Everything you need to know about the shebang in South Africa
Considering that Italy left these shores with the good wishes of no one ringing in their ears, the display in the opening game of the tournament against Paraguay can only be seen as a positive start for the defending champions.
Less so the result which now leaves Marcello Lippi’s men having to find a hatful of goals against New Zealand as it looks as if the group will come down to goal-difference.
The evidence from the Cape Town draw suggests that Lippi needs to jettison his 4-2-3-1 formation forthwith and revert to a solid four in midfield and two up front.
Alberto Gilardino was a lonesome figure for long periods of the game and once again demonstrated that he lacks the physical power to battle for possession.
On the other hand, the team’s most physically-imposing operator Vincenzo Iaquinta was left to bull his way down the left flank where he was less of a threat.
Things certainly improved in the final third of the match when Simone Pepe, who put in his best performance to date in an Italy shirt, was switched to the left and Iaquinta pushed through the middle alongside Gilardino.
With goals now at a premium against the All Whites, there is no point in Lippi continuing with such a cagey approach heading into Sunday’s game.
Claudio Marchisio once again failed in the more advanced position through the middle but a move to the left with Pepe on the right would balance the side.
This would enable Riccardo Montolivo, who thankfully answered the call, to forge through the centre, leaving Daniele De Rossi in the holding role.
Lippi, of course, is the Zen master of tactical change to bring the best out of whatever personnel are available.
With Gigi Buffon out of the equation, he only had two substitutes at his disposal and he introduced two smart operators in Mauro Camoranesi – flailing challenges apart – and Antonio Di Natale who could move the ball quickly as the opposition dropped further and further back.
The only negative was that the final ball and movement in the area was lacking – but with Iaquinta as a focal point for the attack then Gilardino or either Giampaolo Pazzini or Di Natale would see more opportunities.
It seems that Lippi had to wait until the moment of battle to clear his head on how his side should approach the contest – and on four occasions the players were faced with different formations.
They adapted to the demands of their coach and it is this tactical variety that could still take the Azzurri a long way in the tournament.
Overall, the glass has to been seen as half-full so we will raise a glass to that at the moment.
More World Cup stuff: Features
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