Italy’s final match before Marcello Lippi picks his final World Cup squad
ended in a 0-0 draw and no doubt there will be many a report lamenting the fact that they did not beat Cameroon.
Well, let us put things into perspective before we review the game. Firstly, Italy rarely convince in games leading up to a World Cup, that’s a stone cold fact. Secondly, this is a delicate stage in the players’ club season, and whilst we are not for a moment suggesting players would save themselves for the impending weekend matches, Serie A is the priority for a multitude of reasons. Finally, some of those on show against the Indomitable Lions will not be going to South Africa, even if they had put in the performance of their lives. Having said that, there is one reason for concern, and we will touch on that at the end of this report.
Looking at the game on a tactical level, the 3-4-3 employed by Lippi at the start of the match with was not a huge success. However, neither was it a complete failure, and the Azzurri conceded little during that half. What didn’t work were the wide midfielders and the wide forwards. They failed to create the two-on-one situations against the opposition full backs that the 3-4-3 would hope to facilitate. This could have been down to a lack of practice time using this formation or the personnel not being able to execute what was asked of them. However, Cameroon found it hard to create any kind of scoring opportunity, so from a defensive point of view the tactic did not give keeper Federico Marchetti cause for any concern.
The second half saw La Nazionale revert to a more conventional defensive block of four, with a fluid midfield and attack which switched from a four man midfield with two in attack to a front three, with new boy Andrea Cossu pushing further forward as the Italians searched for a goal. The second period was a much more confident performance, Antonio Di Natale having a stinging shot palmed away and had this been a boxing match, Italy would surely have won on points. Let us not forget that the opponent was not some soft sparring partner, Cameroon will be a force in South Africa.
Italy do have one major issue, which we fear will not be resolved come the summer. In games like this, when chances are few, regardless of Lippi’s men controlling much of the game, Italy lack the one thing they have always had – someone who can create something that hasn’t been practiced on the training ground, something improvised, in short, something unexpected. From 1990 to 2006 they could rely on the likes of Robert Baggio, Alessandro Del Piero or Francesco Totti to be the exponent of the sublime. Yet in 2010, there will not be an Antonio Cassano or even a Mario Balotelli to take on that role of the ‘fantasista’ that this current team is desperately crying out for.