Italy’s renaissance to continue in upcoming qualifiers
The Azzurri head into their next two matches hoping to build on the momentum of last month’s 2-1 friendly win against Spain as well as their fantastic start to the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign.
Cesare Prandelli’s side have picked up 16 points from six games and currently top Group C, five points clear of Wednesday night’s opponents Slovenia. If they win that game and their match with the Faroe Islands they will secure qualification. Indeed, if results fall their way they could do so even with out a double win.
First up for the Azzurri is that tricky match at the Torsvollor Stadium against the Faroe Islands. Following last September’s 5-0 victory over the Faroes, there maybe a temptation for the Azzurri to let their guard down.
The Faroe Islands are traditionally qualification whipping boys and they are bottom of the group but look closer and you see a team that has taken points from two of their last three qualifiers including a home win against Estonia in June.
What is more when the teams met at the Torsvollor in 2007 Italy struggled to a 2-1 win thanks only to a brace from Fillippo Inzaghi.
Prandelli is acutely aware the match could prove tougher than expected for his side because of the current Serie A strike.
“Everyone thinks that a win is in the bag, but in reality it depends on how we address the match," Prandelli said. "The lack of matches worries me."
The Coach will not want to let a match like this be the one to slow the momentum the team has generated over the last year. The former Fiorentina man has gone about rebuilding the demoralised team after they meekly relinquished the World Cup in South Africa in a way that has impressed many.
He has focused on bringing in younger players like Giuseppe Rossi, Giampaolo Pazzini into the fold alongside previous outcasts Antonio Cassano and Mario Balotelli and he has encouraged them to play with a focus on attack atypical of Italian teams of the past. He wants his team play with style; to understand the result is not the only important factor.
However, the Italian tactician has also brought an ethical dimension to his decisions, for instance he dropped Balotelli following a horror tackle playing for Manchester City in the Europa League while Daniele de Rossi has been disciplined too.
La Nazionale only managed just one win in nine games before Prandelli took the job, but, have now lost just one game in eleven played, a run which including six wins and a nine-game unbeaten run.
Prandelli has rotated his players up front in a bid to find his best attacking option, but, after the great result against Spain he looks set to settle with Cassano and Rossi again. The partnership could produce big dividends in the future with the former having already scored three goals in qualifying while his partner, Rossi, continues to impress.
In many ways Cassano’s rejuvenation on the national stage is a metaphor for the Azzurri – wasted potential being harnessed by a clever boss and the prospect of a brighter future.