Euro 2012 focus on Italy: Will offensive approach pay off for Balotelli & Co?
After the disappointments of Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup, Cesare Prandelli took charge of an Italyside in desperate need of change.
Always known as a side that would set up defensively with the intention of snatching a win, Prandelli has looked to evolve the Azzurri, turning them into an attacking team that play on the front foot.
With 20 goals in qualifying and only 2 conceded, it appears the former Fiorentina manager has achieved his objective without losing the defensive ability that has been at the heart of so much of Italy’s success over the years.
Prandelli has shown faith in former fringe players, giving the likes of Christian Maggio, Claudio Marchisio and Antonio Cassano regular playing time alongside the more experienced heads of Gianluigi Buffon, Andrea Pirlo and Daniele De Rossi.
Euro 2012 will be a big test to see how far the Azzurri have come under their new coach as they prepare for the daunting prospect of competing in Group C with current World and European champions Spain, Croatia and the Republic of Ireland.
Key Player: Antonio Cassano
Scoring six goals in qualifying, Cassano has played a key role in Italy’s campaign to get to Euro 2012. The AC Milan striker – who has previously had spells at Sampdoria, Real Madrid and Roma – was overlooked for much of Marcello Lippi’s reign in charge and was left out of the 2010 World Cup squad.
Rejuvenated now as a regular under Cesare Prandelli, the only question that remains is whether Cassano will be fully fit after suffering a heart scare in October 2011.
Rising Star: Mario Balotelli
With Giuseppe Rossi out through injury and question marks over the fitness of Antonio Cassano, the stage could just be set for Mario Balotelli to shine this summer. The Manchester City forward has all the assets to become one of the world’s best players, though his petulant behaviour on and off the pitch has seen him make the headlines for the wrong reasons more often than for the right.
Prandelli plays a system that includes two strikers, so if the 21-year-old can prove his discipline there is every chance he will be a major part of Euro 2012.
Manager: Cesare Prandelli
After five years in charge at Fiorentina, Prandelli stepped up to replace Marcello Lippi in August 2010. Prandelli, once a European Cup winner as a player with Juventus, had forged a name for himself with a spell of success in Florence that had seen them gain qualification to the Champions League twice and once for the UEFA Cup despite a 15-point deduction.
He was also named Serie A Coach of the Year in 2008. Since taking the reigns as national coach, Prandelli has implemented an attractive and attacking style of play. He is a popular coach in Italy and it is thought that even if success does not come in Euro 2012, he will be given time to continue his work.
Since winning the World Cup in 2006, Italy have disappointed on the world stage and even failed to make it out of their group in the 2010 World Cup, finishing bottom with 2 points. They have however played some good football in qualifying and go into the tournament looking strong.
There is no doubt that there is quality within the ranks at Italy and though they have another match-fixing scandal haunting them, it may be the glue that brings the side together – as was the case in 2006.
This side definitely has what it takes to reach the quarter-finals. There may be stronger nations going into the tournament on paper, but Italy could be a dark horse this year.