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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Problems that Mister Lippi Needs to Address with the Azzurri

WORLD CUP 2010 QUALIFIER - Ireland Draw Italy 1-1
Mister Lippi ponders his next move...

Before the Confederations Cup, Mr. Lippi said:
"Italian football is represented by the National Team."
For any fan of calcio and the Azzurri, the last week was very painful to endure. Another quick exit from a major tournament, but this time, with our tails between our legs.

Let me throw my 2 Euros into the mix.

The Major Problems in South Africa
  • Too slow: Outside of Giuseppe Rossi, Simone Pepe, and Riccardo Montolivo, the Azzurri roster was extremely predictable. As in "piano piano." This was apparent even against 10 man USA, but was extremely exploited by more talented sides such as Egypt and Brasil. Mentally and physically, there was no speed in this side.
  • Wrong tactical formation: Mister Lippi is a master tactician; however, the 4-3-3 fit this team like a leisure suit from the 1970s. He did not have the requisite speed on the flanks to make this formation succeed, and perhaps expected too much even from very capable players. A 4-3-1-2, 4-3-2-1, or 4-2-1-2-1 would have worked better. Especially with an in-form talent such as Rossi up front.
  • Disorganized back four: A hallmark of Italian teams is defensive prowess, but the side in South Africa left it back in bella Italia. There were too many ball control mistakes, lack of proper marking (evidenced by the free header by Homos of Egypt), and a comical own-goal (a sacrilege in Italian football) by Andrea Dossena. Against Brasil, the Azzurri defenders looked as if they were jet-lagged or fixed in a time warp.
  • Lack of finishing by the strikers: During World Cup qualification, the Azzurri have not scored more than 2 goals. In South Africa, they managed 3 against 10 man USA, and none after that. There were countless "palle gol," which is Italian for goal scoring opportunities. But outside of Rossi (and De Rossi), nobody took the initiative to shoot on target. Much less score. Vincenzo Iaquinta, Fabio Quagliarellia, and Luca Toni are great players. But for their club sides. They don't raise their games with the necessary consistency at this level. They are "punto pesante" or the big men. Who should complement smaller, more gifted and technical players such as Rossi and Antonio Cassano (should Mister Lippi draft the skillful Sampdoria talent into the mix,) But they don't fit the equation because they are very predictable, and don't maximize what few chances they create to score. Especially Toni, whose form has dropped significantly since the last World Cup.
  • No balance in the midfield: Andrea Pirlo is a maestro, but he can't carry the load by himself. De Rossi and Gattuso, both hard workers and fine examples, never have been the type of players to grab the game by the neck. Well, Rino grabs the necks of opponents and coaches. ;-) Montolivo is young and still very inexperienced at this level. The midfield bridges the back four and the front line. It was woefully deficient in South Africa.
  • Too much reliance on the old guard: Mister Lippi demands respect and rewards loyalty. But in this case, some of the World Cup heroes of 2006 need to retire from international play. If he is to become only the second manager to lift the World Cup consecutively, he will need to make some difficult decisions ahead of the September qualification games. There are younger talents waiting to step in, but they need exposure ahead of the 2010 competition during the South African winter.
Mister Lippi has won the World Cup, the UEFA Champions League, and 5 Serie A titles. If anyone can steer the Azzurri ship out of their current deep waters, it is he. He must make changes to fit the available pool of players in order to compete with the likes of Brasil and Spain.

Giuseppe Rossi
Giuseppe Rossi against the USA: One of the few positive developments
in the recent South African experience.

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