By Piero Fiorino & Richard Bowman
It was a bittersweet end for Italy at EURO 2016, not only did they prove many people wrong but they were knocked out of the tournament in heartbreaking fashion by rivals Germany. Out of all the teams in the tournament, it was Italy who showed the most togetherness, they played for manager Antonio Conte and most importantly, they played for one another on the pitch. Antonio Conte took a lot of criticism for his roster decisions and while you could still argue against some of his choices, there’s no denying his decisions proved a lot of the naysayers wrong. What’s next for Italy? Antonio Conte will now be leaving for Chelsea as he’ll be replaced by Giampiero Ventura. Tactically they’re both very similar coaches, Ventura, is much like Conte in terms of formations, he favors the 3-5-2 which gave Italy a lot of success in the tournament, however, he’s also run both a 4-4-2 and 4-2-4 formations from time to time. Italy has now shown everybody that they’re back and while a few of their household names are getting older, the next generation is ready to break through.
Grading Italy’s performance at EURO 2016
Piero’s Grade: A
Analysis: The Italians may not have been able to win this year’s Euros, but they certainly looked good trying to do so. Analysts high and low were calling this “the weakest Italian team in years,” but Despite all the criticism, they were not only able to get out of the group stage, but they were also able to go on and beat their rivals Spain before eventually falling to Germany. Italy’s style of defense and counter-attack proved to bode well in this tournament; especially against high octane offenses such as Belgium and Spain. Italy will look to capitalize on this strong performance as they look forward to the 2018 world Cup. The Azzurri team will most certainly look different with the loss of Andrea Barzagli and the addition of new manager Giampiero Ventura, but they are moving in the right direction and look as though they will be able to compete for a major tournament championship in the coming years.
Richard’s Grade: A-
Analysis: Many people will describe Italy’s Catenaccio as too defensive, however, I prefer to describe it as more of a mono e mono style of Calcio(Soccer). Italy doesn’t park the bus, they straight up challenge teams to break them down and most of the time they make you look stupid trying to do it. This past tournament we saw two classic Italian performances against both Belgium and Spain, who many people considered to be the two top teams in this tourney outside of Germany. Not only did Italy outclass both teams but they routinely challenged them to score and after getting tired of doing that, they added more insult to injury by scoring late goals in the 90+ minute on picture perfect counters. Italy’s performances weren’t all that good, though. They played a very sluggish game vs Sweden, despite getting the win and against Germany it could be argued only BBBC played well along with late sub Lorenzo Insigne. This bumps Italy’s grade down to an A- but that’s still pretty good for the weakest Italian squad ever at a major tournament, am I right?
Best player of the tournament for Italy?
Piero: Gianluigi Buffon
Analysis: Buffon was able to keep the Azzurri in it through every game, and despite a tough go against Germany, the famed goalkeeper will hope to carry Italy into victory once more before retiring from the pitch.
Richard: Leonardo Bonucci
Analysis: This is going to sound like recycled talk but this really was Bonucci’s coming out party as he’s quietly become arguably the best centre back in the world these past few years.
Most disappointing player for Italy?
Piero: Daniele De Rossi
Analysis: despite getting hurt, De Rossi didn’t perform up to expectations when he did play and it seems as though his age is finally catching up to him. It will certainly be a surprise if he makes the Italian squad for the 2018 world cup, but if he does, let’s hope he can be more productive than he was for this year’s Euros.
Richard: Matteo Darmian
Analysis: It was a disappointing tournament performance for Darmian after a nice World Cup performance, however, it has been a rough year for Darmian. Let’s hope he can bounce back under Ventura.
Most Surprising Player for Italy?
Piero: Emanuele Giaccherini
Analysis: Giaccherini made a name for himself through this tournament and hopes to continue his solid play for the Azzurri come World Cup time.
Richard: Mattia De Sciglio
Analysis: De Sciglio really proved me wrong this tournament, especially in the knockout phase. He was a pleasant surprise against both Germany and Spain.
Players you want to see debut soon for Italy?
Piero: Domenico Berardi and Mario Balotelli
Analysis: Berardi certainly has made a name for himself at Sassuolo, and the FIGC would be wise to call him up to the national squad. As for Balotelli, although he has already debuted for the Azzurri, it seems as though he is a completely different animal when wearing the Azzurri blue compared to the Liverpool red. Although he has certainly struggled with club play, There is no reason for Ventura to not call up the Italian forward.
Richard: Andrea Belotti, Domenico Berardi, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Alberto Grassi, Jorginho, Simone Scuffet, etc.
Analysis: Alright, barring an injury it’ll be Buffon in net for Italy at the World Cup in 2018(would be his sixth World Cup), however, Italy would be wise to give both Donnarumma and Scuffet some caps before then. Those two seem to be the two most likely heirs to Buffon, even though you could make a case for Mattia Perin as well. As Piero mentioned above, it would be wise for Berardi to be called up, he’s arguably the best Italian forward in the world right now and has been referred to as the Roberto Baggio of this generation.
Outlook on Italy after their EURO 2016
Piero’s Analysis: The Italians certainly made the most with what little they had in this year’s Euros. Now, as younger players are finally coming up through the ranks, new Manager Giampiero Ventura should have no problem finding talent to compete in the upcoming World Cup.
Richard’s Analysis: The outlook is a positive one, this was a fitting end for the older generation. Antonio Conte turned back the clock and showcased classic Italy Catenaccio. Now is the time for Italy to make the transition to a new generation, this new generation of Italians is very good and also very attack based. Don’t be surprised if Italy has one of the most exciting teams in Russia at the 2018 World Cup.
Final farewell to Antonio Conte
Piero: Although Conte made some rather questionable decisions for this year’s Euro squad, he proved to us time and time again he is still the manager the Italy were looking for long ago. Conte, who is now ready to tackle the job at Chelsea, has left the door open for a possible return if need be and is looking forward to trying to conquer the English side. As he departs from the Italian field, we wish him luck.
Richard: Antonio Conte’s stock is through the roof right now, as he showcased how you coach a national side. It’s not always about having the best players but having players who play for one another and believe in the system. With that being said, you could still argue against some of his squad decisions.
Andrea Barzagli retires from International Football. What will his legacy be with the Azzurri?
Piero: Barzagli is one of the most underrated Italian players in the last decade, And with his departure from the international field, Barzagli should be looked at as not only a top Italian defender but one of the best to ever wear the Azzurri blue.
Richard: Barzagli can retire from international football with his head held high, he will go down in the long list of great Italian defenders to put on the Azzurri blue. Barzagli was also a member of the 2006 World Cup winning team.