Former striker Christian Vieri says the Azzurri ‘reignited everyone’s faith’ and praises Coach Antonio Conte: ‘Tactically, he’s extremely well prepared’.
The former Italian international is certainly not the only one to share this sentiment following the comprehensive 2-0 dispatching of recent rivals, Spain. It seemed to be all doom and gloom when the 23-man squad was announced ahead of the European Championships, but the Nazionale has completely flipped expectations ahead of the tournament, with Antonio Conte letting his actions speak louder than his words – if that is at all fathomable.
If there is one concept that was reinforced in that victory, it was organization and planning. On one side of the pitch we saw a manager whose players seemed committed to a clear strategy, with varying levels of pressing and intensity across the pitch. This was emphasized by how Conte opted to utilise his subs regardless of who was being carded or seemed to be growing weary. On the other side, we saw a manager in Vicente Del Bosque who seemed haphazard and stunned, unable to make any substitutions that could get Spain back into the game in any meaningful way. The game ended with Spain creating only one real chance to test Gianluigi Buffon, an attempt from Gerard Piqué (which was mistakenly headed on to him by Italian defender Andrea Barzagli), which is shocking given the quality at the disposal of the defending champions. Ultimately, we can conclude that Conte’s tactics again, were successful.
Looking ahead to the quarter final showdown with the Germans, the Italians must maintain the same work rate in attack as they did versus Spain. Italy had covered the most ground in a single game at this Euro so far, going a collective 119.7km in their opening match against Belgium. Their performance against Spain was not far behind at 117.8km, a full 7.8km further than Spain, which is mightily impressive for the team with also the highest average age. The Germans too, have a multitude of talent at their disposal and so they can afford to rotate the players and throw in fresh players.
One particular area the Italians must focus on is the midfield. They are going to be without both Daniele De Rossi through injury, and Thiago Motta through suspension, which leaves that role to be filled by Marco Parolo. He will be presumably partnered by Stefano Sturaro, which is far from ideal, which will more than likely give Toni Kroos et al space to dominate while the Italians are pushed back.
It will be interesting to see how Germany line up, manager Joachim Löw has already stated that the Italians’ style will play a significant role in how he lines up, but then downplayed the importance of the formation stating “For us, it’s no longer about a false nine or a real nine — it’s about getting into deep spaces [in the box].” To Löw, formations are not a big deal anymore, they are simply a means to an end.
Whatever team the Germans do put out, one does get the feeling that this inspired Italian team will not be going down easily.