Cesare Prandelli points to the new way.
The Prandelli era begins with a friendly tonight at Upton Park against Cote d'Ivoire. Kick-off is at 1945 local time. Mister Prandelli promised to make changes and the Azzurri lineup has a definite new look compared to a few months ago. It is younger, provocative and potentially more vibrant. But the proof will be seen on the pitch.
A-B-C for the Azzurri
Cesare Prandelli with Mario Balotelli.
Amauri, Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano will start tonight. The first two are making their Azzurri debuts. Cassano has been out of the Italy set up since Euro 2008.
Motta, Bonucci, Chiellini, Molinaro
De Rossi (captain), Palombo
Balotelli, Cassano, Pepe
Manager: Mr. Prandelli
Cote d'Ivoire: 4-3-3
Demel, K. Toure (captain), Zokora, Tiene
Eboue, Y. Toure, Tiote
Kalou, Doumbia, Gervinho
Manager: Mr. Zahoui
Match Official: Mr. Atkinson of England
The crowd was sparse but pro-Italian at rainy Upton Park (which is the home of West Ham United). The Azzurri jumped out of the gate with conviction. Balotelli had two quick shots on goal. Cassano was running the offense from his deeper role. Italy looked incisive and quicker but missed several passes. Chiellini in defense had several clearances and appeared to be the most fit Italian on the pitch.
Cote d'Ivoire were positive in attack, organized and very dangerous on the break. De Rossi had a close chance in the 21st minute from a free kick that sailed close to the far post. Gervinho had the best Ivorian chance in the 31st minute. He danced around the Italian defense with only the keeper, Sirigu, to beat but shot wide left. A few minutes later, Cassano crossed perfectly to a leaping Amauri who couldn't head the ball down. The half ended, 0 - 0.
Italy chased the goal and almost scored when Motta struck the left post but Cote d'Ivoire found the net. In the 55th minute, Kolo Toure headed home a perfect cross from Demel past Sirigu. Italy made several substitutions after the goal. Quagliarella replaced Balotelli and Borriello came on for Amauri. Cote d'Ivoire held possession well as Italy tried to get the equalizer. Cassani and Giuseppe Rossi came on for Motta and Cassano. Rossi chipped a nice ball to Borriello in the box but he couldn't finish it. There was more urgency by the Azzurri but an organized Ivorian defense closed them down. The game ended, 0 x 1.
This was a decent performance but after only three days of training, more work needs to be done ahead of the Euro 2012 qualifiers next month. The defense displayed weaknesses against an organized and very fit Cote d'Ivoire side. The Azzurri still lack a consistent playmaker and a defined offensive vision despite the use of three strikers. But let's give Mister Prandelli time to sort the situation. This team showed fight and spirit which was only seen in the last twenty minutes against Slovakia in South Africa. The Italian attitude was different and that might be the most important result from this friendly. The next match will be 03 September away to Estonia.
Post-Match Comment by Prandelli
He made a brief comment to RAI Radio:
"Ho visto cosa ho chiesto dalla squadra."
"I saw what I asked for from the team."
Longer Commentary by Prandelli
"Antonio molto bene, Mario era alla prima in assoluto ma lo volevamo con noi. Di sicuro con tre attaccanti serve più equilibrio, dovremo lavorarci molto". E arrivare più preparati all'appuntamento con l'Estonia per le qualificazioni all'Europeo, il 3 settembre: "Lì dovremo cogliere un risultato importante. Ma tra 25 giorni le condizioni dei ragazzi saranno diverse e avremo anche più sicurezza".
"Antonio Cassano did very well. Mario Balotelli was the best of the lot and we wanted him with us. Surely, with three strikers, it gave more balance. We will have to work a lot."Italian source: La Gazzetta dello Sport, 10 August 2010.
To arrive more prepared for the appointment with Estonia for the Euro 2012 qualification on 3 September:
"We will have to get an important result there. But in the next 25 days, the physical condition of the lads will be different and we will also have more security."
- Prandelli gave five players their Azzurri debut.
- Five Juventus players and one former one (Molinaro) started the game.
- Cote d'Ivoire became only the second African team to defeat Italy in 17 attempts. The first was Egypt at the 2009 Confederations Cup.
- Enzo Bearzot in 1977, Marcello Lippi in 2004 and Roberto Donadoni in 2008 also lost their first games on the Azzurri bench.
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