Italy’s participation in a major International tournament has once again been shrouded by a domestic match-fixing scandal as they head into their opening game of Euro 2012 this Sunday against the holders Spain.
The Calciopoli scandal of 2006 had the strangely adverse effect of galvanising Marcelo Lippi’s Italian squad; they eschewed all press conferences, ignoring their media entirely, before going on to win the World Cup (for the fourth time), just like they did after the Paolo Rossi bribery allegations of 1982.
Some are suspecting the Italian media of going a step further this time around and actually orchestrating a scandal themselves, in order to engender the same togetherness and spirit within Cesare Prandelli’s 23 man squad that existed in ‘82 & ’06. It’s a level of conspiracy and corruption that surely the Italians are not even capable of.
Prandelli’s squad does have some notable omissions; Giuseppe Rossi has ruptured a cruciate ligament again while his first choice left-back, Domencio Criscito, has become embroiled in the match-fixing scandal and has had to withdraw.
Rossi’s craft and guile will be sorely missed in what was a promising looking attacking trident of Rossi, Cassano & Balotelli. Prandelli will more than likely play the latter two up front together now, with Ricardo Montolivo in behind as the No.10 playmaker, giving the shape of the team a much more classic Italian feel.
One of the most practical and astute tactic’s that Italian national managers have employed over the years (and one of the reasons they may find success in this tournament once again) is deploying players who play together for their clubs within the same formation as they are used to playing every week. It does not necessarily mean picking the “best” players but picking the players who work best together. For instance, this season Juventus are the Italian Champions, so Barzagli, Bonucci & Chiellini will make up three of the four in defence, forming an innate understanding with the Italian and Juve goalkeeper, Gigi Buffon.
In the midfield trio, Prandelli will also try to replicate Juve’s winning formula (the “Old Lady” finished the Serie A campaign undefeated) with the graceful Andrea Pirlo alongside his Juve team-mate, Claudio Marchisio, and Roma’s Daniele De Rossi trying to do his best impression of Juve’s Chilean power house, Arturo Vidal.
Italy are notoriously slow starters when it comes to big tournaments, and they do have the capacity to crash and burn badly in the group stages, as in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. The reassuring presence of a corruption scandal has got the Italians dreaming of glory again though, and their customary slow start will probably come in the form of a defeat to Spain on Sunday. They can then ease their way into the Euro’s with a win and a draw over Croatia and Republic of Ireland.
If they manage to claim second spot in Group C, then the winners of Group D (England France Sweden Ukraine) await in the quarter-final, a very winnable scenario. However, they would then have to face either Germany or Holland in the semi-finals, possibly a step too far this time for the Azzurri.
I’d expect Italy to qualify from Group C at the very least after their disastrous World Cup two years ago, and if Balotelli and Cassano can find some goal-scoring form, then Prandelli’s men are capable of marching into the semi-final in Warsaw on the 28th June.
Italy to reach Semi Final
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