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A theory which explains the Italian debacle at the European

It’s 6:00am of Monday morning, the day after the game lost with Spain. As Sunday afternoon, my email box is full of message from friends from all world, or just soccer lovers. The question is always the same:

WHY ???? Why was Italy so disappointing???

Some added few more words like: “Dear Coach, When you are feeling up to it, your feedback on today’s game would be a benefit.”

“Coach Gianni per favore !!!!!! Manda una critica a tutti noi tifosi di quello che e successo oggi!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Coach Gianni, please !!!!!! Send your thoughts to us fans, about what happened today !!!!!!)”

This is from a Holland fan: “Oh Gianni, I am also sorry. I wore my Italy shirt with pride today, only to watch the end of the match. Not a way to end a game. Italy should have won. Now we are able to cry together. “

So, coming back to the main question: why?

First an unequivocal fact: in the 6 games at the 2008 World Cup, Italy had 2 goals against. 1 penalty and 1 own-goal! At the European Cup, Italy allowed 3 goals vs. Holland, in the first game!

A second unequivocal fact: at the Word Cup we scored goals in counter attack, that could be considered masterpieces and could have been shown over and over again, to underline the perfection of the execution. At the European Cup, we didn’t score 1 single goal in a clear counter attack action, in 4 games!

A third: the transition from a defensive situation to a deadly counter attack it’s provoked by a genius play-maker. The genius is Pirlo. If Pirlo is a little out of shape, or worse, is not there due to the 2 yellow cards, the ’light’ is gone!

The fourth and last: killer forwards have put the ball in the net! If Toni can score goals only with the head, and miss goals 1v1 with the keepers (goals that a few of my youth former players 11 years old ~ Ross, Federico, Max or Wyatt, would have scored!!!!) we just deserved to go home. And if “Saint” Gigi Buffon would not had made the usual miracles (Mutu penalty in game vs. Romania, just the mention one !!!) we would already have been home, watching the quarter final of Spain-Romania!

If a team is based on these 4 assumptions - impenetrable iron defense, genius play-maker who can start an irresistible counter attack, which in 3 passes leads to.... goals scored by killers - then it’s OBVIOUS that the game will be a debacle if those 4 things are not there.

And, so……it was ! I’m still astonished by the unbelievable performance of Russia, Croatia and Turkey! Back and fourth, back and fourth, score 3 goals in the last 15 minutes coming back from 0-2! Score goals with 4 passes in 13 seconds by 4 different Russian players!!!!! Score goals at the last minute of the extra-time of the extra-time, after 2 hours!!! This is modern soccer….not the slow motion presented by Italy!

Italy defense.

To be honest, we had a Plan A and a Plan B. Unfortunately we didn’t have a Plan C ! So, when Chiellini, at the last practice before the first game, though that it was better for the team to brake Cannavaro’s ankle in slide tackle, we had to move to Plan B. And Barzagli (the plan B) went under surgery at the perfect moment to remove a piece of meniscus from his knee! At that point, all the plans for the central defenders where gone.

Panucci, which is great on the wings, playing central defender?
Insert Materazzi (he who is MOST famous for the head-butt from Zizu, than for his soccer skills) ? Maybe Barzagli, Chiellini or Gamberini? Who knows??!!!

Our Coach Donadoni decided on this solution at the first game: Zambrotta-Materazzi-Barzagli-Panucci. No Grosso and no Chiellini. The 2 players that played in the other 3 games so, arguable the choices for the first game! At this point, the equilibrium of the defense was gone. Result: 3 goals from Holland!

Plus, as we saw many times in the past, Italy constantly creates great chances to score by sending a defender up the wings. They cross... and the forwards score. Number one in doing this is Panucci, and the second best is Zambrotta (he did this in almost every game with Barcelona); the third is Grosso. But because in the 3 following games Panucci was moved to the center, and the defensive equilibrium was still so-so, the raids up the wings where just episodically occurring, and when they happened, they weren’t good! So, no crosses = no goals!

Counter attacks, assists and killer forwards.

In order to actuate a successful counter attack we need 3 things:

A) the opponent has to attack in mass and be out of balance forward.
B) a genius play-maker has to send a deadly deep assist.
C) killer forwards have to put the ball in the net!

So, what happened ?

A) in this Cup, each team which played against Italy knew our characteristics, playing very tight cover in defense and rarely allowing a good counter attack.
B) The ’light’ of the genius was often off.... or wasn’t there. No assists, no goals.
C) Our main forward is Luca Toni. In the season that he just ended with Bayer Monaco he was outstanding. Dozens of great goals scored thanks to the perfect assists from Ribery, Klose and company. These assists where basically high crosses (head……..goal !!) or strong passes BEHIND the last defender. How many assists did Luca have ? Almost………..ZERO!!!
Plus, his kind of forward, one who is great with the head, needs another forward to his side so he, in turn, he can give great assist to the others. Do we have these kind of other forwards?

