(5th & final edition)
Lippi ended his second reign as a Italy coach with an embarrassing defeat against Slovakia witnessing the current champions eliminated surprisingly in the first round. But would the failure be that surprising as it seemed to be? Is Lippi the only one to blame? And most of all, will Italy’s future be as dreadful as the failure?
FAILURE: It’s not that surprised
It is the norm that a coach will shoulder full blame for a team’s failure. Lippi will (and must) do it, and a brand new cycle will soon start as Cesare Prandelli supplants him. But hold on! Before looking forward to a better future, let’s take an overall look at what has happened with Italy under the Lippi’s second reign.
After the failure at Euro 2008, Marcello Lippi yet again took charge of Azzurri with the mission of helping Italy qualify and get results at the World Cup in South Africa. Yah, he did it half! The first mission accomplished as Italy easily won the UEFA qualifying group 8 with seven wins and no lose. What a smooth running! Perhaps the ex-Juventus boss wanted to “create history” by repeating the achievements of coach Vittorio Pozzo who won back-to-back World Cups in the 1930s when he had agreed to return to the Azzurri. And it was the time for him to fulfill it. He had nearly a year to prepare for the second biggest sport competition in the world.
However, contrary to popular speculations, he came to a very surprising squad selection – omitting Totti, Cassano, Miccoli and Balotelli, while keeping washed up veterans such as Gatusso or Canavaro. Many may (and actually did) accuse Lippi of stubborn and selfishness. Yep, there is no doubt that Italy would be stronger with the likes of Cassano or Miccoli, but yet again it must be conceded that these omissions were not as shocking as Zanetti’s, Cambiasso’s or Ronaldinho’s. Moreover, no one could guarantee that the presence of Cassano or Miccoli could help Italy avoid being eliminated that early. Obviously, with the experience of Iaquinta and Gilardino, who were the champions four years ago, and 29-goal Serie A top scorer Di Natale, Lippi had a good excuse for omitting Cassano and Miccoli or refusing to re-call Totti in the last minutes (which, if happened, would have been unfair with other players who participated and helped Italy qualify for the World Cup as Nesta admitted). Every coach has their own philosophy, Lippi does too. I totally agree with him that experience is the most important factor in the competition wherein players only have to play at most SEVEN matches! (Look at Robert Green versus David James!) Most importantly, it was, in my opinion, not Lippi’s fault but rather Canavaro’s or Gatusso’s as they should retire from international football after 2006 tremendous success like Totti and Nesta did. It is hard (for Lippi) to omit one’s (his) heroes (as he “had to” do it with Grosso), isn’t it?
Lippi had also tried to combine the experience and the youth – well, made the youth compensate for the elder, to be precise, but failed! Why? Here comes the answer:
Most of all, we must confess that there is actually no world-class player in the current Italian generation generally, and particularly in this team! Nesta refused to return; Pirlo was injured and already passed his prime; there was neither Totti nor the likes of him; the youngsters like Marchisio, Criscito caused disappointing; Maggio is same age but not the quality as Grosso four-year ago; Cassano and Miccoli are, albeit good, definitely not world-class yet; Canavaro is really a shame – he (is actually the one that “contributed” to and) stands for Italy’s embarrassing failure as he did for Italy’s tremendous success four-year ago!
No –thing new, no big player, yah, no wonder failure!
The embarrassing draw against New Zealand, who stands far away from Italy’s strength, quality and level, exemplifies the fact that it was not utterly Lippi’s but rather both Lippi’s and players’ fault, as Montolivo confessed, for the early exit! (Say, for example, if Brazil draws Thailand, whose fault is that?)
It is not the first time (and not the last time) I try to ‘defend’ a failed coach in the World Cup. (Perhaps I will do it again after the round of 16 match of England, lol, hopefully not!) Coaching career life seems relatively volatile and risky! Let’s see the ironic situation of another Italian coach legend, Fabio Capello: no sooner had he agreed to extend his contract than he would be at risk of being sacked if England will be eliminated “early”! Lippi will forever remain a legend for masterminding the 2006 World Cup success but Lippi now is much different from Lippi before the World Cup, and of course from Lippi of four-year ago. In respect to the lesson of another World Cup champion Scolari1, should Lippi “step twice into the same river”?
1 Scolari’s reputation was greatly ruined after being sacked as a Chelsea manager in the early of 2009. Afterwards he ‘wandered’ at an Uzbekistan club and now returns to Brazil.
FUTURE: today we cry, tomorrow it’s better world!
We see can see the light, albeit not too bright, in the future of Italy.
There were moments in the second half of Italy’s last and disappointing match in the World Cup when the performance kept up, to a certain extent, with the standard of the “real Italy”…
It probably comes from the players.
On the one hand, we bid farewell to Canavaro, Zambrotta, Gattuso as well as Totti, Grosso, Nesta and thank them – another golden generation, for their tremendous contributions. Futhermore, there would be no room for the likes of Di Natale, Marchetti, Maggio and perhaps, Gilardino, Iaquinta or Pepe in the brand new team under Prandelli’s reign.
On the other hand, some of the players in this damn team can actually become indispensable charactersin the Prandelli’s strategy. Quagliarella is absolutely one of them after his amazing performance in the second half of the last match. The twenty seven-year old is already known for scoring spectacular goals form unconventional angles that often catch the goalkeeper by surprise. Yet again, he scored a stunning goal when executing a 25-yard chip to bring the score to 3-2 at 91’ in Slovenia match. In my sight, few players would do that particularly in the situation where Italy was losing 3-1. There would be a lot of things to talk about the character in the future. Buffon and Pirlo are still one of the best at their positions. Hopefully they can contribute more to the team owing to the fact that there is still nobody can supplant them. In the near future, it is hard if not possible for Italy to find new golden generation or even a few world-class players. Nonetheless, Italy can be a united team of qualified players instead of a team of several groups of world-class players.
Let’s imagine: Buffon, Chiellini, Pirlo, De Rossi, Cassano build the framework of the brand new Italy team; Miccoli, Giuseppe Rossi, Quagliarella, Montolivo, Aqualian, Cossu complement this framework while Giovinco, Ballotelli, Santon, ones of the world’s best prospects, are the choices. What a team! Theoretically, the future of Italy looks brighter than that of Portugal, France, England and even Germany (!?) in term of youngsters’ prospects and team’s quality. Now is Prandelli’s mission to transform the current mess into a champion team.
The article reflects author’s opinions