Euro 2012: spotlight on Italy
- 07 June 2012 10:00
- Posted by Mark Booth
The Azzurri arrive at Euro 2012 in a period of transition after their bitterly disappointing first-round exit in South Africa. Just don’t mention catenaccio…
Oddly, it would be equally unsurprising if this Italy side went out in the group stages or if they went on to win Euro 2012, such are the mixed messages derived from their recent results.
The squad is made up of seven Scudetto-winning Juventus players who negotiated their league season unbeaten so a winning mentality should be relatively easy to maintain - if they can get a positive result against Spain in Gdansk, that is...
The City connection: Roberto Mancini (36 caps, 4 goals)
Although he didn’t enjoy the sparkling international career his prodigious talents may have deserved, Roberto Mancini did have his moment for the Azzurri at Euro 88.
Roberto scored the first goal of the tournament and formed a potent partnership with future Chelsea boss Gianluca Vialli.
Mancini’s goal came against the hosts West Germany and set the tone for an exciting tournament for the Italians as they reached the semi-final before they were beaten by the Soviet Union.
Interestingly, Italy played Spain in the group stage that year and won 1-0. Can history repeat itself?
The boss: Cesare Prandelli
Tasked with rebuilding an Italian team in crisis after World Cup 2010, Prandelli has ushered through a clutch of young players like Mario Balotelli and Antonio Nocerino to compliment the experience of Buffon, Pirlo and De Rossi.
Prandelli has been experimenting with the 3-5-2 formation that Antonio Conte has been employing at Juventus this season. Only Spain retained possession better than Italy in qualifying, meaning you can forget all the clichés about negative football from Italy circa 2012.
One to watch: Leonardo Bonucci
Despite being mentioned in the latest match-fixing cloud gathering over Italian football, Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci was always going to be included in Cesare Prandelli’s squad after a brilliant season for the Serie A winners.
Bonucci was part of the league’s meanest defence alongside Giorgio Chiellini and their familiarity could be vital if Italy are going to hold out against Spain.
Key player: Andrea Pirlo
The metronome of this Italian team is Andrea Pirlo who just seems to improve with age. A deep-lying playmaker, Pirlo enjoyed his best-ever season in the heart of the Juventus midfield and will be winning his 84th cap against Spain in the opening match.
Pirlo is the type of midfielder to lend possession to his teammates and pull the strings, benefitting from supreme vision and wonderful technique. He’s the one player that Italy simply cannot afford to be without.
Odds to win via Paddy Power: 16/1
Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Morgan De Sanctis (Napoli), Salvatore Sirigu (Paris St Germain).
Ignazio Abate (AC Milan), Federico Balzaretti (Palermo), Andrea Barzagli (Juventus), Christian Maggio (Napoli), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Angelo Ogbonna (Torino).
Thiago Motta (Paris St Germain), Antonio Nocerino (AC Milan), Andrea Pirlo (Juventus), Daniele De Rossi (AS Roma), Claudio Marchisio (Juventus), Riccardo Montolivo (Fiorentina), Emanuele Giaccherini (Juventus), Alessandro Diamanti (Bologna).
Mario Balotelli (Manchester City), Antonio Cassano (AC Milan), Sebastian Giovinco (Parma), Antonio Di Natale (Udinese), Fabio Borini (AS Roma).