YES! They are Del Piero, Borriello, Di Natale, Quagliarella and Cassano. How many goals did they score in the last season?
Del Piero 21 (Top scorer of the league) Borriello 19, Di Natale 17, Quagliarella 12, Cassano 10.

How many minutes were they on the pitch for a team which played 403 minutes in the 4 games?

Cassano 186, Del Piero 120, Di Natale 112, Quagliarella 17 (seventeen!!!!) and Borriello 0.……..ZERO! Which makes it really clear that the less you score the more you’ll have a chance to play!

Who's the responsible of these absurd choices? Obviously the coach, Donadoni. He was a little unlucky with the defensive injuries, but what team wasn’t? Just to make an example, the hosting nation Switzerland, lost their best player, the ONLY one that could score goals, just after few minutes of the first game!

The initial choices of the roster made by Donadoni where already disappointing. How is it possible leave home a player like Inzaghi, a killer forward that was the nightmare of every keeper in the last Champions league?

Leave home Inzaghi, to bring a player like Cassano... who in the last few years was ONLY famous for his total absence of manners and professionalism, in and out of the field? His talent (????) brought him to Real Madrid where he was caught making fun of the head coach, Fabio Capello. The ONLY coach with which he hadn’t had a fight.... yet! When he arrived in Madrid, he was clearly overweight; illustrating the fact that he is not a professional, and didn’t put any effort at practice.

The central trio Aquilani-De Rossi- Perrotta, which is the heart of Roma, couldn’t be the ideal substitute of Pirlo-Gattuso-Ambrosini for a very simple reason. In the latter block, the ’creator’ is Pirlo. In the Roma trio, there are no ‘creators’ because the ’creator’ was a forth player, named... Totti !!! Who, after the last World Cup, preferred to enjoy the vacations instead than play for his country!

And another who preferred to enjoy vacations was Coach Marcello Lippi, pretending to be upset by the scandal that involved his son as a agent of many Italian soccer players.

This fact, the coach of the national team and the choices that he made, is the main problem.

When Lippi left, Italy didn’t had many choices. Of course Capello was the perfect choice. But he was coaching Real Madrid making a fortune! Also Ancelotti (Milan coach), Spalletti (Roma coach) and Prandelli (Fiorentina coach) would be perfect. But, apparently, they will not leave their clubs (for the money and for the agreements with the clubs and fans). So, Donadoni had the job. He was an outstanding player and in his really short coaching carrier, NOT COACHING A TOP TEAM AND NOT AT INTERNATIONAL LEVEL, he done a decent job.

What qualified him for the job? The absence of alternative!

To be the successor of the coach that won the World Cup is already a suicide position.... so, I admire very much his courage. But, having said this, it doesn’t seem to me that he was successful in his roster choices, nor the strategy put on the field. In particular the strategy of the game against Spain. Totally passive defense, as if our main goal was to arrive at the end of the 120 minutes, and hope to win the penalties ! Russian roulette! A complete soccer suicide that only “Saint” Gigi Buffon made a little less painful for us!

So, like other top soccer nations such as England, who arrived at the point to miss the qualification (!!!!), and France that when miserably back home at the first is time for us to DEEPLY change course!

“Rebuilding time” as soon as possible. We have 2 years to build a new team with a new coach who will select new players, much younger, keeping only 2 or 3 columns like Buffon, Pirlo, Zambrotta, who can transmit them their immense knowledge!

In my opinion, top youth players like Balotelli (Inter), Paloschi (Milan) or Giovinco (Juventus) are Italy soccer future. Who will be the coach? I hope not Donadoni, who clearly failed in the European mission; and not Lippi, because it was his resigning after the World Cup which forced the unexpected choice of Donadoni.

I hope that Ancelotti, Prandelli or Spalletti will take charge. Even if there is a 5% chance! Also Mancini, the former coach of Inter Milan that is free in this moment, could be a great solution.

At this point, like many other top soccer nations, it could be time even for Italy to have a foreign coach. With no connection to any Italian clubs to which he would need to be kind, no connection with the Italian media which ‘pushes‘ for certain players in order to sell newspapers. With new methods, a new staff, a new approach. Basically what England has just done by employing Fabio Capello.

It could be Frank Rijkaard time? That will be fascinating!


Posted on 24 Jun 2008 by coachgianni
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