo’s partnership and experience from Sampdoria could prove to be an instant hit for Prandelli. Furthermore, the midfield could then house two ball winners and still have room for a regista in the mould of Andrea Pirlo or Riccardo Montolivo, who would work on feeding the ball to the attack. The only problem to this solution is that the Azzurri are short of experienced and energetic full-backs who have the ability to push forward but who are also equally assured in defence. Marco Motta proved that when it comes to attack, his excellent ball control and confidence permitted him to come the closest to scoring but defensively he is yet to learn the art of man-marking and of closing down the spaces. As for Cristian Molinaro, he had the opposite problem, thus unbalancing the team as neither player is capable of switching from attack to defence seamlessly. Mattia Cassani changed the look of the defence when he came on and seemed more self-assured in his role at the back in comparison to the shaky Motta and could be a good alternative.
Despite the setback, many fans in the peninsula are excited with Prandelli’s vision and relieved to see a squad that can actually boast some real and youthful talent. It is about time the nation began to rebuild a squad capable of achieving important things in the next World Cup and by training the youngsters now, they will surely reach their peak by 2014. Relying on youth is another reason why Amauri should not be chosen as the leader of the attack – his age will likely exclude him from a chance to represent his adopted country in his homeland – and why Balotelli should be given all the help necessary to propel him into the limelight. There are also many more youngsters that the Coach will be eager to test out in the next two years, like Davide Lanzafame and Sebastian Giovinco, who has recently joined a club eager to hand him all the playing time he needs.
With a visionary ex-Viola Coach at the helm, the future certainly looks bright for the men in blue.