Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Gabrielle Marcotti's Euro 2012 Preview: Italy

But how can you improve upon this...?

Cesare Prandelli's pledge when he took over for Marcello Lippi as the Italian national team coach following the 2010 World Cup was to make the Azzurri attractive, attacking and likable. He's certainly done his best, introducing an "ethical code" (players under suspension for disciplinary reasons would not be called up) and insisting on a midfield of technically gifted playmakers. The idea is for Italy to play its own version of tiki-taka, a style perfected recently by Spain. Ditching the long-established defend-and-counter ethos for the "Spanish approach redux" is an ambitious objective -- one which, thus far, has yielded mixed results. Italy was undefeated in qualifying, but looked shaky in friendlies. The match-fixing scandal running in the background should have less of an impact than it did in 1982 and 2006, largely because few national team players are implicated, directly or indirectly. Nevertheless, it remains a distraction. The Group C draw wasn't ideal for the Azzurri, but at least its match against Spain game gets out of the way first. And grabbing a point isn't unthinkable either, considering La Roja started slowly in 2010 and that opening group games are often tight and cagey. After that, matters should become easier against Croatia and Ireland.

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