With the Italian’s World Cup end confirmed after faltering in the final group game. Where did it all go wrong for the Azzurri? After a promising start beating England 2-1 in Manaus, they looked poised to book second round tickets this coming weekend with, on paper, a result against Costa Rica.
What transpired was a total meltdown by the ‘Gli Azzurri’ own very high standards. Against Costa Rica, who deserved to win the group, looked laboured and fresh out of ideas. The talismanic figure of Andrea Pirlo et al, could not cancel out a Bryan Ruiz header and were precariously posed in Tuesdays match versus Uruguay – a second defeat meant curtains.
With Spain, Italy, and England out – the latter’s demise will not have actually raised too many eyebrows considering the indifferent form suffered over the last twelve to eighteen months. But Italy’s failure will have media all over the world asking serious questions of the whole team. Maestros at World Cup qualifying campaigns – only losing one match in qualifying for a World Cup since 1994. Hopes are always high in the run up to a tournament and considering the rich pedigree and history the nation has at the World Cup expectations are always understandingly very high.
The manager Cesare Prandelli has already resigned and with majestic Pirlo already announcing his retirement big changes will surely be coming Italy’s way. Over resilience on the old guard horrendously backfired in South Africa in 2010 and now with a mix of both young and old showed better still that it was still not enough. Maybe the tactics or lack of synergy amongst an ever changing team would mean an inevitable demise for the Azzurri. Even down to ten men they seemed to do what the Italians do best and shut up shot and soak up all that the Uruguayans could throw at them but finally Diego Godin popped up and drove the final nail into the coffin of what was a rather laboured end to Brazil 2014. Down to ten men for the last half an hour didn’t help matters with Claudio Marchisio been rightly sent off and with Luis Suarez’s almost unbelievable rendition of that trademark biting incident which will surely end his own World Cup. The squad on paper for Italy looked through after victory versus England but the World Cup is a fickle tournament as one good game guarantees nothing. La Gazzetta Dello Sport ran with Lo Sfascio or ‘The Breakdown’. The project had really fallen apart after the England game and it is back to the drawing board for the next manager in line.
The new manager will have to try and plead with some of the players not to retire. A clean-slate for peripheral players must be given some consideration too. If this means Mario Balotelli then another new manager must try to work around him, or should he be jettisoned for the better of the team. Other talented current squad members with a few non-additions at this World Cup given another chance must also take front stage. Also the last remnants from the squad of 2006 must now be looking to step down. Only Barzagli, Buffon, and Pirlo remained. One retirement, two more possibly to come.
Despite two poor showing at the last two World Cups the Italians have an abundance of talented youth players to take over the mantle. For starters Lorenzo Insigne is one. The Napoli forward showed the world his capabilities in last two seasons in Europe. Technically astute with an excellent range of passing with a keen eye for goal he’ll be looking to play a part during qualifying for Euro 2016.
Milan defender Mattia De Sciglio – who can play on both flanks has been an impressive member of the Milan side this season considering their poor showing in Serie A and for the national side. A few murmurings on towards the next Maldini has not hindered his progress and he really has a bright future for both club and country. Marco Verratti looks like the successor to Pirlo and the fact is he has all the makings of a world class footballer with his leadership qualities, passing range and movement – it’s a shame both he and Pirlo did not play more games together for Italy. He will be thrust into the limelight and will be a main-stay for another ten years. Ciro Immobile, fresh after a break-through season that saw him win the ‘capocannoniere’ with Torino in Serie A, looks to be the future up front for the Azzurri. Maybe Ciro’s move to Das Bundesliga with Dortmund will see him blossom further.
He needs game time at national level and has the hallmarks of a future great. With Mattia Destro also considered but cut from the final squad for the World Cup, so hopefully both of Roma’s attacking pair of Alessandro Florenzi and Mattia Destro can re-ignite their own careers and look to be reconsidered for the national side. Following on with the ‘Mattia’ theme Mattia Perin had an incredible last two seasons in Serie A. Firstly with Pescara then last season with Genoa. Another fantastic agile shot stopper who is tipped to succeed Gigi Buffon. Another almost forgotten figure too was Domenico Berardi, who helped un-fancied Sassuolo avoid relegation after been on-loan from Juventus with 16 goals in 29 games. There are plenty of others but current youth players coupled with others on the cusp will surely be given their moment to shine as they tackle the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign. The league for all its failings and lack of financial clout has a rich emerging cluster of talented players across the whole country.
How can we discuss change without the enigma that is Mario Balotelli. He looked to add further fuel to the fire of his international career as he was hauled off at half-time versus Uruguay. He decided to sit alone on the team bus afterwords as Prandelli announced his resignation. With the abundance of attacking talent in Serie A, he will inevitably be sacrificed if he continues on with his petulant behaviour. Whoever takes the reigns of the national side they will have a few choice words to lay out with a possible hacking away of the dead wood, with few casualties in the pipe-line. As for Mario something as always must have been said. With the World Cup coming to a crashing halt for ‘Gli Azzurri’ one thing is certain the whole of Italy and the world will not see Andrea Pirlo put on an azure-blue national jersey again. As unfortunate as that sounds, at least he will be remembered as one of Italy’s greatest sons.