Italy’s campaign ended with a bronze medal, accompanied by two victories, two draws (90 minutes) and one defeat. They scored ten goals and conceded ten.
It isn’t a pleasing figure for a side traditionally known for its solid defence, but the performance of the team, especially in the match against Spain and the second-half come-back against Japan, could earn them applause as they leave Brazil and prepare for next year’s World Cup.
It is easy to point to the errors the team have committed during the tournament: lousy defending, wasting chances after chances, reliance on players like Andrea Pirlo, just to name a few.
But overall, Italy have impressed the world again with its tendency to attack, like they did in Euro 2012. The match against Japan will be considered a classic comeback, and the semi-final against Spain is almost like an Italian lecture on how to contain the strongest team in the world.
Cesare Prandelli can look back at the results and performance of this Confederations Cup with a smile on his face. There are things that work exceptionally well in this tournament and things that he could work more on, before they set foot in Brazil again next year.
What Italy did great
Ever since the former Fiorentina technician took charge of the national team, Italy have become very good at these two aspects. When Pirlo delivers the corner, players like Daniele De Rossi, Christian Maggio and Giorgio Chiellini look very likely to score.
It was from the corner that De Rossi hit the net to make it 1-2 against Japan, and then Chiellini’s controversial goal against Brazil that made it 2-3. If Maggio did not head it to the post, Italy would have equalized against Brazil before Fred made it 4-2.
Pirlo again shines in this aspect, and Bologna’s Alessandro Diamanti showed that even if Pirlo was absent, he could do the job just as well. Don’t forget Italy also have Mario Balotelli, the enigmatic striker who has scored from free kick for Milan, and Riccardo Montolivo whose set piece was also a lethal weapon.
4-3-2-1 or 3-4-2-1? It doesn’t matter, Prandelli says. While the Azzurri are more comfortable playing with four defenders in front of Gianluigi Buffon, they could switch to a three-men-defence when facing Spain.
Players like De Rossi and Emanuele Giaccherini have played in different positions throughout the tournament, and they show that they could fit into Prandelli’s tactic.
Best player of the tournament
De Rossi, the unsung hero and who is likely to leave AS Roma in the summer. He fit in the role of Simone Perrotta back in the 2006 World Cup, who attacked and defended in midfield, and protected Pirlo from opponents. Italy missed him dearly in the defeat against Brazil.
Pirlo, one of Italy’s greatest midfielders ever; Balotelli, with his two goals and one assist in three games; Giaccherini, who was influential in the left-bank and caused many troubles for all opponents; Antonio Candreva, the Lazio playmaker who threatened Spain’s defence throughout 120 minutes.
What to work on
It was the cost Italy have to pay when playing attacking football, but still, it was embarrassing to have conceded eight goals in the group stage.
Careless mistakes such as Andrea Barzagli and Mattia De Sciglio’s weak back passes, which ultimately gifted their opponents two penalties, should not have happened. Also, the teamwork on defending against free-kick had to be better. The role of each player should be more clearly defined.
The Pirlo problem
It is the same problem that Milan faced in the 2000s. While Pirlo was undoubtedly the core of the team, it was also an easy target for the opponent to take note of.
Japan and Brazil pressed on him effectively to minimize Italy’s long passes. This situation only improved in the semi-final when De Rossi and Candreva helped pick up the role of directing the offence, but it is Prandelli has to think about if he wants to achieve success next year.
Alberto Aquilani, who really did nothing much throughout the tournament except fouling the opponents, and getting fouled; Stephen El Shaarawy, the Milan youngster whose confidence was still not restored after the goal drought in the second half of the season; Claudio Marchisio, who did alright, but did not show the sharpness that he displayed in Juventus or in Euro 2012.
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