Italy opened up the defense of their World Cup with a 1-1 draw with Paraguay. Carlo Garganese offers his view.If you no longer read my editorials on the Italy national team, I don’t blame you. Why not? Because for two years now, since Marcello Lippi returned to the helm after Euro 2008, I have been saying the same things in every Azzurri debate.
It will be no different in this post-match quickfire, so if you are a regular reader all that I have to amuse you is a couple of classics from the English media prior to kick-off. Lee Dixon of the BBC compared the current Italy team to the “West Germany” side that beat Australia 4-0 last night while Sky Sports News announced before kick-off that Riccardo Montolivo would be leading the attack. The same Montolivo who, according to a writer from the Observer allegedly (according to Martin Demichelis-lover Peter Staunton) tipped “Fiorentina team-mate” Claudio Marchisio to be the star of the tournament.
Not for the first time, the English media made a fool of themselves when talking about Italy. The Azzurri were far inferior to yesterday's West Germany or Germany (maybe Dixon confused Fabio Cannavaro for 'The Berlin Wall'?), midfielder Montolivo didn’t have the pace the one time he found himself in an attacking position, while Marchisio was the worst Italian on the pitch after the dreadful Alberto Gilardino.
Possession-wise la Nazionale dominated most of the game, but the lack of creativity, flair and fantasy against a very average Paraguay side was exactly as everyone had predicted.
Until Mauro Camoranesi was introduced just shy of the hour mark, and Lippi switched from the 4-2-3-1 to a 4-4-2, Italy were just so predictable and lacking in ideas. The Argentine-born is the only player in the Azzurri squad capable of linking the middle third to the front third, and worryingly Simone Pepe appears the only one capable of stretching the opposition with his pace and movement. The new Juventus signing is public enemy No.1 among most fans, but he was man-of-the-match tonight.
In a recent poll in Italy, the defense was singled out as the department that most worried tifosi, but the backline was comfortable and only conceded sloppily off a set-piece. The biggest problem, as stressed in last week's editorial titled ‘Italy’s Worst Ever Group Of World Cup Forwards’ is in attack.
Vincenzo Iaquinta was honest as the day was long as usual but made few inroads. The statue that is Gilardino had no impact whatsoever and is simply too limited at this level. Surely, at least one of or both Giampaolo Pazzini and Antonio Di Natale must start the next game against New Zealand on Sunday? How Italy miss a superstar like Antonio Cassano, Fabrizio Miccoli, Francesco Totti or Mario Balotelli - all ignored by Lippi.
The midfield was solid, and goalscorer De Rossi and Montolivo controlled the centre-of-the-park, but it was the aforementioned lack of invention and guile that proved Italy’s downfall. De Rossi even said in his post-match interview that Italy "are not like the 2006 winners, as we have no Totti and no one like him."
Assuming goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is not badly injured, tonight’s 1-1 draw is not disastrous and Italy will still qualify, but we ultimately learned nothing. We have known for two years under Lippi that this team is bland and limited, and there was no suggestion that this will miraculously change in South Africa.
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