Confederations Cup Tactical Analysis: The Azzurri must build on their Euro 2012 performance

With the Confederations Cup around the corner, Goal analyses the systems of each side. In this edition, we look at one of the heavyweights, Italy...
Italy need to make most of the opportunity afforded to them to participate in the Confederations Cup as an ideal preparation to World Cup 2014. Since Spain were both World and European Champions, Italy sneaked into the tournament on the virtue of finishing runners up in Euro 2012.

They are undefeated in their World Cup Qualification Group having won four games and drawn two out of six matches played having been placed in a relatively easy Group B with their chief opponents being Czech Republic.

Coach and System

Cesare Prandelli took over as coach of the Italy national team in August 2010 and in his very first competitive tournament in the form of Euro 2012, the gutsy Italian took the underdogs to the summit as they made the final beating much fancied oppositions on the way. They failed to go one step further and clinch the crown, as they were stopped by a rampant Spain in the final.

Coaching record –
Games Wins Draws Losses Win %
37 19 10 8 51.35

Prandelli who would use a 3-5-2 formation in the early part of his tenure, including the start of Euro 2012 to great effect, has recently switched to a much more conservative 4-3-1-2 or a 4-4-2 diamond for that matter.

The benefits of using a standard four man defense is having adequate cover for most teams who employ wingers as well as allowing the midfielders to double time on the opposition full backs giving their own defenders enough breathing space.

With the main creative force being Andrea Pirlo who usually sits back, just in front of the defense in his familiar role of a deep lying playmaker, starting every attacking move from the back, for him to efficiently function without getting bogged down by defensive duties, the tireless duo of Daniele De Rossi and Claudio Marchisio work their lungs out to break up play and prevent the opposition from cutting off Pirlo's movement and supply.

The dependable Juventus duo of Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli make one of the most solid centre back pairing in world football bringing their club chemistry to the national scene. Prandelli may employ the versatile Giorgio Chiellini either at centre-back instead of Bonucci or even at left back instead of AC Milan youngster, Mattia de Sciglio. The right back spot is usually occupied by the pacy Ignazio Abate but Napoli's Cristian Maggio gives him tough competition for that spot, with his defensive frailty one of the prime reasons for Abate coming before him in the pecking order.

In the striking department, the AC Milan duo of Mario Balotelli and Stephan El Shaarawy are the usual starters with Riccardo Montolivo playing the role of the trequartista, being deployed deeper. The talented Sebastian Giovinco who had a poor season not being able to justify his talents for the Old Lady is usually a late substitute. 'Super Mario' is the sure shot man to lead the attack and has been in terrific form of late, especially after leaving England to join AC Milan and has been scoring goals at will.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Strengths: As with any Italian team, the watertight defense is the foundation of their team. Even though they may not have any Nestas or Maldinis in the squad, they still possess arguably the strongest defensive side in the tournament. In their midfield too, they possess enough talent to dismantle the best especially with Pirlo dictating play. In Mario Balotelli they have an explosive superstar who may wreak havoc at will.

Weaknesses: Goal scoring has been a constant problem for Prandelli's men as was seen in the goalless draw against Czech Republic. El Shaarawy has been in patchy form and Montolivo is not very comfortable playing behind the strikers. Yet another problem is Mario Balotelli as no matter how talented he might be, he often throws it all away in a moment of madness.

Star man: Mario Balotelli

Mario Balotelli signifies the inherently good as well as the bad sides of the beautiful game all by himself. A prodigious talent who can single-handedly turn the game on its head with a moment of sheer brilliance but who might also leave his team mates in the lurch with a similar moment of madness.

At just 22 years old, Super Mario has made 21 appearances for the Azzurri and has also managed to find the back of the net, 8 times and is the leading scorer in Italy's World Cup qualification campaign. While he had a tumultuous last year at Manchester City where his off field activities found centre stage, a winter move to AC Milan was just what the doctor ordered.

Since then there has been no looking back, as he has set the Serie A ablaze, having scored 12 goals in his 13 appearances helping the Milanese giants secure the last Champions League spot.

If only the temperamental striker can keep his wits in check there is no stopping him from establishing himself as one of the greats of the game.

What do you make of Italy's chances? Send in your thoughts in the comments below or discuss with the writer on Twitter @hopelessk.

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